Black Flag magazine

Online archive of issues of Black Flag, a UK-based anarchist magazine founded in 1970.

Libcom also hosts a gallery of Black Flag cover art here.

Black Flag vol 03 #07 (Dec 1973)

Issue of the London based magazine Black Flag from the 1970s. A compressed version of a much higher resolution scan on archive.org https://archive.org/search.php?query=black%20flag

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black_flag_3.7.pdf6.5 MB

Black Flag vol 03 #14 (Oct 1974)

Issue of the London based magazine Black Flag from the 1970s. A compressed version of a much higher resolution scan on archive.org https://archive.org/search.php?query=black%20flag

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Black Flag vol 04 #07 (Mar 1976)

A Scanned PDF of the-then newspaper of the Anarchist Black Cross, from March 1976

Only some of the pages have been scanned on this issue.

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Flag IV 7.pdf4.06 MB

Black Flag vol 04 #08 (May 1976)

A Scanned PDF of the-then newspaper of the Anarchist Black Cross, from May 1976

Only some of the pages have been scanned on this issue.

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Flag IV 8.pdf4.39 MB

Black Flag vol 04 #09 (July 1976)

A Scanned PDF of the-then newspaper of the Anarchist Black Cross, from July 1976

Only some of the pages have been scanned on this issue.

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Flag IV 9.pdf5.05 MB

Black Flag vol 04 #10 (Sept 1976)

A Scanned PDF of the-then newspaper of the Anarchist Black Cross, from September 1976

All 16 pages of the paper as it was when it was the organ of the Anarchist Black Cross.

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Flag IV 10.pdf9.98 MB

Black Flag vol 04 #12 (Dec 1976)

A complete scanned PDF of the-then newspaper of the Anarchist Black Cross, from December 1976.

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BlackFlag.vol_.4.12.December.76.pdf2.45 MB

Black Flag vol 04 #13 (Feb 1977)

Issue of the London based magazine Black Flag from the 1970s from https://search.freedomarchives.org/search.php?s=black+flag

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BlackFlag.vol_.4.13.Feb1977.pdf3.75 MB

Black Flag vol 04 #14 (1977)

Issue of the London based magazine Black Flag from the 1970s from https://search.freedomarchives.org/search.php?s=black+flag

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Black Flag vol 04 #15 (1977)

Scanned copy of Black Flag from 1977-78. The lead article is of particular interest, as it was sent in by a supporter of the Red Army Faction and explained the reason for the execution of German Federal Prosecutor Siegfried Buback in April 1977 - accusing Bubak of engineering a triple assassination which included Ulrike Meinhof. Simply possessing the article in Germany would have led to arrest at the time.

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Black Flag vol 05 #01 (1977)

Issue of the London based magazine Black Flag from the 1970s from https://search.freedomarchives.org/search.php?s=black+flag

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BlackFlag.Vol_.5.1.1977.pdf4.35 MB

Black Flag vol 05 #02 (1977)

This 1977 issue of Black Flag features a lengthy essay on the internal situation of East Germany (The German Democratic Republic) at a period where it had gained recognition from the international community but was at the edge of its fall into decline and collapse.

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BF Vol IV no 2.pdf13.37 MB

Black Flag vol 05 #03 (Feb 1978)

Published in early 1978, this issue saw Albert Meltzer take on the daunting question of what a young and largely inexperienced Spanish anarchist movement should do in the years following the death of dictator Francisco Franco. Another article, by the Greek Information Service, describes what is today an increasingly familiar-sounding series of events...

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BF Vol IV no 3.pdf16.74 MB

Black Flag vol 05 #04 (May 1978)

The May 1978 issue of Black Flag started by calling for the abolition of the TUC, asking "why feed a watchdog that bites only its owner?" It covered the murder of a young anarchist in a Madrid cell, Augustin Rueda Sierra, and carried an extensive piece by black political prisoner Herman Bell, then incarcerated in Illinois, IS. This issue is noteable for its heavy concentration on international affairs in China, Spain, France and Greece.

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Black Flag vol 05 #05 (1978)

The State was still jumpy in 1978 in the wake of the 1970-72 Angry Brigade bombings, and intense "anti-terror" activity was continuing to cause havoc in anarchist circles. The arrest of Mill and Bennet would turn into the infamous Persons Unknown trial.

Contents

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Black Flag vol 05 #06 (Oct 1978)

Issue of the London based magazine Black Flag from the 1970s from https://search.freedomarchives.org/search.php?s=black+flag

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BlackFlag.vol_.5.6 October.1978.pdf3.97 MB

Black Flag vol 05 #07 (Dec 1978)

Issue of the London based magazine Black Flag from the 1970s from https://search.freedomarchives.org/search.php?s=black+flag

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BlackFlag.Vol_.5.7.Dec1978.pdf3.13 MB

Black Flag vol 05 #08 (May 1979)

Issue of the London based magazine Black Flag from the 1970s from https://search.freedomarchives.org/search.php?s=black+flag

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BlackFlag.Vol_.5.8.May_.1979.pdf5.49 MB

Black Flag vol 05 #09 (Jul 1979)

Issue of the London based magazine Black Flag from the 1970s from https://search.freedomarchives.org/search.php?s=black+flag

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BlackFlag.vol_.5.9.July_.1979.pdf4.49 MB

Black Flag vol 05 #10 (Sep 1979)

Issue of the London based magazine Black Flag from the 1970s from https://search.freedomarchives.org/search.php?s=black+flag

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BlackFlag.vol_.5.10.1979.pdf2.67 MB

Black Flag vol 05 #11 (Oct 1979)

Issue of the London based magazine Black Flag from the 1970s. A compressed version of a much higher resolution scan on archive.org https://archive.org/search.php?query=black%20flag

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Black Flag vol 06 #02 (June 1980)

Issue of the London based magazine Black Flag from the 1980s. A compressed version of a much higher resolution scan on archive.org https://archive.org/search.php?query=black%20flag

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black_flag_6.2.pdf7.1 MB

Black Flag vol 06 #03 (1980)

Issue of the London based magazine Black Flag from the 1980s. A compressed version of a much higher resolution scan on archive.org https://archive.org/search.php?query=black%20flag

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black_flag_6.3.pdf7.36 MB

Black Flag vol 06 #04 (Sept 1980)

Issue of the London based magazine Black Flag from the 1980s. A compressed version of a much higher resolution scan on archive.org https://archive.org/search.php?query=black%20flag

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black_flag_6.4.pdf6.98 MB

Black Flag vol 06 #07 (Apr 1981)

Issue of the London based magazine Black Flag from the 1980s. A compressed version of a much higher resolution scan on archive.org https://archive.org/search.php?query=black%20flag

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black_flag_6.7.pdf7.85 MB

Black Flag vol 06 #09 (Nov 1981)

Issue of the London based magazine Black Flag from the 1980s. A compressed version of a much higher resolution scan on archive.org https://archive.org/search.php?query=black%20flag

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black_flag_6.9.pdf7.73 MB

Black Flag vol 06 #10 (Jan 1982)

Issue of the London based magazine Black Flag from the 1980s. A compressed version of a much higher resolution scan on archive.org https://archive.org/search.php?query=black%20flag

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black_flag_6.10.pdf8.18 MB

Black Flag vol 06 #11 (May 1982)

Issue of the London based magazine Black Flag from the 1980s. A compressed version of a much higher resolution scan on archive.org https://archive.org/search.php?query=black%20flag

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black_flag_6.11.pdf8.24 MB

Black Flag vol 06 #12 (June 1982)

Issue of the London based magazine Black Flag from the 1980s. A compressed version of a much higher resolution scan on archive.org https://archive.org/search.php?query=black%20flag

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black_flag_6.12-june1982.pdf7.39 MB

Black Flag vol 07 #04 (1983)

An issue of Black Flag Quarterly from 1983

Contents:

Black Flag Finances
Quiz
Why Spain's Anarchists Must Be Freed
Prison Struggles
Alternatives to 'Defence'
Kate Sharpley Library
Poland
Anarchism in Greece
Death Wish Of The Labour Party
Anarchists In Carrara
Vancouver Five
Bulldozer Statement
A Short History of New Zealand Anarchism
Brazil
Reviews
Towards The Collectivist Economy
Chile
Left Nationalism
Dazzling Newman
Municipal Anarchy
ABC - Who We Are

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black-flag-quarterly-vol-vii-no-4-autumn-1983.pdf30.83 MB

Black Flag vol 07 #05 (1984)

An issue of Black Flag Quarterly from 1984.

The scan of the back cover came out very badly so I have uploaded it below too.

Contents:

Editorial
Quiz
Is Trade Unionism Illegal?
Disarming The State
Strategy For Resistance
Heseltine's Armoury
Sign of the Times
Thunder by Pa Chin
CNT
Spain
An Anarchist on Devil's Island
The Left (Poem)
On Municipal Anarchy
Letters
Reviews

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Black Flag vol 07 #06 (1984)

An issue of Black Flag Quarterly from 1984.

Contents:

Editorial
Quiz
Trade Unionism and the State
The Anarchist Movement in Korea
Anarchy in Sweden
Strike-Breaking, Mutiny and Civil Disorder
Johann Most
Bunker Reoccupied
Italy: Workers Councils
Tottenham Outriage
Reviews
Letters
Disarming The State: Postscript

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Black Flag vol 07 #07 (1984)

An issue of Black Flag Quarterly from 1984.

Contents:

Editorial - The Case Against Anarchism
As We Go To Press
Direct Action Intensifies
Preparing For Civil War
Civil War Part 1, 2 & 3
Germany
Libertarian Prisoners
How Near Where We To Revolution?
Mexican Indians
Erich Musham
Freedom As A Social Principle
Vancouver 5
Decentralised Totalitarianism
What Is The Anarchist Movement
Reviews and Letters

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black-flag-quarterly-vol-7-no-7-1984.pdf12.97 MB

Black Flag 136 (Jul 1985)

Issue of the London based magazine Black Flag from the 1980s. A compressed version of a much higher resolution scan on archive.org https://archive.org/search.php?query=black%20flag

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black_flag_136_july85.pdf9.21 MB

Black Flag 185 (Oct 1988)

Issue of the London based magazine Black Flag from the 1980s. A compressed version of a much higher resolution scan on archive.org https://archive.org/search.php?query=black%20flag

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Black Flag 202 (Nov 1991)

An issue of Black Flag magazine from late 1991.

Contents

RUSSIA RUSSIA, ALL THEORIES FALL DOWN

What is happening in the Soviet Union? Has Communism collapsed? Is it the failure of State Communism, is it State Capitalism, a degenerate workers' state finally degenerated., the triumph of capitalism or what?

Sorry. All trash.

Famine has caused havoc in Russia as it did last century in Ireland. When the potato famine struck Ireland, this was a natural disaster but wouldn't have been a human one had it not been for the peasant tenure problem, which meant all other food was reserved for the rent and so the poor starved to death. The rich went without potatoes and were the healthier for it. Some complained their tenants were so dishonest they never notified the landlord when they died of starvation or went off to tramp the roads looking for food and so it was months before he knew he could re-let.

If lightning strikes a house, that is a natural disaster, called by lawyers an Act of God. It is not (under capitalism) an economic disaster unless you're not insured, it is if you can't afford to pay the premiums. Under most totalitarian schemes, including State Communism, it is a disaster if you don't have clout with the ruling party which can provide you with everything. The iceberg that sunk the Titanic could have hit anything passing. It wasn't the fault of capitalism, but it was due to that system that the first-class passengers only got saved. If it had been the "Titanic Red Star' it would not have been so. It would have been the party members. Had it been the "Titanic Aryan Superman" it would have been a selection of the very rich and the top Party members.

What about Russia?

What took over after Tsarism was not Marxism, State Communism or anything else but the rule of the Communist Party top leadership which replaced the Tsar. It believed in Stale Communism but did not know how to carry it out. It had the relationship to State Communism that Tsarism had to Imperialism. It was a cruder, more barbaric form. In economic and social life it ran the country by diktat just as the Tsar had done. For internal security it ran by terror and secrecy, as the Tsar had done. When there was trouble it massacred. Politically, it substituted the rule of one man or woman by birthright for the Party (but this degenerated under Stalin into one man rule).

Stalinism, despite every politico myth, was not a degenerated workers' State but a regenerated Tsarist State. Its international policy followed the Tsar's but there was one important difference. The Tsar relied on the Greek Orthodox Church and on his secret police to influence and create pro-Russianism in as many countries as possible. The new Tsars relied on the Communist International and their secret police to influence and create pro-Russianism in the workers' movements everywhere.

When theology was everywhere "Queen of the Sciences" (in some universities it still is a compulsory subject for a degree) its rubbish was eagerly taken in at second-hand by the public, recycled by parsons. Economics is the modern version. It is garbage disguised as science, recycled by politicos and journos.

The Russian system is not communist and never was. "State capitalism" is a political alibi, you had just to walk down a Russian street to see there were classes and you could distinguish them without speaking a word of Russian. But the economists couldn't classify them. The absence of any advertising (bar political) told you that it wasn't a capitalist country, and (unless you were a foreigner with hard currency) you were regarded almost as a criminal, certainly as a nuisance, if you wanted to buy let alone sell. The Soviet Union called itself a communist workers' state as other countries call themselves Christian, and it meant as much. What prevails in the Soviet Union is Tsarist barbarism, unchanged except for cosmetics, now being challenged.

Tsarism and barbarism

Imagine someone makes you dictator of an independent Scotland (and you may, like Catherine the Great, be a German who has never been there before). You can trust nobody to help you and must administer the whole of the Scottish economic and social life from Edinburgh down to the tiniest island. No decisions can be made without coming to you for approval. In South Ronaldsay they want a ferry boat as the old one burned down and there are no others. In Bute the factory administrator has gone to prison and the industry is at a standstill, In Sauchiehall Street in Glasgow the privies haven't been cleaned for six months for no apparent reason. In Aberdeen they're flooded with Norwegian forged ten-kroner notes. Just add to it? Could you manage?

Russia is much bigger than Scotland and “all the Russias" (in plain terms, the Russian Empire) make it vast beyond belief. And it felt impelled (under the Tsar for religious motives, under the new Tsars for political ones) to interfere all over the world. When you try to make a Norwegian Revolution to safeguard your frontier, you have to consider the problems of the Outer Hebrides in relation to Oslo, a smartarse who's legged it out of the country to live in ease abroad says he's ready to take on the job any day and blames everything on you and you alone (enough to make you want to put an icepick in his head).

You are for sure a lot more intelligent than all the leaders of Russia up to Lenin and thereafter they're deluded with a false science they're trying to put into practise and don't know why it doesn't work. Tsardom-Barbarism (Tsarbarism?) got burdened with a vast bureaucracy to take down their orders but no one capable of giving them except the topmost man or woman. Bakunin was regarded as mad when he went further than the Nihilists (who said even revolution against the Tsar wouldn't alter the system given the slave mentality and they tried to reform manners instead and curb despotism by assassination). He said a revolution imbued with the Prussian ideas of Marx within the context of the slavery, obedience and repression of Russia would be an even worse system.

However both the Tsar and Stalin could deal with famine. Anyone who complained got shipped to Siberia if they were lucky, and shot if not, and people learned to die honestly and not make a fuss about it like Irish peasants. “Glasnost" - frankness - has meant they can now make a fuss about it like the Irish did, but it hasn't solved the problem any more than they did in the 19th century (and only in the "outer Russias" can they blame it on national oppression).

What has caused the famine?

In some part there may have been a natural cause, but this has been grossly accentuated by what I call (for want of a word coined by the establishment) Tsarbarism. It is highlighted by one magazine which has made a sensation by publishing economic exposures which everybody secretly knows but has been ashamed or afraid to say publicly. (Something like, in Britain and America but not France would be a magazine revealing even respected political party and church leaders, even British Royalty itself, have sexual urges, may go to houses of call or may have sex outside of marriage and that some who don’t may masturbate).

Take as an example the shortage of boots. Every army in the world sends boots by separate consignments - left-leg boots in one lorry and right-leg boots in the other, since they are an attractive item to steal but only a gang of one-legged men would be interested. In one town in Russia this also applied to civilian production. The factory producing right-leg boots having been closed down because the workers were required on some other project, the left-leg boots went on being produced. What could the local management do? Stop producing them and be jailed or shot for economic sabotage? They carried on for years waiting orders to stop, and when eventually orders came from the top to switch to left-leg boots. It took years to catch up and then they found the sizes didn't match.

That is a true story which sounds funny but is in fact symptomatic of Tsarbarism. Applied to agriculture it is even disastrous. The reason they blame communism or State communism is because the latter is in power and takes blame as it takes credit for everything. But I could match with an equally amusing story (less tragic) from my own experience at work, under capitalism.

The management sent for a team of experts to cut costs and increase efficiency. They came to the conclusion that what caused the enormous costs was the amount of overtime and decided this was a union racket. They went to every department which had inbuilt overtime and told the supervisor to cut it out unless specifically requested by the management in writing. "It means cutting two hours - at the beginning or at the end?" our supervisor asked. "at the end, of course" they said. “You start this day". They knew that the overtime could not be "justified" because they measured the amount of work done with the number of hours and acted accordingly. Curiously, nobody raised any objection. The experts thought they had us at last.

They overlooked one fact. This was a newspaper, and that night the editorial desk was clamouring for extra coverage by telephonists, copytakers and printers. "Sorry," they were told. "We'll have less than ever tonight. From 10p.m. to 12p.m. we’ll be closed altogether". They all went mad, there were important matches to be covered, scandals, some war threat or other, the lot. Orders were no overtime unless the management specially requested, and they'd gone home for the night. Next day there were no more scientific experts.

If you think this has nothing to do with Russia, it is illustrative of taking orders from the top, and what is relevant is those self-same scientific management experts offer services to the Soviet Union introducing effective management, and point out no doubt how they curbed the "Spanish practices" of Fleet Street or would have done but for the weakness of the management. Best of Russian luck.

Many Russian anarchists prefer not the to talk too much of communism for the simple reason (as the Spanish proverb says) you don't talk of rope in the house of a man who's been hanged. It talks about a free market with workers co-ops.

The Coup

The old leaders of the Communist Party staged a coup, but why did they fail? The magic failed to work.
The first lot of squatters here took over a disused Army family block at Brighton and a young officer came, marched up and down and pointed a threatening finger at a grotty anarcho lounging against the door smoking a reefer. "You," he said, "I'm giving you a direct order, Get these people out of here". To his surprise the magic formula, used to crush army mutinies and enforce discipline for years and taught him at Sandhurst, never worked. "Fuck the off," was the bored reply.

The Communist Party leaders tried the old, well established method they had been learning in their cadre training camps for years. To their surprise the people in the streets did not immediately dash to their homes and cower there with a packed suitcase, waiting for the knock at door. The parallel is not with Col. Tejero but with an earlier incident in the last days of Gen. Franco. It was like when - who was it? Glasgow Rangers fans? - went wild in the streets of Barcelona and the magic formula of bringing out the Guardia Civil never worked. They could hardly shoot down a lot of boozed Glaswegian football fans deriding their funny hats. Barcelona exploded with delight as the Guardia Civil got pelted with beer cans. That's what happened in the coup, though a few deaths did occur.

It wasn't as crazy a coup as it sounded to Newsnight viewers. The October Revolution showed you could take that mighty empire just by storming the Winter Palace, with less disturbance than that engendered by the Brixton riots. But the magic is broken.

The opportunity is there for Anarcho-Syndicalism to participate first Russian Revolution. There were no others.

WHAT HAS HAPPENED TO BLACK FLAG?

At one time Black Flag had grown not only to be fortnightly but had a quarterly supplement (which was of such a high standard that we are still getting plaintive queries as to why it is not being received in remote places). It had a hall, a centre, a bookshop and a mailing centre. It got press and TV attention for what it did, not for manufactured hype. It is still blamed by the police and press occasionally for major acts of dissent, and regarded as the sinister force behind “international terrorism” event that of movements we never supported or some we actively oppose.

We say nothing of the know-all historians who always get us wrong (Prof. Woodcock in his Penguin obituary on “Anarchism” thinks our daily “Ludd”, produced for a week-long Dockers’ strike thirty years ago is still being produced but a mere sheet beside his beloved paper).

Black Flag had been regularly produced for 21 years until November 1990 (No. 201). We thought it would be a matter of a few weeks or months. In the past few years we had lost four of our regular collective by emigration, two by personal economic difficulties, two by sickness, one by prison, one by death, two by getting involved with other activities. Our machinery had broken down. Though it was replaced by one survivor buying new computers on his own initiative on credit, we have not overcome the production problem. (We have though been pleased to be able to co-operate in a revamped Direct Action).

Still optimistic that, despite these problems, we will be able to resume regular publication soon (maybe in a different format) we have to face up to the fact as to what has happened to the pool in which we were able to swim. That is a more significant matter.

The anarchist movement has been sunk in the “anarchist” morass because the working class has been pushed out of its own movement and its ideas have been filched by middle class liberal dissent.

There now seems to be a dreary routine pattern for what once purported to be the working class movement, long since degenerated into being merely “the Left”.

The bulk of the working class are out of it, or have no sympathy with a lot of what it says – particularly the shibboleths it holds as part of a package deal. Some of the liberal and libertarian scene regard the workers as enemies half the time, unless by a happy coincidence they are making the same demands, those on the authoritarian and Marxist scene regard them as their natural followers, and wonder where they are.

The student movement of yesteryear set a standard pattern for ‘Left’ politics. It regarded itself as a vanguard, resurrecting the old Marxist idea of the educated class that comes in to lead the workers from outside the class, they being only “of themselves, capable of a trade union mentality”. Whereas Marx had in mind the scholar who spent his years in the British Museum studying the ways others should go, Lenin transformed the concept into the armed scholar, like the Cromwellian idea of sword in one hand and Book in the other. This is transmuted into what are supposed to be street fighting terms are the stuff of farce.

The effect of the Anglo-American peace and commercialised music movement, confused with the anarchist morass and vice versa, has been to substitute first wishy-washy pacifism and permanent protest. Then when peaceful protest fails, the morass thinks all it has to do is to make the protests more effective with a bit of the old street fighting. No matter what it is - excessive tax, redundancies, war, invasion, cruelty to animals, let's go and have a bash at the police. Fair enough, good clean fun, reminiscent of the past and more effective than offering them flowers, but to what purpose?

Does this affect the working class in the slightest? They are in the main hostile because they resent seeing the movement they build up being taken over, its original inhabitants almost totally 'evicted,' and used for purely liberal and political purposes with which they may or may not be in sympathy. Also, it is not exactly a secret that in a year or two the people who tag alongside every major demonstration carrying. advertising slogans for Socialist Worker and the like, reducing every event to an advertising campaign, will in a few years be in journalism, advertising or even management, using their experience on the other side.

The reactionary Old Guard of the Labour Party knows full well that the only effect of its so-called left wing, and trots of various hues, will be to bar them from power because of the image they project of eccentric Tories as against ordinary ones. Their electoral prospects always depended on the working class and they have tossed it away for dubious ideology, leaving British politics, like American, as a personality game fought out in the media. Their fate does not concern us, but we have the same problem of dissociating ourselves, if for different reasons.

If we want a movement, not a morass, we have to assert our differences with these false allies, Marxist or libertarian, positively. If one seeks unity with them, one doesn't have the working class, it's as simple as that - whatever should or should not be the case. Generations of activists have been burned out by them, they are used as a means of asserting control both by the leaders of the demonstrations and by authority itself - and still their effectiveness as opposed to industrial organisation on the one hand or guerrilla action on the other has not been assessed.

For this reason, Black Flag and the anarchist movement proper has lost the pool in which it used to swim, which was working class activism. Resistance movements , where they could not be taken over, have been duplicated and imitated by Government agents of one sort or another (e.g. the original Red Army Fraction in Germany, Action Directe in France), are instances where phoney organisations have been built with the same names, the Red Brigades in Italy were taken over, the process of trying to confuse is taking place in the former Soviet countries, and most successfully it has happened in Spain where a whole organised labour movement has been copied in order to destroy it as a revolutionary force.

We do not weep that Black Flag influence is back to square one and has to rebuild again. So has the whole revolutionary anarchist movement, so is working class organisation. When the working class organisation revives, its militant sections will revive (note how "militant" has been made into a dirty word by being used by parliamentary Bolsheviks). When there are working class activists there will be anarcho-syndicalist sectors, and in them we thrive. Without them we are a solitary plant growing in a paved street.

The situation can change almost overnight (as it has done in the Soviet Union). Let us be ready. Build up our nuclei now. There is nothing to hope on the parliamentary horizon, and the years of depression have gradually pushed the working class out of production where it has potential power to enforced State dependency or to servitude where it cannot control. This is what creates apathy or despair but this is what we must combat, if need be, for the time being, as lone voices in the wilderness.

TWENTY YEARS AFTER

Reading the oceans of guff written by the lefties over Kuwait, it would seem the Sheikhdom is a reactionary, feudal, despotic State run for the benefit of the American oil companies and a corrupt ruling class. And of course they are right. It was exactly the same twenty years ago as now.

But on Feb 17 1971 - a date we would have commemorated had the Flag been out at the time - the Sheikh lavished time, money and expense on a major banquet to host a conference of all who believed in his cause and that of the PLO. Liberals were represented by Lord Carradon and almost every Maoist and Trot group was there. IMG with "street fighter" Tariq Ali), IS (forerunner of the SWP) , the Militants under their then more open Trotskyist banner, along with Sinn Fein, all participated.

In the name of anti-imperialism, all received the Sheikh's hospitality and debated what to do for the cause of the Glorious Arab Islamic Revolution. One can see why the Sheikh is a bit cut up about "ungrateful Palestinians" who are alleged to have supported Saddam Hussein after he mixed with that mob on their behalf. He couldn't take it out on his former honoured guests, most of whom also supported Saddam "not politically but militarily" (and insignificantly) so the dispossessed Palestinians got it in the neck on their "leaders" behalf.

What came out of the expensive shindig? We have to hazard a guess, not having been entertained by the Sheikh and his harem to dates and couscous, and the organisers were chary of publishing the minutes. But we do know that from that week on the following important events happened:

OBITUARY

Sadly since we last appeared we have lost one of last survivors of the active resistance to the former Spanish monarchy, as well as of the industrial resistance to the Republic and civil war fighter. Almost a legendary figure to the fighters against Franco and possibly the most-known person in the international anarchist movement. Emilienne Morin (Mimi to friends) died at the age of 90. She was active in the French, Spanish and international movements to her death though better known to the outside world as the companion of Buenaventura Durruti. Born in Angers (France), she and Buenaventura lived together first in Brussels, then all over Europe. She was administrative secretary of the Durruti column in action during the civil war after his death in 1936. After Franco won she returned to France, where her daughter Colette survives her.

STAY AT HOME ARMY

Those who watched Newsnight on April 5th 91 (BBC-2 TV) learned at long last of Gladio, one of several 'stay at home armies' set up by the British and American governments after WWII ostensibly to be a partisan group in case of a Russian invasion, privately to fight 'communism' at home and in practice to advance fascism and suppress the working class wherever militant.

The Italian setup proved more corrupt than the others and was used any amount of financial dealing involving links with the Papacy, freemasonry and the Mafia. A scoop? Not exactly. You may have read it in Black Flag years ago, and if you didn't, it (and more) is contained in the book 'Steffano della Chiaie' published by Cienfuegos/Refract ten years ago (still available, if not a best seller. Who said our irregularity meant our news coverage would be out of date by the time it appeared?)

As a result of the Gladio operation, the Italian anarchist movement was particularly harassed (this didn't come out in the TV programme which only dealt with its effect on the 'left'). The railwayman Pinelli (secretary of the Black Cross) was killed by the police, Valpreda spent years in jail trying to establish his innocence, hundreds have been arrested and detained, dozens of Anarchists are still in jail - all because of the climate created by Intelligence agents acting as fascist gangs in horror actions to blame the 'left' (only too glad to pass on the blame to anarchists).

NEWS OF THE ANARCHIST BLACK CROSS

The International Conference of the Anarchist Black Cross took place in Athens early in October of this year. Details next issue. We are not carrying news of political prisoners and prison struggles as our information is not up to date, and we welcome updated reports from ABC groups. These should in any case be available after the Greek conference.

FUTURE OF BLACK FLAG

Whether we come out regularly again depends on the response to this We have a mass of letters asking about us (and hope we've answered them, satisfactorily), A couple of pounds donation from each reader would balance the horrific debts incurred to the printers by our last two issues. (Anyone who sent in subs during the gap and has despaired of ever getting tine cape should write for a refund thought we still intend to carry on).

There is a new publication out "KSL" the bulletin of the Kate Sharpley Library. c/o BM HURRICANE

Anarcho-(Showbiz)-Quiz

1. Which international film star gained fame and fortune by playing a succession of macho roles as war heroes (or sometimes Nazi villains) being physically free to do so as a legally exempted conscientious objector on pacifist grounds?

2. Was Leon Trotsky ever a film extra in New York?

3. What deposed Irish-born dictator (or national liberator, according to opinion) not only wrote and lectured incessantly on the events leading to abdication, but appeared personally in the stage version?

4. What connection is there between not paying the poll tax and watching the TV series 'Murder, She Wrote'?

5. What character from English history (important enough to have pubs named after him!) has often been shown on screen, yet Hollywood never dreamed of having him played by his direct male descendent (though a major American film star)?

6. What film star was suspected of dodgy undercover operations during the Spanish civil war and of being a U.S. Nazi agent up to (some say even after, but that's unlikely) America's entry into the world war?

7. What film star was not born in Tasmania, despite claiming to be (and how does that tell us something about Hollywood)?

Answers to quiz

1. James Mason.
2. Though Trotsky's admirers always hotly denied it. many people thought so for years and one clip shows a custard pie about to be thrown in his face, Biographer Isaac Deutscher claims it was an actor with a physical resemblance who after the revolution played Trotsky himself. (But it's a nice thought about thy; custard pie).
3. Lola Montez (born Eliza Gilbert) toured Europe as a 'Spanish dancer' and became dictator of Bavaria via the only way then open to women, the King's bed-room, but was a strong and enlightened ruler according to the standards of 1840s liberals, opposing the aims of Imperial Austrian clericalism. Later she toured in 'Lola Montez in Bavaria'.
4. The grandfather of film actress, now TV star Angela Lansbury ('Jessica'), was Socialist George Lansbury who went to prison in the 20s with fellow Bow councillors rather than administer poor law cuts (equivalent in its effects on the poor to the poll tax). Catch that happening now!
5. Imagine Oliver Hardy playing Admiral Hardy (with Stan Laurel as Nelson?)
6. Errol Flynn.
7. Merle Oberon claimed she was born in Tasmania - Flynn was because it would in the 30s have been fatal to her career to have admitted that she was of mixed race. She was also, according to her husband’s nephew, wanted by the police in her native Bombay.

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The anarchist movement has been sunk in the “anarchist” morass because the working class has been pushed out of its own movement and its ideas have been filched by middle class liberal dissent.

Black Flag 203 (1993)

An issue of Black Flag magazine from 1993.

Contents

Editorial
Anarcho quiz
News
Government Doesn't Work
UK anti-fascism
Ringing Down The Iron Curtain
Sexuality
Ireland
Polcing
Red Vienna
Prisoners
Kate Sharpley Library
Reviews
Obituaries: J.M Alexander, Leah Feldman

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Black Flag 204 (1994)

An issue of Black Flag magazine from Spring 1994.

Contents:

Editorial
News
1 In 12 Club
Quiz
What Is Terrorism?
Abortion and the National Abortion Campaign
Viva Zapata
Prisoners/ABC
The Asturian Uprising
Letters
Northern Star RIP
Nationalism
Obituaries and Reviews
Yugoslavia
Black Flag Finances

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Black Flag 206 (1995)

Partial selection of contents from Black Flag magazine issue 206, published in 1995.

Cover image courtesy of Anarcho Covers.

Contents

An interview with the Awareness League of Nigeria, 1994

Here we publish extracts of an interview with Samuel, General Secretary of the Awareness League, the newest section of the International Workers Association, the anarcho-syndicalist international. The interview took place in Spain in August 1994, and is translated from "Le Combat Syndicaliste".

Mona: Do you think there is a real danger of civil war in Nigeria? Is there any chance for free elections to take place?
Samuel: The way things are developing there is a real danger of civil war. You must remember that Nigeria has already been through a civil war, between 1967-70, when the east of the country proclaimed independence as the Republic of Biafra. All the elements of that crisis are present today;
A. The controversial federal elections of 1964 and the annulled presidential elections of 1993.
B: The trial and imprisonment for treason of one of the leaders of the opposition in the sixties, and the same thing today with Abiola.
C: The military coup in 66, strong possibilities of a coup in the near future.
D: The secesson of the east in 67. The West and some ethnic groups in the east are demanding a confederation with regional armies.
War isn't inevitable. We still remember the lesson we were taught in 67. Furthermore if internal and external pressure can force the army to surrender power in the next six months, atht ought to prevent the catastrophe.
As for the elections, the experience under Babangida's regime shows we cannot trust the military [..]

Mona: Does the Awareness League take part in the strikes, and in what ways?
Samuel: Yes our members are involved in the strikes. Principally our membership are civil servants, students, professors, university teachers, journalists and other activists on the left. There is a national strike in the Universities, which our militants participate in and certain public services are also on strike where our militants are active. Many of the head offices of the newspapers are closed and occupied by soldiers, but our militants are still present.

Mona: What is the position of the AL towards the elections?
Samuel: The elections for President on 12th June 1993 were between Moshood Abiola (candidate of the Social Democratic Party) and Bashir Tofa, candidate of the right and also of the army. All progressive groups, unions, pro-democracy organisations and left organisations, including AL, supported the candidate of the SDP. This action was a vote against the Army. The AL believe that installing a government of the centre left is a minimal condition for the development and propagation of anarcho-syndicalist struggle. (See Black Flag 203 for more analysis on this.)

Mona: Do you co-operate with other organisations in Nigeria and Africa?
Samuel: The AL collabarate with movements for human rights, with the Campaign for Democracy, even though we are not members of them. There is a new organisation which is being formed called the Left Coalition, in which AL participates. Our next congress must ratify this choice.
We have tried to establish, without success, contacts with left oriented and anarchist organisations from other countries in Africa, particularly South Africa.

Mona: What are the AL's fields of activity? To which social groups and professions do your members belong?
Samuel: Our activities are mainly in the field of workers in education, and our work is propaganda and mobilisation. [..]

Mona: Are there any women in the AL and what are their activities?
Samuel: Unfortunately, there are very few women in the AL. That is because of the structure of African society, where women rarely play a part in political activities. The vast majority of women do not benefit from the education system [..] We must do much work in raising the consciousness of women. [..]

[i] Translation: Signe
Published in Black Flag #206 Autumn 1995 [/i]

Anarcho-syndicalism in Puerto Real (review)

Anarcho-syndicalism in Puerto Real

From Shipyard resistance to direct democracy and community control

This short pamphlet consists of a talk given at an anarcho-syndicalist dayschool in London in 1993, by Pepe Gomez, a militant of the CNT in Puerto Real / Cadiz. There are other elements to this pamphlet but its real value lies in setting out, from the mouth of an anarcho-syndicalist, what anarcho-syndicalism is all about.

This is directly opposite from what most critics of anarcho-syndicalism claim anarcho-syndicalism is. People like Murray Bookchin, who should know better, describe anarcho-syndicalism as an "archaic ideology rooted in a narrowly economistic notion of bourgeois interest" (From "The Ghost of Anarcho-syndicalism" in Anarchist Studies 1). Groups like Class War also dismiss anarcho-syndicalism as having no relevance because of the decline of traditional industries and the need, for them, to focus on the "community". Council communists tell us that when the time comes the workers will spontaneously form the necessary organisations of struggle, without anyone having to do any work beforehand. Sounds good, when did that last happen?

The struggle described in Puerto Real was only successful because the CNT, the Spanish anarcho-syndicalist union, had built up a solid presence over the previous ten-fifteen years, in Puerto Real, the shipyard area just outside of Cadiz in the south of Spain. Shipyards in Spain, just as in the rest of Europe, face "rationalisation" and closure. The difference between Puerto Real and say, Tyneside, is that workers on Tyneside were limited by the vision of the Labour Party, that nothing can be done within a capitalist system, ships can be produced much cheaper in Korea where workers get paid a lot less.

Such people exist in Puerto Real too, half the shipyard workers were in either the Socialist UGT or communist CCOO unions, who tried to do a deal with the bosses without any concessions. But the vision of the CNT carried the workers, many CCOO members tore up their union cards. By accepting the bosses' arguments, as the socialists and communists did, you fight with one hand behind your back - you admit that profitability and and the needs of the bosses are good reasons to destroy your livelihood. Standing true to the anarcho-syndicalist spirit, the CNT fought back with everything they had, regardless of whether they might win, but because they knew that fighting back is the only way to go forward.

Every Tuesday, workers blockaded the port and the only bridge to Cadiz, even blockading the king at one point. Running battles with the police and other forces of oppression were regular. Every Thursday, the CNT called village assemblies involving the whole population, where decisions were made, delegates elected, and the conduct of the struggle discussed.

In the end, the Puerto Real shipyard was given some work, including some from contracts at European Union level. The workers won an exemplary settlement in terms of pension rights where retirees at 55 had their pensions 100% linked to workers wages. There was also a rotation of people, so that if there was not enough work, some would work for 2 months, then others would take their place, but all workers received full wages. The shipyards are still functioning, and the CNT Puerto Real has made links with other militant shipyard unions all over Spain.

This direct democracy was very real, and the CNT were conscious to try and break the dependency culture that social democratic politics encourages. Their success is self evident - even though the struggle was won in 1988, the village assemblies are still going strong, and working on a whole range of issues, involving a broad range of local groups. These include struggles against local taxes, the construction of a golf course, struggles around the environment. This is anarcho-syndicalism in action - workers organising in their own interests, both at work and where they live. The combination of workplace militancy and a supportive, almost insurrectionary local population, is unbeatable. If only workers in Britain had tried it.

This article originally appeared in Black Flag #206, Autumn 1995

Interview with Lorenzo Kom'boa Ervin from 1995

Lorenzo Kom'boa Ervin interview
(originally published in Black Flag #206, Autumn 1995)

Lorenzo Kom'boa Ervin's story could have come out of the pages of fiction. The fact that we were privileged to hear him speak and interview him is easily the best thing to come out of the "Ten Days" debacle. Even Ian Bone admitted that at least it was worth it to "get Lorenzo over here".

However, Lorenzo's visit is a classic case of how not to organise a speaking tour by a foreign comrade. It was shameful that it wasn't until three days before his departure that he got his full fare refunded to him. Equally, he had to fill in for so many other advertised but absent speakers it did not present a good view of what anarchists in Britain are capable of. Fortunately, speaking is something Lorenzo not only enjoys, but is very good at.

As you will read in the interview, Lorenzo isn't interested in being a "token black" to soothe white anarchists' guilt about there being so few black anarchists. He was keen to meet black workers and activists and discuss anarchism with them. It was only on the last day he was in London that he got the chance, when he met members of the independent Panther group. Although he had differences with them, he came away impressed with their clarity, vision and sense of purpose. He had also hoped to meet Newham Monitoring Project but it didn't come off.

He has been invited back and we need to ensure that this time, both Lorenzo, and the anarchist movement as a whole, reaps full benefit.

BF: How dd you first become active politically?
LKE: Well, I got active in the civil rights movement of the early 60s, particularly the sit-in movement. This started in Greensboro in 1960 and came quickly to a number of other cities, including Chattanooga, my home town. I was a grassroots youth radicalised by these activities.
Out of that agitation, the Student Non-Violent Co-ordinating Committee (SNCC) was born. SNC was creted after most of the sit-ins had started. Ella Baker, Secretary of Dr Martin Luther King, recognised how important the sit-ins were and that the adult movement hadn't done anything in a while. She called a mass meeting in South Carolina, which was attended by 300 black southern activists and 200 white activists and observers. SNCC was originaly meant to be a way of co-ordinating these struggles.

It went on to become a unique organisation. It was anti-authoritarian in that it had no leadership (certainly not at the beginning). Power was in the hands of the membership and grassroots organisers. It was exceptional in that it did not emphasis charismatic leadership, but instead field organisers went into communities and built autonomous organisations. Field organisers would develop a person or persons who already commanded respect in the community into local leaders and subsequently back out, unless asked for support or advice. These were generally the SNCC methods throughout the south.

It was also unique in that it was secular, though in the early stages there were people who were motivated by Christian doctrine. SNCC won many of the major victories that have been credited to others, particularly King. This myth is to build faith in the government and belief in leadership, when in fact the masses make the struggle and the revolution.

Even in Montgomery Alabama, King was picked to be the public face of the struggle by E.D.Nixon, who was the local organiser. Nixon planned the bus boycott, but his important role has been lost to history. He was a grassroots activist, unlike most at the time who were middle class. The struggle lasted over a year, and the mases made it win.

BF: How did you go from SNCC to the Panthers? It seems like a big leap because of the non-violence of SNCC?
LKE: SNCC laid the grounds for the Panthers. SNCC lasted ten years, but in 1966 started to reassess the struggle. The phrase "Black Power" came through SNCC, and SNCC wasn't a non-violent organisation. It saw non-violence as a tactic not a principle. When SNCC met Malcolm X he impressed upon them the need for armed self defence. SNCC also agitated for local communities to be armed to repel racist attacks and police brutality.

In SNCC's Black Power phase there was more chance of black revolutionary tactics. But most of SNCC came from the black middle class and most had very little association with black workers, which is why they made the mistake of redirecting their energies away from their base in the south towards the north and the west. This changed the politics and made the organisation weaker.

Ideologically,SNCC provided the politics of armed self defence and the symbols (the black panther was originally from the SNCC chapter in Lowndes County, Alabama) to the Black Panther Party (BPP). In 1967 the BPP and SNCC merged and memberships united. I used to sell the Black Panther paper and consider myself a member. The merger was short-lived, and while it lasted the BPP felt SNCC should be its southern wing and didn't organise chapters in the South until the 70s.

SNCC had won most of the civil rights gains - voting, freedom rides, desegregation. In 1966 it analysed that racism and economic inequalities still existed, and that the Vietnam War, with its increasing number of black dead, were political issues they had to come out against. This attracted the BPP.

The alliance died because there were two different kinds of organisations. SNCC was anti-authoritarian and only changed after it got weaker. The BPP fell apart because of government subversion and leadership egos, SNCC just faded away.

The BPP were one of several Black Panther Parties - originally from Oakland in the Bay Area. They came to the fore because they had a more advanced programme and were able to dramatise their actions. The BPP was made up of grassroots youth while the other groups were middle class. Huey Newton was a good organiser and a brave individual. The BPP had a different class composition and a different kind of style - hard language, direct talk and encouraging resistance to the "pigs".

The local BPP attracted members and I stayed in from SNCC. I was isolated because they didn't really build in the south at that time, except for New Orleans. The BPP had an advanced social programe but in the first few years it was mainly military confrontations with the police.

Then they became a political party - part of the world black revolution - denounced the black bourgeoisie and called for new black struggles. They implemented "survival programmes" before the welfare state started by the federal government, which won them respect. This included "Breakfast for Children" Programme, which served breakfast across 40 chapters. They provided free clothing, shoes and medical care. The BPP captivated most of the US left and influenced their programmes. Some formed Panther style organisations like the Brown Berets (Chicanos), the Puerto Rican Young Lords, the Y Ching (in San Francisco) and some white radical groups, like Rising Up Angry in Chicago, and the White Panther Party in Michigan. Even today the idea of a Panther is someone who is resolute and would fight for their rights against the state.

However, there were internal probems, such as the tight leadership, who were also tightfisted. There was a division between cadres and leaders. There were abuses of women and of individual members for idiotic reasons. Police informers got in and even committed murders. What really killed the BPP was military and police action. The COINTELPRO conspiracy murdered at least 39 members of the BPP as well as other black militants, and jailed hundreds. People were summoned before grand juries.There was a legal, political and police offensive which disrupted the Party's work. Funds were diverted from the programmes into legal defence and bail.

This came down on me. Rebellion took place in Chattanooga. I was summoned to testify before a grand jury and refused. I'd been harassed for some time - this was another in a long line. I could have been jailed for five years, and the local jail was a chain gang- no way. I left the City for Atlanta hoping it'd just blow over. But the FBI got involved and circulated bulletins nationwide giving shoot to kill orders, so I had to get out of the country.

There had been some hijackings to Cuba. I got a gun, went to the airport, took over the plane and flew to Cuba. The Cuban authorities questioned me and took me to Hijack Hotel. Eldridge Cleaver was also in Cuba and in dispute with the government there. Cuba wouldn't act on him, so they jailed us and started deporting us. I was supposed to go to Guinea but instead ended up in Czechoslovakia. While there the Cubans got me arrested and turned me over to the US authorities. I escaped into East Germany but was captured, smuggled nto Berlin, tortured for a week and brought back into the States. I was put on trial in a small town in Georgia and sentenced to two life sentences.

This was the heaviest sentence for air piracy up to that time, because I wouldn't show any regret or apologise.They drugged me at my trial so I couldn't make statements and tried me in a small redneck town.

I was only 20. It brings you face to face with your own mortality at an early age and puts you to the test. I was not going to compromise or let them see me weak. I would be part of, or leading, any resistance. But you've got to have some reason to do this.

I started analysing my philosophy and my life. Thinking about my experiences in Eastern Europe I started looking at an alternative method, theory and strategy of revolution. All these, in a manner of speaking, led me to anarchism. I was not happy with the local anarchists in the US - they were too middle class, white and it was pretty much a countercultural scene. But this didn't stop me working with other anarchists around the world who had written to me. I desired a new way forward for the black revolution - which had been smashed by the state and finished off by reformism and neo colonialism. The original writings around my book came from this. Kropotkin influenced me most - I was engaging in all kinds of debate, hostile and friendly. It made me reevaluate what I had been involved in, particularly the authoritarian problems in the BPP and SNCC in its later stages, and the black movements of the 70s and 80s.

Anarchism in the US has always been an immigrant thing - the Jews, the Germans of the original International Working Peoples Assocation, the Italians of the 30s and 40s and so on. Why it should suddenly seem threatening that there was a black anarchist I don't know. Blacks and hispanics will surely constitute the backbone of the US anarchist movement in the future.

My prison writings called for an international anarchist resistance movement and a new International Working Peoples Association. This won me a following in Europe, Africa and among Australian aborigines. I was made an honorary member of one of the Aboriginal tribes. I distributed stuff in Nigeria. I don't know what impact it had, but I have to believe someone read this stuff.

Since the fall of communism even more people are looking at anarchism as a serious alternative, as set out by past and even some current movements. Especially if we were to speak to more so called ordinary people.

The real political conversion came from contacts with anarchists around the world. In Europe there was a campaign to get my freedom, by the Anarchist Black Cross (Stuart Christie, Albert Meltzer and Miguel Garcia) and Help A Prisoner Oppose Torture in the Netherlands. This sharpened my beliefs and made me more serious about anarchism as a force for black revolution. I never saw myself as a token black anarchist, but as someone to apply anarchism to the black community.

My other writings dealt with how the movement should have a predominant class struggle tendency. I never thought lifestylists would still be in the ascendancy - we need to go further than rebellion.

Letters to prisoners are especially important, to reach them at a certain stage amd talk to them about this. The main thing is the contact. It didn't happen much in the US, as they were hostile to prisoners and the black movement. I got particular support from the Australian aborigines.

It is important for anarchists to make contact with the black movement, even if you don't agree with them, as it may be possible to change their politics. They may adopt some of the core of anarchist politics and go deeper and build their own autonomous formation - they don't need to have white people telling them what to do. People have to find their own path. It is always good to keep those bridges open - we shouldn't be sectarian, be partisan instead.

I got out in 1983 and immediately started doing anti-racist work in Chattanoooga. Lots of people were dying in custody. When the son-in-law of the local police chief killed 66 year old Wadie Suttles in jail we started a ten year campaign which drove this bastard from office. Since 83, I've concentrated on local organising - fighting the Klan and the police. Though there's purportedly a new South, the same kind of racist murders, economic exploitation etc goes on. From 83-93 I worked in Chattanooga, which made me current with 90s struggles and put me in contact with other activists, some of whom were anarchists. I came back into anarchism in 93 and have been trying to find a place in it ever since.

BF: What are your critiscisms of anti fascist and anti racist organisations?
LKE: The role of white anti racists is not to usurp the role of people of colour. We must build a mass movement against racism, this is understood by all independent black activists. We need to challenge the fascists politically, not just beat them on the street, by mobilizing the progressive wing of the working class into a cohesive coalition. This is possible. Vanguard against vanguardism is no good - a section of the class cannot substitute for mass action.

This needs to be a broad based initiative under a radical banner, it won't win with an undemocratic vanguard strategy. It must have its own agenda, not that of the vangaurd parties. This is one of the reasons blacks don't come out on demos.

BF: What about the role of white anti-racists, ie fighting racism amongst their own communities?
LKE: This was said when SNCC expelled whites in 67. This hasn't happened in America because fo the class base of white radicals. White anarchists also need to support black organisers in terms of resources. It must be remembered that the police state, in alliance with the KKK, was effectively nazi in the past, and the Klan machine had control over the State apparatus of a number of states during the 20s and 30s.

BF: Can you tell us about the organisation you are part of?
LKE: Well, it's called the National Federation of Black Community Partisans, and it's an anti-authoritarian organisation of black radicals. It's at a formative stage at present, but it's meant to be a mass organisation. It's non-political in that it doesn't support parties. It's revolutionary in programme and attempts to use the black communities as a base. It's somewhat based on the affinity/ direct action movement I raised in Anarchism and the Black Revolution. Ideology is one of black autonomy, a conglomeration of black revolutionary and anti-authoritarian politics. You don't have to be an anarchist to join.

The black authoritarian tendency differs from us in that we are not xenophobic, we do not want a nation state, but advocate other solutions. We do not simply aim for power, but to empower the masses.

BF: A lot of your ideas in the book advocate mutual aid solutions to the pressing problems of the black community, with community organisation supplanting the state and driving it out. How do you envisage this situation of dual power?
LKE: Our ideas of dual power means that an opposing force would battle with the State, but on the Community's terms, not the State's. Dual power is not an end in itself, it is an effort to delegitimize authority and fight the ruling class strategy of using back congressmen etc. It is a counter power to oppose every aspect of the State's ability to have power over and police our communities. That's the intention, it's not meant to be a permanent situation. The movement must be the people.

BF: Generally, from your writings and talking to you, you're very optimistic about the prospects for anarchism, and the black revolution:
LKE: I've been at this 15 years and more people than myself have come forward. The Federation is small in number but high in quality. We have veterans of labour, student and community movements, as well as ex-prisoners and 60s struggle veterans. We're not going to get trapped into single issue campaigns. I had no idea of this federation - people came to me after my speaking tour. People are looking for answers.

BF: How big was the tour?
LKE: A major tour in the US is usually 25 cities. I've done 30 so far, the East and West Coasts, Canada and the South West. I've talked to 25,000 people or more in the last 7 months. It started on the spur of the moment and here I am in England.

BF: Do you have contact with the black anarchists in prison?
LKE: There's a lot of contact with black activist prisoners, as well as a great deal of interest. They're looking for a new direction. From my personal experience, letters from Europe, Africa and Australia kept me going, and put prison officials under the gun and prevented worse things happening. In many cases the US left don't write.

BF: What's your opinion of MOVE and what relations do you have?
LKE: We have good relations. Some consider them the first black anarchist formation. Regardless of some of the peculiarities of their politics ( ie deference to John Afrika) their politics are anarchist, including environmental and animal rights platforms, they're against government as an institution, in favour of autonomous communities, co-operative lifestyle and society. The problem has been conservative anarchist-purists who refuse to accept it, except in Philadelphia. MOVE were the first organisation since the BPP to advocate black armed self defence and I have great respect for them. They have all the essentials of an anarchist political formation.

Lorenzo's book will be reviewed in the next issue.

On the closure of the Nestle plant in Norwich, 1995

This article originally appeared in Black Flag #206, Autumn 1995. It was written by Norwich Solidarity Federation, who had contacts in the plant and tried to organise action against the closure.

Nestlé Plant to Shut in Norwich

Nestlé's decision last year to shut the Norwich factory came as little surprise after years of rumours.
The company has long been condemned for the harm caused by their baby milk products in the third world. In the 1930s they bankrolled the launch of the Swiss Nazi Party. The nazis' smashing of effective workers' organisation in their factories guaranteed higher profits.
Their current yearly profits are £3 billion, obviously not enough.

The Response of Norwich Nestlé Trade Unions

Of the numerous unions that claim to represent the workforce, the largest are USDAW (shop and distribution workers) and the AEEU (engineers and electricians).
Their initial reaction to the announcement of the plant closure was decidedly directionless. Following a push from the city council and trades council, who organised a march and rally through the city, they embarked on a public relations campaign. This involved councillors, MPs and the MEP eloquently pleading to the company. A firm of consultants were hired at a cost of thousands of pounds, to come up with a formula which would make the Norwich site attractive to Nestlé - something that Nestlé themselves must already have looked at.
This display of hot air wasn't just buying time while the unions geared up for serious resistance, however. As the weeks rolled by, it became clear that it wasn't just a tactic to rely on the politicians and PR men, it was the whole strategy!
A similar strategy two years ago didn't stop the closure of almost every British coal mine. You'd have thought they might have learned.

Snatching defeat from the Jaws of Victory

The most glaring cock-up was the unions' total inaction in the one area capable of stopping the closure. Early on came declarations from York, Halifax and Newcastle workforces that they did not want to take Norwich's work. Here was something to build on. In this closure it is the three other chocolate producing plants that hold the key. With only half the time, money and energy put into the hot air campaign, the other plants' reluctance to take Norwich's work could become resolutions to totally black the transfer, installation and renewed production of the Norwich lines.
In not pursuing this, the unions opted to reject resistance and the fight was all but lost. All that remained was posturing. While Nestlé bosses hold ultimate responsibility for shutting the factory and throwing 900 families into misery, the unions must share the blame for their inaction, their neglect of workplace organisation and futile tactics.

Norwich Solidarity Federation

Following the announcement of the closure Norwich Solidarity Federation (SolFed) wrote to all the unions at the plant with the offer of support in any and every way, particularly internationally, as the French CNT organises at two Nestlé subsidiaries. SolFed informed the unions of the International Workers Association's decision to hold a day of protest, and the launch of a local support group.
To the disappointment of those involved in the support group, the Nestlé unions showed at best indifference, not even bothering to say "no thanks". Following the day of action, the Norwich unions had the gall to tell the local Trades council they were not informed. When the Trades Council was presented with copies of all the correspondence, there was only silence...
A clearer illustration of the bankruptcy of these unions and the need for the alternative methods and principles we promote could not be found. These unions succeeded only in cutting off their noses to spite their faces. The losers are all those who work for Nestlé in Norwich. We will not forget.

From Norwich Solidarity Centre bulletin

What is the middle class? - Albert Meltzer

Albert Meltzer writes for Black Flag magazine on the idea that "we are all middle class now".

Prime Minister John Major referred to Tories achieving a 'classless society'. He was referring to the gradual move from the English class system to the American. In England the survival of the old upper class is ensured by the constitutional monarchy, against which the middle class is beginning to rebel, or at least not regard exxpressions of rebellion as reprehensible.
The old upper class has managed to snatch on to influence (where once it had supreme power) by social snobbery, beginning with the schools, ensuring that people who make huge sums of money are frozen out of the Establishment unless and until they conform to their requirements. The upper class classically retain certain areas within themselves, such as the leadership of the Church and Army, the judges, the Foreign Office and the upper reaches of the Civil Service. But now the bourgeoisie is moving in. Power in the Tory Party has shifted from the patricians to those whose only God is Money and of whom Baroness Thatcher is still the prophet
The idea that a multi-millionaire could be excluded from an Establishment of which slobs like the Marquesses of Blandford and Bristol, the late Lord Moynihan or Lord Lucan are members by birth has lingered on in Britain. It is now moving to the American conception of class. The middle class, now on top, has finally won its revolution and creates its own myth, not one of Birth and Breeding, but that anyone with ability can rise to any position regardless of birth. It is equally false.

Many Russians have fallen for the notion that the end of State communism would bring the American dream and they would be driving their Cadillacs at week-ends to country cottages complete with swimming pools. The favoured few had this under Stalinism. What was in power, generating wealth for itself, was the Civil Service and the politicians. It was as hereditary as the middle class system, since wealth begets education and opportunity, though not based solely on birth as is the aristocratic system. Trotskyists demur at the term 'ruling class' to describe this class, but what else were they? Whatever they should be termed, they are now determined to retain their status in a ruling class capacity.

The myth of Marxist-Leninism was that all in Russia were working-class, including the favoured few with wealth and power. It was supposed to be a workers' state. The parallel myth of Western capitalism is that all are (or could be) middle class, which is the norm, the middle of nothing!
Just as only vestiges of the old upper class exist on Britain, politicians and the media now have it that only vestiges of the working class exist. They are trying to erode both the aristocratic class and the working class. Eroding the upper class means that they are pushed down from being wealthy landowners to becoming company directors. Eroding the working class means they are pushed down from productive work to pauperism. The middle class want to put into effect what they have always believed - that the capitalists or the State 'give' work' to the worker, who is parasitic on them. and not vice versa as is so obviously the case,

"But we are all workers now". Humbug! What they mean is everybody functions some way - even the Queen opens bazaars. But a once productive class is being pushed out of productive jobs to go into dead end occupations servicing the rich. Production is being switched to Third World countries so that it can be done as cheaply and shoddily as possible, and the pretence of generosity by aid progammes maintained. On the other end of the scale, the interesting and glamorous jobs that were once entirely working class are becoming available almost exclusively to the gilded young of the middle class, occasionally the formerly upper class too. The theatrical profession is a typical example, where the 'rogues and vagabonds' of Elizabethan times became the trod-upon outcasts of the eighteenth century and the working stiffs of the 19th, but by the second half of the 20th century, pampered darlings, almost exclusively middle class. Journalism, and by extension the media, is another instance. Sub-editors. and even editors, once came from the same class as printers. Now all but a very few specialists come from the posh universities and are in a position to ascertain that authors will be of the same social class.

The Mandarins

There is in any case another class, thought of as middle class but depending for its status on power, not profit. Like Stalin's bureaucracy, it is a ruling class though it is dependent on the politicians. It may makes a profit or not. it may run a quango or a monopoly, a multi-national or a university,a public company or a State industry or its individual members can pass from one to the other. These are the new lords and occasionally ladies of creation, whether one thinks of them as Soviet commissars, company directors or old-style Chinese scholar mandarins. They call themselves the meritocracy. They are becoming the most powerful in the dominant middle class, the most likely to aspire to becoming a new aristocracy.

The hangers-on

Marxist-Leninism claimed in Russia everyone was working class, whether proletarian, commissar or gulag slave, while the former aristocracy, hiding out or in exile, were reckoned as scapegoat ruling class to be blamed for all the ills of the system. American capitalism claims all are middle class and there is no class division. British capitalism adds a few more illusions to this by way of educational snobbery or the honours system. The lies put over by the Hollywood Dream Factory or the Lie Factories of Britain's press lead many to suppose that they are not working class when they patently are, or even that the working class has ceased to exist.

The middle, now dominant, class embraces the very rich, the parasites on business, the business careerist, the upper ranks of the civil servant, and the hangers-on to certain social values. It does not include those who acquire property instead of spending their wages on booze and fags, or have a mortgage or a car bought by their own work. The working class in good times can prosper, but remain under capitalism. If active in economic struggle they can, when labour is scarce, earn the same as, or more than, the lower middle class. It is a fallacy to suppose that prosperity changes their status.
Those with specialist skills sometimes fool themselves, invariably to their own detriment, that they have different class interests, and identify with the ruling class. Nationalism and patriotism are used for the same purpose: to identify with the State and sio with one's own exploitation. This obscures the issue, but does not change it.

We do not have to accept being ground down by parasites upon society. The destruction of heavy industry does not necessarily mean the destruction of the productive class itself but of its organisations within heavy industry. The alternative to heavy industry need not be pauperism, which is being accepted today as if it were a natural catastrophe, but co-operation based on self-employment. Self-employed, small local collectives and a new kind of co-operative movement can link up with other forms of industrial organisation. University-processed Marxism sneers at the independent worker as 'petty bourgeois'. But the value of artisan organisation as part of the working class struggle has been proven time and again in industrial disputes and in revolutions. Today the capitalist not only does not give work but actively takes it away. To be strong enough to fight back we need to set our own work agenda. In fighting back it is not enough make reforms, to curtail profits or to circucmvent the effects of wage slavery. These are desirable but leaves the dangerous capitalist beast of prey wounded but all the more dangerous. The class system has to be wiped out.

a. m

Originally published in Black Flag #206 Oct 1995

Black Flag 207 (1995/6)

An issue of Black Flag magazine from late 1995/early 1996.

Contents:

Editorial
JJ's Fast Food Dispute
Liverpool Docks
The Southwark Two
Sectarian Nots
Squatting After The Criminal Justice Act
Voting
Czech Republic
Bangladesh
Germany
Norwich
Why Dead Kings Are Dangerous
immigration and Asylum Bill
Greece
China
IWA Visit to the Fighting Garment Workers of Bangladesh
Coping with COPEX and Cops
Review: What Is Situationism: A Reader
Review: Land And Freedom
Review: I Couldn't Paint Golden Angels
Obituary - Ellis Hillman
Anarchism, Sexual Liberation and Bisexuality
Camden Council
The Full Sutton prisoners' strike
Letters
Quiz

AttachmentSize
bf207.pdf10.12 MB

1995: The JJ Foods Strike

On October 31st 95, forty five workers at JJ Fast Food Distribution Ltd. in Tottenham were sacked for joining the T&G.

JJ FOODS STRIKE

The conditions at the plant were appalling; workers were putting in 60-70 hours per week for a pittance with no overtime, sick or holiday pay. Drivers were expected to pay for any parking fines or counterfeit money they were given out of their own pockets. The sacked workers immediately gathered outside the factory to form a picket and were attacked by hired thugs wielding sticks and knives. Three workers were hospitalised. Support was called for and daily pickets began to take place at dawn outside the factory. Strikers were joined by supporters from the Colin Roach Centre, Haringey Solidarity Group and various Trot organisations. Pickets were heavily policed and the TSG were present in large numbers. Pickets were confined behind police barricades across the road and on a hill above the pavement, as far from the scabs as possible. Anyone trying to picket the actual goods entrance was immediately threatened with arrest. A support group was set up, and a strike bulletin produced. The heavy presence of SWP and other trot groups began to wane after the first three weeks as the strikers made it clear that they didn't want their fight turned into a glorified paper sales pitch, and the support group was left in the hands of the strikers, Haringey Solidarity Group and the Colin Roach Centre.

The official union also pulled out, as they wanted pickets in the afternoons (completely ineffective as all the workers are out on deliveries after 8am) on the grounds that dawn pickets were dangerous due to the lack of light!

The support group also decided to picket JJ Foods outlets; the chain of Jenny's Burger restaurants being the main target. Jenny's is a franchise of JJ Foods and pickets were organised at a different branch each week. These were largely successful, pickets gaining surprising support from workers and even managers who were shocked by the actions of JJ's and who promised to complain to Mustafa Kamil, JJ's boss.

Support within the Kurdish and Turkish communities grew and by December Kamil was feeling the pressure and agreed to enter into negotiations with the workers.

The pickets were called off on the 11th , 12th and 13th December as a goodwill gesture while talks with ACAS took place.

Kamil turned up on the first day, saying he was happy to negotiate, but that his life was under threat, muttering stuff about the PKK. He had body guards with him and was wearing a bullet proof jacket! On the second day, he returned and met 40 demonstrators outside the talks. He demanded police protection and disappeared with the police.

A Union official went to the police station and managed to talk to him; he stated he was happy to re-employ the majority of sacked workers but that he wanted to go legit and would need the NI numbers of all workers. He said he wouldn't continue to employ the scab labour as they were "no good". However he would not take back the most active of the strikers, who just happened to be Kurdish; all those he was proposing to re-employ were Turkish.

Obviously this was not acceptable and the strikers are holding out for the reinstatement of all sacked workers, as well as their other demands; all workers to have contracts and be in the union; holiday pay; sick pay; no money to be paid by drivers out of their own pockets; two shifts to be introduced in the freezers where the temperature is -30 degrees.

Meanwhile, the strikers have been continuing to picket and have been involved in solidarity work with the Liverpool Dockers, and Hillingdon Strikers. They have met with Southwark Labour Group to demand that the Education Authority cease to trade with JJs, and lobbied Enfield Education Authority.

The strikers all won their industrial tribunals in January and were found to have been unfairly dismissed. Compensation will have to be paid by Kamil, who is likely to be made bankrupt by the decision (unless he transfers his assets to Jennys burgers chain, which has been rumoured). Trade has been very slow during the strike, many scabs have left, unable to cope with the pressure of being picketed day in and day out. Delivery vans are leaving the plant half empty, and the company has been shunned by the local Turkish and Kurdish communities.

[b]New workers support group[/b]
The strike has been largely successful against very heavy odds, and has forged links between activists from Haringey Solidarity Group, CRC and anarchist groups with Kurdish and Turkish workers and activists. Workers have agreed to put the compensation payments into a permanent workers support group for fast food and other low paid workers in the Tottenham area. Haringey Solidarity Group will be offering practical support to get the group going.

Contact JJ Foods Locked Out workers Support Group, c/o Unwaged Centre, 72 West Green Road, London N15 5NS, Tel 0181 802 9804

[i]This article came from Black Flag #207, Jan 1995, which also featured a picture of the JJ workers on the front cover. In the end some of the workers accepted a settlement from the owner but most, particularly the most militant, did not return there.[/i]

The Southwark Two

The Southwark 2, The Feeble Full-Timer And The Laughable Revolutionaries

On October 31st 1995, John Jones, a building shop steward, and Terry Mason, a fellow worker at Southwark Council were sacked. They had refused to transfer over to Botes, a contractor more fitted to riding in a rodeo than repairing a home. The fact that these two workers took a stand while thousands of other direct labour workers have been transferred or laid off over the last seven years or so, is cause enough to celebrate.

However, this case becomes more complicated as it proceeds. The unelected full-timer, Tony O'Brien, has long been a bit of a noise in the left in UCATT, the building union. He is Secretary of the now-emasculated Construction Safety Campaign, and is close to the Workers Revolutionary Party. (The WRP obliged him by printing two pages in their paper against the Building Worker Group). O'Brien has been convenor at Southwark for 20 years, which is a telling argument for limiting full-timers' terms of office. During that time, the workforce has declined to barely 250. That in itself doesn't mark O'Brien out as any different from other direct labour organisations. But O'Brien has made a few exaggerated claims about his record. The one steward on the committee to stand up to him was John Jones.

Naturally enough, the two sacked men put a picket on the gate of the main depot in Peckham. This was taken off at O'Brien's request so that a campaign could be mounted through the union. This was agreed to, with the proviso that if no campaign appeared, the picket would be back. A week later, the picket was on again, and was greeted by a ludicrous counter demo by O'Brien and his supporters. One of these, a shop steward, even directed lorry drivers to cross the line. O'Brien's instruction of union members to cross the picket has meant that workers are reluctantly going in.
That morning, the Socialist Workers Party turned up as well. Not to offer their support, of course, but to sell papers and tell John and Terry where they'd got it wrong. When Unison gave the men £1000, the SWP got it passed not to support the picket. I know that SWP industrial strategy is to build up hopes and lead them to defeat and say "I told you so" at the end, but this is ridiculous. What should John and Terry do if they don't picket, sell papers? And this was in a "Southwark Council Workers' bulletin" full of militant language about the Southwark library strike on the front page.
The two workers are still fighting to get their respective unions to properly take up their case.

From Black Flag #207

Squatting After the CJA

This article is from Black Flag in 1996 and was one of a series looking at the impact of the Criminal Justice Act in the mid 90s.

Squatting after the CJA

The same day that Brixton erupted in December the Riot cops had an outing in North London. This time they were evicting squatters from Greenwood Road, Kentish Town, behind the Rainbow Church, centre of the "new movement of DIY eco-warriors" that is apparently the face of protest in the '90s.

After the eviction the riot cops were faced down for several hours by the squatters and their Rainbow Tribe neighbours shouting, "watch out for the little people" and "the pixies will get you" and throwing some fruit and a few eggs. The deployment of 70 cops in full riot gear was obviously justified in view of the leprechaun threat.

Sadly, this was probably the biggest squat resistance in London since Claremont Rd, the houses in the route of the M11 extension evicted in the winter of 1993. It is also one of the first evictions of any scale since the squatting sections of the 1994 Criminal Justice and Public Order Act came into force in August 1995.

The inclusion of squatting in the CJA affected it and any squatting movement in a number of ways. The first, and most damaging, was the reporting that suggested that squatting would be made illegal. This appeared in the straight media but also in alarmist rubbish in the alternative press. The myth has become widespread amongst anyone not involved or affected by squatting but also with advice workers and, more worryingly, the homeless and others who might need to squat. It was much easier for journalists, professionals or aspiring hacks, to write shock horror stories then explain the pointless and complex changes to the law that did eventually take place.

Other developments in the squatting scene have been closely connected to the anti-roads movement. This grew out of the squatting of houses in North East London on the route of the proposed M11 extension. Houses left empty by the Department of Transport had been squatted for years but the opposition to the M11 made them a focus for resistance as well as somewhere to live for hundreds of people. Publicity at Twyford Down and victory at Oxleas Wood in South East London brought a growing anti roads movement to the local opposition to the No M11 campaign. However the road protesters always knew that there would be other protests to go to and their priorities were being nice for the cameras and appealing to public opinion. Keeping it respectable and unthreatening, an admission of inevitable defeat. Squatters and other local people had little choice but to go along with this surrender. Locked on to anything that didn't move or sitting on top of scaffolding towers held up the bailiffs long enough to put Claremont Road into squatting mythology. The D-lock replaced the ski-mask as squatter fetish gear.

Attempts to use the interest/fear/anger stirred up by the threats to squatting, real or imagined, to rebuild some sort of squatters movement in London were similarly dominated by activists with agendas outside squatting. Over the past few years the local squatting groups and networks had almost entirely ceased to exist. This was a far greater threat to squatting than the CJA. The statements that "the CJA affects us all" and that "everything is connected" made it easy for the overworked or the apathetic to allow any new energy to be used up portraying squatting as part of some rainbow coalition of "new social movements"; all sharing the same campaigning values of media friendly pacifism and a refusal to confront even the idea of state power. All a bit tough if you were squatting out of housing need rather than out of a fondness for the Levellers pop group. Without accessible local groups, squatters are isolated and more vulnerable. Squatting is more difficult without information about empties, the law, etc., and the solidarity that local groups can give you.

Instead many squatters have fallen for the line that we must put across a good image in the media. By presenting ourselves as good responsible citizens we will convince those in power not to evict us or smash up our homes. By playing to the media we capitulate to their agenda. Our actions are dictated by what the editors and journalists want. There are no differences between the political positions and aims of a (liberal, democratic) media and a (liberal, democratic) state. In the end we become good responsible citizens, in shit housing, just like we are supposed to be. Of course a number of squatters, well represented in the squatting/ alternative media, really are good responsible citizens, pushing an image of peaceful creative people who just want to make their contribution to society, doing very nicely out of it and playing big brother or big sister to any squatters movement. They have successfully imposed a leadership, at least of attitude, an acceptance that we play the media game. While alternative careers in arts and media are built, any resistance is isolated as irresponsible. However it is our acceptance of this "leadership" that is the real problem.

Many squatted social centres are also dominated by the media image mentality and it is here that a clear refusal to confront authority immediately undermines any threat of militant resistance. The two most obvious places, the Rainbow Church, mentioned above, and the CoolTan in Brixton, now no more, are based around the idea that if we are nice, creative, small-business people etc. the council/owners won't evict us and will even give us money. There is no intention here to challenge anything at all. You can't resist an eviction or be nasty because otherwise you will spoil the image and ruin negotiations for other buildings etc. The conclusion is that any eviction can only be resisted, if at all, within the guidelines laid down by the anti roads movement and CND. Faced with such a threat, owners have no incentive to deal sensibly with squatters at all. Both the CoolTan and the Rainbow Church have or had licences. The CoolTan went quietly, maybe things are changing at the Rainbow Church.

In contrast to defeats in Britain, squatters in the Hafenstraße in Hamburg have been allowed to keep the blocks they have squatted for over 14 years. The squatters were always in the front line against the gentrification of the area between St Pauli and the port and the resistance to eviction attempts mobilised thousands in street battles with the riot cops. Millions of deutschemarks worth of damage was caused. There have been rental agreements with the authorities in the past but these have not mellowed the attitudes of the squatters. Attempts to smear them by association with the Red Army Faction and (fairly true) media portrayal as a hotbed of revolutionary activism have completely backfired. As an attempt to end the conflict the city council are selling them the block and writing off some debts of rent and rates. It remains to be seen whether this is a victory for the squatters and the fight against gentrification or a successful attempt to buy off resistance. In either case a cosy media image and being peaceful was never a major part of the squatters' tactics.

It is difficult to persuade people that resistance and confrontation can lead anywhere other than arrest, imprisonment or a good kicking in the short term or more laws and repression in the future. However, these things are happening anyway and without showing a willingness to resist attacks will only increase. Knowing that evictions and other attacks on squatters will be resisted will make the authorities less willing to risk something worse than a couple of lines of bad publicity in the Guardian or "exposure" on the videos of camcorder activists.

The CJA was never going to make squatting illegal. The first changes to the law tightened up existing laws relating to squatting houses where someone is going to move in. The stories in the media saying that violence could now be used to evict squatters were partly alarmist and partly lazy journalism. All that changed was that it is no longer an offence to use force to enter a place where a tenant or resident is being kept out by a squatter. The incidences of violence being used by landlords owners or cops have not gone up or down since. The second part of the law brought in a new, complex civil eviction procedure, the Interim Possession Order, and made it a criminal offence not to leave within 24 hours of the order being served. These procedures are relatively rare still with only one council, Labour Tower Hamlets, using them with any success so far. If they are opposed the owners can find themselves in trouble. The University of North London tried to use these "fast track" procedures to evict squatters from the old Kentish Town site of the polytechnic at the beginning of November 95. They were opposed and didn't get their building back until January 96.

The future for squatting isn't entirely crap. The misinformation is being fought, more information about new and old laws is getting out, other squatted social spaces are more realistic about their position and their potential. There are places being opened up, especially outside London. There is some debate about getting organised, different ideas about what we can or should do, and a growing, though still small, feeling that the threat to squatting doesn't come so much from the CJA but from our own unwillingness to stand up for our homes and our space.

If Voting Changed Anything...

The issue of elections to state bodies has once again become live. Anarchists today are presented with arguments for their use from two angles. Firstly, there is Murray Bookchin and his allies, the social ecologists who argue for "libertarian municipalism". Secondly, there is the agenda of some parts of the left who are seeking to create a new political force, against Labour and of the working class.
Bookchin raises a number of arguments in favour of participating in local elections, which I will attempt to summarise here. This is different from what we mean by libertarian municipalism, which is the control and management of local services by a libertarian commune. We discussed this some years ago, under the title of "Municipal Anarchy".
Bookchin envisages that any such electioneering is done as part of a popular movement for democratic control, and members try to gain seats on the council in order to build mass assemblies as an alternative. He does not see this happening at a national level and stresses that it is only one part of an overall strategy. In support of this tactic, which has been criticised as being anti-anarchist by many, he counters that Bakunin advocated similar things and that there is a long history of anarchists participating in councils and other elected bodies, albeit on a localised scale.
Let's deal with the Bakunin point first. Bakunin advocated plenty of things that modern anarchists would disagree with, and he himself would not have treated his own thoughts as set in concrete and unable to change. Bakunin said that revolutionaries could intervene on a municipal level in the mir. The mir was not the same as the town council, but was a collection of every man who worked or lived in the village, not their representatives. This is a crucial point, as the difference is one of an obviously imperfect direct democracy (men only) against representative democracy. There is also the scale - even with new technology, a set up like the mir could not work even in a London borough, let alone across a whole city.
A much greater hole in his theory is that it does not recognise what the state will do. In Australia during the 80s, socialists in New South Wales left Labor and became independent councillors. The State government introduced boundary changes which took away every single one of their seats. In Victoria, whole councils were abolished because they stood in the way of the privatising Kennett government in the 90s. Will the State sit back and allow libertarian municipalists to take over in this way - unlikely. And what is to stop the "libertarian municipalists" building alternatives like mass assemblies anyway, such as the CNT have done in Puerto Real? Doctrinaire anti-syndicalism?
Nor is lack of democracy the only problem facing us. In Tower Hamlets in London in 1986 the Liberals introduced a radical decentralisation. This resulted in the election of a nazi, and only a massive mobilisation by the Labour bureaucracy prevented his re-election. Potentially the fascists could have gained control of a local council with a budget of millions.
There are also disturbing stories of the biggest libertarian municipalist group, Ecology Montreal, and the strange alliances they have made. (See issue 37 of the American Anarchy magazine). What Bookchin's allies are really doing is libertarian intervention in local state politics. Local state politics are about the pursuit of power - we are not going to be led down that road.
The other set of arguments for electoralism are harder to pin down, as they are implied rather than stated by the various advocates of "new political organisation"s. There are at least three current initiatives that I know of, and there may be many more. Disillusion with Labour and the left seems endemic. The three initiatives are: the "independent Working Class Association" sponsored by Red Action and London Anti-Fascist Action (AFA), with various anarchist and several communist groups participating: "Resistance", founded by the Colin Roach Centre: and a group centred around the Somerset Clarion, which has actually stood candidates against Labour and won. Of the three, the latter is likely to end up with Scargill's Socialist Labour Party. The other two have no definite commitment to standing candidates, but it is implied in their logic.
The Red Action initiative came from the last round of council elections when the fascist British National Party's (BNP) role in East London made clear the limitations of AFA's single issue strategy. Put simply, workers in poor districts like Tower Hamlets can see that Labour has nothing to offer them after years of attacks by Labour councils who they have far more dealings with than the Tory central government. No amount of "blaming it on the government" can excuse Labour here. The only ones to offer anything 'radical' or "alternative", albeit false, are the fascists. Groups like Militant and the Socialist Workers Party are associated with Labour in the popular mind. This was shown in a recent East London by-election, where Militant Labour, who stood a candidate against Labour, got one fifth of the vote of the nazis, who also stood. In this context, anti-fascist activity has got to be more than "Don't Vote Nazi", as it implies support for Labour, i.e. for the status quo. Red Action don't state it outright, and individual members have told me that they are not aiming to be an electoral force. However, this is where the organisation points. This is a pity, as it otherwise shows promise. Red Action are interested in working with others to talk to workers, not the left. Even though their initial coalition is somewhat reduced, there are many positive points. Obviously many anarchists won't work with them in areas like Glasgow, where their behaviour has been outrageous, but they are at least looking in the right direction.
The Colin Roach Centre grew out of Hackney Community Defence Association and Hackney Trade Union Support Unit. Although anti-fascism is only one part of their politics, they have followed a similar line of logic to arrive at a similar position. There is no consensus about elections, the issue has surfaced a couple of times in discussions.
Although the logic is compelling in terms of anti-fascist work, we mustn't make the mistake of looking at anti-fascist activity alone. To accept the poisoned chalice of representative democracy merely to oppose the odd bonehead electorally would be wrong. Electoralism, and particularly the parliamentary variety, is fed by the mass media. To gain credibility with them, you have to discard what you believe in. Maybe that's not what these organisations are after, but it's what they could become.
What if any of these groupings, or Arthur Scargill's new Socialist Labour Party, were to win? Or let the fascists in by default? What would the reaction be of the black and Asian communities in East London if an intervention lets a fascist in? It's hardly likely to be celebratory? There have been individuals who have won both local and parliamentary seats under independent guises. While the individual concerned has usually done well, the consequences for the labour movement as a whole have been less happy.
The answer is not an easy one, but calls for precisely the type of working class organisation that the Colin Roach Centre and Red Action are moving towards. One that is built from the bottom up, and is of the working class, with its loyalty to the working class in its broadest sense, as opposed to the student and middle class oriented left.
It is long and hard work done by the comrades of the CNT in Spain that has resulted in mass village assemblies in the Puerto real area near Cadiz. The municipal councils are still in the hands of the politicians, and can still be shut down by central government, but neither can move without worrying what the people's reaction might be. Of course, Marxists of all shades will argue that we shouldn't shirk from the political arena. We say that we shouldn't separate out politics into some form of specialised activity that only certain people, i.e. our representatives, can do. The labour movement was co-opted by municipalism before. Libraries set up by workers' subscriptions were taken over by councils and are now shut by the local council, invariably Labour. Gas, water and electricity boards were originally under council control. Now they are sold off cheaply to the well off at the cost of jobs and higher prices for us. The working class departed from the left over the last fifty years. The situation we now face is a direct result of this - electoralism substituted for organisation and direct action.
MH

Why ex-Kings are a Danger

This piece appeared in Black Flag #207, which came out around January 1996. Conspiracy theorists might be interested in the remarkable prescience Albert showed talking about Diana, Princess of Wales.

Half a century after the events concerned, the Guardian and the BBC unearthed the facts about Edward VIII (later Duke of Windsor). Only their interpretations are dubious. They say the Establishment suspected Edward for his fascist views, and used the Mrs Simpson affair as an excuse to get rid of him. Certainly Edward collaborated with the Nazis before and during the war and by law should have been hanged for high treason (even now a capital offence). He deserted his post in front of the enemy in France during the war and went to Spain. Another death sentence was due. Prime Minister Churchill then sent him off on a handsome salary to govern the Bahamas, where he gave information and advice to Berlin (a third death sentence!) and engaged in wartime currency trading (meriting only a lengthy prison sentence this time) and post-war black marketing (just a fineable offence). But it is nonsense to say, as they do, that this was because of his 'natural fascism'.

The Royal Family are exposed as having covered his unpunished criminal record up but some nagging questions remain. The bulk of the British Establishment, royal and otherwise, was fascistic and pro-Nazi before the war, except for a tiny number. Earl Mountbatten, though his close German relatives were active Nazis, some even in the SS, was the only anti-Nazi in the Royal Family. But how did Edward differ from a logical mould with which Prime Minister Baldwin had certainly no difficulty? When the pre-Abdication crisis came, Sir Oswald Mosley backed the King but they did not become friends until after the War when both were in comfortable retreat in France for much the same reason. The support Edward in crisis solicited at home, against the Establishment was not from the street fascists but from those who saw the military menace of Nazi Germany, especially Winston Churchill (then a back-bencher out of line with his party). Mountbatten enlisted the aid of those who wanted Churchill as PM. His go-between, double-agent/journalist Claud Cockburn, later described it as an unofficial Conservative-Communist front. It aimed to appeal to a much wider segment of the public than Mosley. Allied to the natural monarchists and those swayed by his owns charms, they were thought by the king to be irresistible.

He was brought up in the monarchical tradition and hedged about with the divinity that surrounded it. He was worshipped at home and overseas throughout his youth on a scale now unbelievable. He could do as he wished, and was built up as a demi-god even among the deprived as someone who was concerned about them (he never actually did anything) who asked only for their devotion. Hitler had to work hard to get comparable status. It is understandable Edward liked what he saw in Germany but had no desire to be a stooge like the King of Italy under Mussolini. It irked him to be one under Baldwin. The Government only asked him to respect the Constitutional obligation not to marry a dubious American divorcee lest it destroy the monarchical mystique. The Establishment, Governrnent and Labour Opposition defeated him. The 'irresistible coalition' vanished. His upper-class friends dropped him immediately, with sudden engagements in far off corners of the world. They had wanted to be his closest courtiers and but did not want to fall out with the vindictive new consort who had a still-unexplained grudge against him (she is now the revamped cosy dear old 'Queen Mum'). Edward retired bitter. Even his staunchest champion, Churchill, ditched him after 'National Rat Week' (Osbert Sitwell) when the moronic new king and his formidable wife put the boot in.

The subsequent repeated treasons and criminality were inevitable. He was brought up to do as he wished. What need to obey laws which were passed for his subjects? The Government recognised he was an attractive prize for the Nazis who could use him to 'legitimise' an Occupation government. A king is always a king. Nobody should ever again question the danger', to conservatives no less than revolutionaries, of allowing deposed monarchs and even their heirs the luxury of being 'kings over the water', even on a coral reef, even to live at all.

Two corollaries follow, the first being to reconsider the case of Trotsky, still worshipped by legitimist Bolsheviks..

WAS TROTSKY A TRAITOR?

Trotsky could equally be reckoned an ex-king or of comparable status when he left Russia with all his retinue and private fortune, and with his 'revolutionary' if not royal mystique intact. Was he not equally a dangerous threat to Stalin as Edward to the monarchy? Stalin for all his astuteness woke up to that too late to keep him in the minor ranks of the bureaucacy to which he had been relegated and let him go.

There was Lenin's precedent of accepting help from Imperial Germany. On the Gerrman side there was no more reason why they should refrain from helping Trotsky (before Hitler) than they had with Lenin, while after Hitler, once he started planning war, Trotsky was no more unacceptable a partner than Litvinov or Molotov later with whom they undoubtedly did collaborate.

DIANA AND MARILYN

In that now notorious interview, the Princess of Wales revealed her marital disputes and claimed to want to be the Queen of Hearts. The last person who functioned in that role was Marilyn Monroe. Her downfall was in becoming involved with the Head of State, John Kennedy. Too beautiful to be discarded, too dangerous to live, Marilyn compromised the White House. Diana has compromised Buckingham Palace. The mystery of the star's drugs overdose and the visit by CIA agents before and after her death has never been cleared up. Does anyone blame Diana for throwing up her food? Wouldn't anyone in the circumstances, now food tasters are hard to get?

Royalty may still be horrified at stories of anarchists or republicans who killed heads of State and their hangers-on but they're a dab hand at it themselves. Edward was lucky in having a stern but protective mother (Queen Mary) who had never forgiven her husband for allowing their Russian cousins to meet the final punishment for the crimes of their dynasty.

Albert Meltzer

Anarchist Struggle in Greece 1995

With a bit of luck, by the time this issue of Black Flag hits the streets Greece will be in mourning for Prime Minister Papandreou, his wife will have fled into exile, the journalists will have left their tent outside his hospital and the infighting over his successor will be in full swing. His obituaries will say things about what a great socialist leader he was and how he brought Greece out of the shadow of the Colonels. The Greek Anarchist movement won't be mourning him.

Papandreou's PASOK (socialist party) always rode on the backs of the resistance to the dictatorship. Unlike other socialist parties many of its members early on were involved in (sometimes armed) resistance. PASOK's rhetoric has always been as leftist and anti-imperialist as it has been nationalist. When in opposition its members would enthusiastically march on the demonstrations to commemorate the Polytechnic uprising of November 17th 1973 and even join in the fighting. In opposition, PASOK unions would call and support strikes. In power 11 of the 22 years since the fall of the dictatorship, the story was very different. In 1985 a 15 year old anarchist, Michaelis Kaltezas, was shot dead by police after the November 17th demonstration. Since PASOK's return to power in 1993 repression of the anarchist movement and any radical opposition has increased.

Everyday policing in Exarheia, part of central Athens notorious for anarchists, drugdealing cops, and interesting bars, looks like a military occupation with riot cops toting machine guns and gas a regular sight. Fortunately, they have been no more successful in controlling the actions of small groups such as the Wolves of Exarheia or the Wild Geese of the City than any anarchist federation or newspaper.

1995 saw many arrests in both Athens and Thessaloniki. Four Anarchists are in prison in Athens accused of three separate armed robberies. Marinos, a well known militant, went on hunger strike. His last appeal was turned down on Jan 3rd 1996 after 61 days. By then he was in a coma. Anarchists occupied the Athens offices of Amnesty International and the Athens Lawyers Association in protest at the refusal of his appeal. He was released shortly before the end of January. Two others including Spiros Dapergolas publisher of the new national anarchist paper "alpha" were arrested in an armed robbery in July. A fourth comrade, Kostas Kalameras was arrested on evidence extracted under heavy interrogation from one Angelidou. Kalameras is a well known figure in the anarchist movement and the police have used the arrests of other anarchists to frame him. He went on hungerstrike in protest in October and was finally bailed on December 21st.

The Greek anarchist movement takes solidarity seriously and a march in support of political prisoners, specifically Kalameras, took place in Thessaloniki with 150 people. The Police attacked the march and arrested four, the rest of the demonstrators occupied the theology faculty of the university. Pirate stations called for support and demonstrators gathered outside with a PA and handed out leaflets. The police attacked again until they were driven off with molotovs. Since 1974 the police have been banned from school and university premises, hence the regular occupations often against the wishes of the student leaders. The "asylum" has been broken several times. In 1991 the police set fire to the polytechnic in Athens and stormed it. After occupations in January 94 PASOK attempted unsuccessfully to remove the asylum status.

The occupation ended on 16th of November as occupiers joined a student demonstration. The police had threatened the students if they marched with the anarchists and the left-wing leaders marched 100 metres behind the anarchists. Over 1000 anarchists marched in Thessaloniki on the November 17th commemoration march and despite provocation they chose not to respond violently on this occasion.

The court case of the arrested anarchists was a farce. The president of the court was the wife of a police chief. Ilias Hatzliradis and Panos Sofos were sentenced to three and a half years and Yannis Anagnostu got two and a half years. The fourth, Sofia Kiritsi, who was brought to court from hospital is awaiting sentencing. The charges were swearing at authority, resistance to authority, standing against authority by co-ordinated action. Fighting broke out at the court when the cops tried unsuccessfully to arrest one of the supporters.

1500 people marched on the 23rd of November against repression and for the release of prisoners. This time the police did not attack the march.

Meanwhile in Athens the commemoration of the polytechnic uprising was taking place. In 1994 TV cameras had been attacked when they tried to film demonstrators. The media are a regular target and their vans and journalists' cars are often firebombed or trashed. This year they had heavy police protection. The cops used gas, a fairly regular tactic, and 1700 people occupied the polytechnic (!) The cops laid siege to the buildings refusing to let medics in or anyone out. PASOK and communist party members were assisting the police to restore order. At 8am they stormed it and arrested 504 people, divided them into three groups, students, minors and workers, and held 136. 38 minors (12-15) were among those arrested. A 14 year old boy was beaten by 50 riot police outside the polytechnic. 23 people who had been taken to hospital suffering from gas or other injuries were taken to the police HQ with no medical support. Women were strip searched in front of male police officers. Several houses were raided including the Anarchist Archive, which was taken away. 1000 people marched in protest. After several more solidarity actions and demonstrations the 136 were released pending their court hearings. A number of people have been convicted already of charges such as flag-burning, damage to public property, disturbing the socio-economic life of the city. Most of them, around 65 remain free pending a further hearing, the courts are bowing to pressure to appear milder. Four comrades were ordered to be jailed immediately for 3 years and 4 months but they were tried in absentia and have not been arrested yet.

This was similar to events around the commemoration the year before when squats were raided before the demonstration and anarchists were arrested outside the polytechnic. Then the polytechnic was occupied again until the prisoners were released. On that occasion there was a lot of argument whether attacks on the cops should stop as the prisoners were being released or continue to keep up the pressure and ...hell, they're cops anyway.

The demonstrations around the November 17th commemorations have always ended in confrontations with the police. The repression which follows is getting more serious as the police tactics improve. The motivation seems to be a determination to crush the anarchist movement and in particular it's relationship with the militant high schools movement.

The strength of the anarchist movement is its diversity and breadth but there is also little unity. Militant actions against cops, drug pushers, media and business scum are regular. The anarchists have considerable notoriety but not much influence except in the high schools movement. Greece has only a small industrial working class and only rarely any autonomous workers movement. Unions and many social movements are controlled by the political parties and they are as happy to use the anarchists' militancy when it suits them as to try to destroy the anarchist movement when it is no use to them.

The anarchists are determined to face up to state terrorism and neo-liberalism and call on comrades internationally to take action against Greek embassies and businesses in solidarity.

Contacts: ABC Athens
8 Aristidou 10559 Athens

A-News: PO Box 30557
1033 Athens

Note: This first appeared in Black Flag #207, in 1995. It was originally headlined "NEWS FROM GREECE"

Radio Utopia (fax) 031 207043
Radio Kirotos (fax) 031 245962
(Thessaloniki pirate stations)

A Visit to Bangladesh

Report from Bangladesh

I visited Bangladesh for a week in November 95 to meet the National Garment Workers Federation (NGWF) and other unions. The NGWF have been in contact with the International Workers Association (the anarcho-syndicalist International) for over a year. The Solidarity Federation has been in regular correspondence and providing solidarity with the NGWF throughout this period.
Bangladesh, formerly East Pakistan, became independent after a vicious civil war in which millions died, either from the bullets of the Pakistan army or from the starvation that resulted from the war. The short life of this country has never seen a stable government, just a succession of coups and counter-coups between the various factions of military and civilian bureaucracy. The only consistent thing has been the poverty and misery of capitalism.
Recent years has seen some stability with the shambolic election of the
Bangladesh National Party (BNP). These elections were a joke and the result was fixed. The BNP was an alliance of all the competing factions so it was the same people anyway.
The political situation at the time of our visit was extremely tense. There were constant demonstrations and much violence between the different factions, mainly Islamic fundamentalists and counter-fundamentalists (made up of various left groups). Whilst we were there fundamentalists attacked some student residences and burnt them down because of the students' anti-Islamic ways. Two students were killed trying to escape in an auto-rickshaw, after the fundamentalists set fire to it. In protest at the failure of the police to do anything about this a number of students chained themselves to a fence in a park on hunger strike demanding action. The students seem to be dominated by the Bangladesh Workers Party a sort of social democratic communist party, using communist rhetoric but social democrat in practice. The government had collapsed and elections are due this year. People laughed when they read in the papers that the elections would be fair because the army is going to supervise and make sure they were.

Poverty

The country itself is desperately poor, one of the world's poorest nations. The poverty is beyond belief. While on the visit I saw many hundreds of people begging, some just lying in the street dying of hunger, everywhere we went there was people asking for money or food. I was offered babies in the street. It was explained to me that this was so I would take the baby home and give it a chance of life as they would surely die otherwise. It really was heart breaking.
The people who were lucky enough to work and thus to eat and have somewhere to live were not much better off. The homes of the workers I visited could only be described as shanty town slums, though the people who lived in them kept clean and made them very homely. We visited an area where the homes were built over a lake on bamboo poles. Many thousands of people lived here most of them garment workers. The lake was an open cesspit as the houses had no water or sanitation, people just crapped through a hole in the floor directly into the lake below, where people were wading about in it growing rice and other crops. I thought at first that this was some sort of squatted area but people actually pay rent to live here. The houses, made of bamboo and tin sheeting roofs were 10 feet square just enough room for a bed and a few sticks of furniture, usually a couple of families, about 8 people. The rent for these houses is about 1000 Takka per month, the same as the average wage of a garment worker - about $25 US per month.

The NGWF

The NGWF was founded in the early 90s and has currently 15 - 20 000 members, out of a workforce of a million. They are based in the main industrialised areas of Bangladesh, though mostly in the capital Dacca. The workers usually work 7 days a week from eight in the morning until eight at night, often later, producing clothes mainly to export to Europe. The average age of a garment worker is 18 though many are as young as 9. The factories are sweat shops. Those I visited were unionised and I was told the conditions were much better than in non unionised factories.
Around 80% of the garment workers are women as is the case with the membership of the NGWF. The union is committed to direct action and its structure is the same as the CNT (the Spanish anarcho-syndicalist union). Though the union has no written revolutionary aims its practice and approach to day to day struggle give it a revolutionary nature. The NGWF has had to fight extremely hard to establish itself, the majority of other unions in Bangladesh are just fronts for political parties. There is a constant battle between these unions often violent to win over workers to their particular political faction. The NGWF has managed to stay independent despite the pressures of these parties. The bosses also resort to violence to prevent the union organising. The union is very careful when it tries to organise in a factory because the moment the owners discover them they will immediately sack the workers concerned. Unemployment in Bangladesh means life on the streets and ultimately starvation.
If the union in a particular factory is strong enough they will take action.
This usually starts with a walk out, demanding union recognition, though often they occupy the factory to prevent the growing trend of employers to shut down the factory once they discover the union. These struggles, not just for recognition but any demand the workers make, are usually very bitter with the workers being violently attacked by gangs of heavies. They often try to split the workers by offering some more money if they return or if this doesn't work they try death threats. In these circumstances I found it totally inspiring that they stay solid on the whole. Once a factory is unionised fully they start to improve the situation of the workers there. One of the biggest problems the workers face is that the bosses often do not pay them for months on end, basically until an order has been completed. This is a critical situation for the workers as if they do not get regular pay they have no food, housing, etc. So one of the first demands of the union is that they are paid weekly. If the union is strong they always use direct action as this works quickest 95% of the time. I heard stories of locking bosses in cupboards until they agreed to pay up, occupations, pickets of the bosses' houses, go slows and sabotage. If the union is not confident of a solid strike they will take court action because there are laws to supposedly protect workers, though it can take up to 2 years and then the owner usually appeals, which of course takes just as long. I was told of cases that lasted 7 years. The NGWF always has many people going through the court system, who receive no money during this process. The NGWF has no money, though the members do their best to help support their comrades.

Women Workers

One of the main areas the NGWF works is improving conditions of women workers. Women who work in the garment sector are usually paid less than men and have no maternity rights and virtually no child care provision.
Women's status in Bangladesh, an Islamic country, is that they are second class citizens. Their fight to improve the rights of women means they are a target for fundamentalists. The NGWF office, (office is rather a grand term for the lean to shed up a backstreet) has been fire-bombed and women going to the office have been attacked. It is hard to explain the difference between the women union members and the few other women we met. The best example I can give was when, one evening I was in the office chatting with some union members and a woman came in. She was wearing a veil and when she saw us, both men and women, she hurriedly left. She was pursued by a couple of the women who returned much later. They explained that she had left because there were men in the room and her husband would not approve. She worked in a factory with no union and she and her brother had been sacked because they had demanded their wages, they had not been paid for 3 months. They had heard of the union but her brother thought they were just like the other unions and saw no point. She had 2 children to feed and her husband was not working.
She was 15 and desperate. The women who caught up with her persuaded her to come to the office the next day to see what could be done. On the last day of the visit I recognised her in the group who came to say goodbye, no veil and she confidently shook hands with me.
I asked some of the others what had happened and they said that the other women had been to her house and had a lot of talks with her and her husband, took her to meet other women in the factories. They said that when women got together it did not take long for them to shake off the chains.
The NGWF has great difficulty in organising meetings of its members because of the hours they work and the problems of transport and money, but when they do they tend to be on the role of women. These meetings were mainly women only but they had many mixed meetings. There is little point in women being treated with respect at work but like slaves at home.

Child Labour

Internationally there has been much concern about the amount of child labour in the Bangladesh garment industry and the US has passed a law stopping the import of Bangladeshi goods involving child labour. The NGWF are actively opposed to this. They point out that usually the children are the only earners in a family and if they lose their jobs the family will starve.
The NGWF's argument is that the only way to abolish child labour is to improve the economic situation of the workers. The union has a list of demands to improve the situation of child workers. They are demanding that children get paid time off work to attend school and that once they have finished school they get increased wages. They also have a number of demands concerning health and safely with regard to children, such as improved lighting, guards on machinery, etc. Child labour is defined as children under 14 the NGWF want this extended to 16 as long as the education rights are in place.

The Friday Campaign

The NGWF's current campaign is to reduce the working week for garment workers from 7 days o 6, demanding Fridays off. (Friday is the Islamic equivalent to Sunday and the majority of Bangladeshi workers have Fridays off work). The NGWF see this as their most critical campaign yet. Not only does it improve conditions but it will also enable the union to function easier, allow them to have more meetings and develop their democracy more fully. They very much depend upon their 3 paid workers to administer the union and provide the communications between the membership. These workers are only paid as much as they earnt as garment workers and are immediately recallable. The current campaign for Fridays off began in November and in the next few months, assuming the garment factory owners do not give in, the workers will take Fridays off anyway. This will bring a massive clamp down on the union. They have been demonstrating regularly and some of these demonstrations have met with heavy police action.
They have no illusions about what will happen when they stop working on Fridays but are confident that they can win, the tactics of solidarity and direct action have never failed them before.

Shaun Ellis Jan 96

Review of "What is Situationism: A Reader"

A short book review from Black Flag #207.

The book itself is available on Libcom here.

What is Situationism? A Reader
AK Press £9.95 (value or what!)

The answer, according to this collection(1) is load of art toss hiding behind May 68 events for credibility.

This collection is aimed at the cultural studies/art student market. Most of it is taken from art mags and concerns a situationist art exhibition sometime in 1989 and is therefore highly important (2). The exceptions are Jean Barrot's "Critique of the Situationist International" (published elsewhere on its own as "What is Situationism?") and a seriously dated but interesting critique of Punk; "The End of Music" (again, this is mostly in "Like a Summer of a Thousand Julys" about the '81 Riots).(3)

What is most striking about the collection is the lack of enthusiasm most of the writers seem to have for revolutionary social change. I may be naive to have expected it. Other than Barrot and the Wise brothers only Bob Black seems to think that there should be any revolutionary perspective to situationism.

1. Situationism always has lots of footnotes. These will be superseded with the advent of the word processor.

2. It is good to see that for all the emphasis on rigorous theoretical clarity, situationists are as bitchily sectarian and petty as anarchists.

3. Republishing old texts at inflated prices is what is known as "recuperation".

Note: This review came from Black Flag #207, Jan 1995. This is the period when, according to Green Anarchist, Black Flag were paid by AK Press to slag off GA and censor Larry O'Hara, one of their more ludicrous claims.

Land and Freedom (review)

This review of the Ken Loach film Land & Freedom first appeared in Black Flag #207

Land & Freedom
(or: I Couldn't Afford the Rights to Homage to Catalonia)

I feel sorry for poor old Ken Loach, it must be terrible being a working class hero trying to make a film about the Spanish civil war when the enemy has all the best tunes. Thankfully he can sleep at night 'cos he nicked them. I'm not talking about the fascists, of course, but the anarchists. In fact it would have been impossible to make a film about the POUM without extensively nicking from anarchist heritage because the POUM had none of their own.

So what do we get? Lots of sons of the people trudging over hills in Aragon singing the CNT hymn and other assorted anarchist classics. Look a little closer and you notice that a good few of them (including the main supporting actress, Blanca) are wearing anarchist scarves. Why on earth would any anarchist hang around with the POUM when there are thousands more anarchists on the next hill is beyond me. I've got my suspicions that Ken and his mates put in a lot of anarchist imagery out of a misguided sense of fairness; either that or he's trying to confuse people who don't know about the civil war into thinking that they were all the same group, more or less, and that they were united anti-fascists and anti-Stalinists.

I got into an argument with two marxist acquaintances about the historical accuracy of this film. Their attitude was that a few details here and there don't matter so long as the point gets across. In other words it doesn't matter so long as the nearest to the Trots come across as the true moral guardians and spearhead of the revolution, so bitterly betrayed. Even that disgusting attitude doesn't come across though. I went to see the film with some friends who didn't know anything about the war and they didn't have a clue what was going on. The scene of the May '37 events in Barcelona in particular left anyone without prior knowledge none the wiser. An ideal opportunity for every trot group in the country to hold a meeting to give us their analysis, which they duly did.

Ken Loach is supposedly sympathetic to the anarchists in the film, but no attempt is made to put across their point of view. The problem is not with his depiction of the CNT, but that he chose to focus on a politically irrelevant group, thus enforcing a false depiction of the civil war. During the war and ever since, bourgeois historians have presented us with the story of the Republican government, the International Brigades and the persecution of the POUM.

In Catalonia, where the majority of POUM members were, their role was not numerically important. In fact, they only got places on the militia committees because the CNT wanted to ensure they were represented as a goodwill gesture. You only have to look at the figures, 40,000 POUM against one and a half million CNT.

So there you have it. I enjoyed the film in a "boy's own" kind of way, and Ken is a master of emotional manipulation, so it's best to go along with it and have a good cry if you feel like it. But don't get seduced by the social realism style, treat it as a ripping yarn like "For Whom the Bells Toll" or "Ride a Pale Horse" and you'll be fine. Treat it as a drama documentary, as I'm sure Ken intends, and you're fucked.

CP

Review: I couldn't paint golden angels

A review of Albert Meltzer's autobiography, from Black Flag magazine.

I COULDN'T PAINT GOLDEN ANGELS
Albert Meltzer's Autobiography.

Published by AK Press £12.95. ISBN 1-873176-93-7

I drew the short straw in the collective - reviewing the written life of one of our founders, still active today. Fortunately, he doesn't mention me, playing a minor footnote in the third decade of Black Flag. Albert's enemies will of course expect a "better than sliced bread" review. His friends, hopefully more numerous, would expect the same, albeit for different reasons. So I came to this with an open mind...
Firstly, the everydayness of the story comes across. Albert is being a little modest, perhaps, and at no point in this remarkable life do you get the impression that this isn't something that anyone could have done, given the same circumstances. For Albert, the really amazing characters are the ordinary people he has met through his life, the Billy Campbells, Stuart Christies and Leo Rossers. The Emma Goldmans and Federica Montsenys don't come off so well, but then there were always plenty of academics prepared to write fawning pages over them.
The book is ostensibly an account of a working class life, admittedly with a large number of enforced career changes, but is really the story of Albert's 60 odd years of activism. Its style is the same rambling one that aficionados of his prose enjoy, though as a fellow editor I have to say it works much better as a book. The rambling is both through space and time, partly for stylistic considerations, partly because the police kept on stealing his notebooks.
It also deals extensively with the post-Franco resistance and the author's role in supporting it, and his roles in many of the labour battles which have scarred recent British history.
What I did find amazing is the lack of sectarianism. I know Albert's reputation, particularly in relation to the Freedom Press clique. This book details exactly how the resources of the anarchist movement were no longer there when they were needed. This even has depressing parallels now. Freedom bring out a fortnightly liberal pacifist paper posing as anarchist that no one reads. We can just about manage a quarterly - we have far fewer resources and no rich backers. The other anarchist groups in this country can fare no better. Yet we have an upsurge in unofficial industrial action detailed elsewhere in this issue. Think where we could have been with a regular paper? So why is he so soft on them in the book? Regardless, I'm sure they're all bleating about libel down Angel Alley anyway.
The book is well produced, with good illustrations from anarchist illustrator Chris Pig. Don't let the price put you off - it is nearly 400 pages. You can order it direct from AK or via any bookshop. If you can't afford it - order one from your local library.
I look forward to the sequel.

Mike Ward

From Black Flag #207

Hillman, Ellis remembered

A short obituary of Ellis Hillman, 1928-1996, by Albert Meltzer.

Ellis (pictured below while Mayor of Barnet) was that rare bird, a trotskyist with a sense of humour who admitted his contradictions. A Healeyite at fifteen, he was later expelled and became a Labour Party "deep entryist" trot. An atheist who observed Jewish religious practice, a Conway Hall lecturer, professional geologist, Flat Earth Society member, as well as a Bolshevik who pursued civic honours, he was the only one of those distinguished circles who aided our solidarity with Spanish anarchist resistance fighters. Other trots sabotaged our anti-Franco work, but he obtained entry and work permits for those in danger, not without a gentle dig that municipal status sometimes proved useful.

Albert Meltzer
Taken from Black Flag #207
sorry no pic!

Anarchism, Sexual Liberation and Bisexuality

This article comes from Black Flag #207, which came out in 1995. It starts witha couple of quotes and then goes on to address some of the issues relevant at the time (many of which are of course still relevant now.)

Quote....

"...the future is one of polarisation, a humane acceptance of the bisexual nature of people, against a zealous structure, both repressive and domineering, which involves the concept of distinct differences in gender which are always in opposition."

"Capitalism seems to need this fierce and limited gender stereotyping. So long as capitalism is in control we are stuck with it, unless the feminist and gay liberation movements can change these caricatures of sexual identity. But as crises in the world's ecology and population loom, capitalism must change within the next fifty years or wither away."

"As capitalism also creates and maintains a homophobic society, and as societies in crisis deepen homophobia, there is little hope that that too will wither away in the next few decades. In fact, I see it getting worse."

This is not a book review

In the Autumn of 1995 there was much discussion of and praise for a "radical new approach" to the question of lesbian and gay rights by the liberal press. Unfortunately, "the most important work ever about homosexuality" was not Colin Spencer's "Homosexuality: A History", from the conclusion of which the opening quote is taken, but Andrew Sullivan's "Virtually Normal", extracts from which were published in the Guardian.

I don't fall for the George Woodcock/Freedom Press portrayal of anarchism as simply a more consistent version of liberalism. Liberalism is an individualistic creed based on a hierarchy of "enlightenment" - the liberals' freedom is based on their class privileges, which are "deserved" because of their supposedly superior education and enlightenment, as opposed to the "ignorant" masses whose freedom would result in the tyranny of ignorance, brutality and bad taste.
Ultimately, as the actions of some republican authorities at the outbreak of civil war in Spain in 1936 - denying the workers arms to fight fascism in the face of otherwise certain defeat - illustrates, they are more scared of a social revolution which would destroy their class privileges than they are of fascist ignorance and brutality.
Liberal "freedom" has been exposed by history as a conceit - the mortal enemy of anarchism, which is based on the true freedom of abolition of all hierarchy and privilege, our liberation from the shackles of ignorance and brutality imposed by our "enlightened" rulers. Anarchism is based on federalism rather than individualism, and is about organising a society in which the individual is free to be truly human. Oppression is about denying the humanity of people in varying ways, chiefly through class, but also through race, gender and sexuality, and the imposition of disability.
A movement which seeks real freedom must address and overcome all of these, but all too often anarchists adopt liberal or other ready-made positions without much thought; or apply crude theory to differing oppressions without being informed by the experience of those oppressed in particular ways. To give an example of what I mean, classical anarchism should not be seen as sufficient in itself for addressing the oppression of women, but it should be informed by feminist insights rather than adopting a favoured brand of radical feminism as a quick fix without real thought.

A stick to beat "militant gays"

I read the Independent because I like my liberals openly right wing, so I can see where they're coming from. I'm disturbed by the almost universal loyalty to the Guardian among anarchists and the left - know your enemies before they jail you. So, I got it rammed down my throat that "militant gays" would be better off lobbying politely for the right to marry (doubtless with "male" and "female" roles within the marriage, as every straight moron knows we have), and to patriotically serve our countries like "normal people", than "outing" the closet cases who are among our most vicious oppressors. .
Wasn't it nice of these enlightened people to give us the benefit of their opinions, and to tell us what we have to (not) do to win their approval? Their new found (and short-lived) interest in gay rights had little to do with acceptance of our common humanity, and everything to do with a self-appointed gay voice who shares their class and cultural assumptions.
Andrew Sullivan is the editor of the New Republic, an ex-Kennedy-liberal-turned-Republican magazine, in the United States, and is clearly more at home with fellow Republicans, including the homophobes, than he is with any kind of politicised lesbian and gay consciousness. As a white, middle class male Sullivan enjoys all the privileges afforded someone in his position.
Of course, "normal" is not simply all three of these, but also heterosexual. Sullivan is gay, so he's not what "society" defines as normal, but his argument is that this part of the definition of normality, with access to full citizenship rights, is based on mistaken premises. He is "virtually normal", and his book is dedicated to demolishing the arguments of those of his peers who wish to discriminate against him on the grounds of his sexuality, and to deny him the unqualified bourgeois respectability he craves.
He also has a less convincing swipe at gay liberation. He has no real idea of the radical politics of sexuality and gender which he dismisses, and his ignorance was highlighted in the more critical quarters of the gay press. For Sullivan and his privileged peers society works, they are "normal", or virtually so, and therefore radical ideas such as subverting the oppressive structures of gender which are woven into the very fabric of society have no appeal to them.
Those of us who are not "normal" - black gay men, lesbians and openly bisexual people, and above all anyone working class - don't have access to privileges, to be free we need social change. While reform, particularly the removal of all officially-sanctioned discrimination, would be welcome because without basic rights more radical agendas are unrealistic, it is not an end in itself. It is, however, what the liberals would want us to settle for, and not challenge the society which delivers their privileges.

Lavender marriage

Anarchists are against both marriage and the military, of course, so straight ones will see both Sullivan's arguments and the high-profile "Military Four" campaign as irrelevant. These are both political, however, and the issues involved are important to anyone who is not exclusively heterosexual. At the heart of this is the apparatus by which lesbians, gay men and bisexual people are dehumanised by society.
A reformist approach to partnership rights would be to grant them for all unions, based on universally-recognised criteria, not giving married couples privileged access to pension, immigration and communal property rights. One of the most devastating ways lack of social recognition of gay relationships can hit home is when one partner dies and their "kin" take over funeral arrangements, exclude the surviving partner, and turn a coffin into a closet.
Some reform of the privileged status of marriage is on the political agenda from the point of view of heterosexual couples, so campaigners prepared to tackle bigotry (by raising specific issues, not simply pretending we're the same as "normal people") have potential allies, and can take the battle for visibility and human rights out of the ghetto and into the real world. This stands to become the next big thing, I think anarchists should have something to say about the issues.
Marriage by its nature gives privileged status to monogamous heterosexuality, and as an ideal serves to police sexual behaviour, foster guilt among the overwhelming majority who either fail or don't conform, and generally turn out profit fodder for the capitalists. It is also at the heart of the gender system, being the union of one man and one woman, two complementary halves to make one human pair. The idea of "opposite" sexes which need to pair off in order to balance each other's "innate" characteristics out is as basic to dehumanising and enslaving people as the creation of gods.
Any same-sex union would tend to subvert this, as would "bisexual" unions, regardless of the sex combination, where gender is incidental as opposed to basic. Gay marriage would destroy the institution of marriage as it exists today, it is (unconsciously) a transitional demand - limited but impossible in this society. There is a need for a more radical and honest approach.
Informed by such ideas the old anarchist concept of the free union (the original, real "free love") can gain a new life and radicalism it has lost with the prevalence of "living together" in western societies. There is more to be gained in embracing free unions than the symbolic refusal to recognise the church and the state. Within a reform campaign it could also become a viable option free from second class legal status, which is a real issue, rather than just a life-style accessory for revolutionaries.

Kiss me goodnight, Sergeant Major

The gay issue of the moment is the "right" to serve in the military. Many working class lesbians and gay men get "economically drafted" into the military in "peacetime", and conscripted in wartime, anyway. Choosing the military is somewhat academic, and harassment is merely part of the macho brutalising process. However, the "bad for morale" argument (no better explanation for this than that it upsets bigots has been advanced) helps to institutionalise an irrational fear of lesbians and gay men among straights.
It is still possible for straight men who murder men they claim made sexual advances towards them (however tentative - there are rarely witnesses) to get lighter sentences or manslaughter convictions. The thought of being desired by another man is apparently so disturbing as to justify, or mitigate, murder. The military ban is one of the most basic ways in which the state sanctions such attitudes and behaviour. It also declares to all that lesbians, gay men and bisexual people are second class citizens, and not to be afforded human rights.
Soldiering, like marriage, is a dehumanising concept. The armed forces take men and women, and destroy or circumscribe their capacity for independent thought by standardising haircuts, clothes, behaviour and modes of speech. By these means they are subordinated to the authority of the state, which they will unquestioningly serve, killing because they are told to, not fighting for themselves. The degree of dehumanisation necessary means that gender roles are more exaggerated than civilian society needs, as the need for a non-human identity is stronger.
If people need to fight for something other than the interests the state upholds, they can do it as people, and therefore as themselves, not as cogs in the killing machine. To some extent this has to happen in modern wars where conscription is employed, and propaganda is used to mobilise and motivate people.
We would argue that the only wars worth fighting are for social revolution, and that they can only be fought by the people - armed, mobilised and deployed through revolutionary organisations. For such organisations to work realising people's humanity is crucial, without restrictions on emotional and sexual expression, and without gender roles.

Visible and divisible?

In February's Gay Times, Simon Edge argues that, far from being the creation of gay businessmen, the ghetto is the product and symbol of the gains made by (affluent, white) gay men (and not so much by lesbians) in the quarter century of the post-Stonewall era. Edge sees this, rather than political activism, as being a means of attracting people out of the closet. In noting its intolerance of diversity, however, he fails to draw the obvious conclusion that this in itself leaves the most vulnerable, invisible people who are attracted to their own sex with nothing positive to leave the closet for.
My idea of one circle of hell is a disco full of clones. Lesbians and gay men, let alone bisexual people, are not ethereal creatures existing in a separate world. To quote an old slogan used against the single-issue activism of the Gay Activists' Alliance which succeeded the Gay Liberation Front in the USA in the '70's, "our lives are not divisible". We do have children, our past (and present, and in some cases future) involvements with people of the other sex are not always mistakes or "phases". We are women and working class and black too, sometimes all of these. We are not going to hang these up at the door of the club, any more than we are going to stop being gay when we leave.
Yeah, conventional political protest is of limited usefulness, but so is the ghetto. Try asking the Jews of Europe how well visibility and a vibrant culture and social prominence served them in the '40's. The key area is to be out, proud and ourselves at work, play and in political involvement - which should be an appropriate aspect of everything we do, not just a life-style accessory. Being "normal", or "queer", misses the point. To combat homophobia we have to be real, to combat heterosexism we have to subvert its institutions.
To see a specific form of oppression - based on gender, race, or sexuality - as a single issue is the prerogative of those for whom capitalist society delivers, but who feel unjustly excluded from their full range of privileges or from a fulfilling social life. The left-wing "intelligentsia", minority nationalists, "ladies who lunch", the race relations industry, gay businessmen, et al, sell single-issue politics to working people for whom gender, race, sexuality, etc. is an aspect of their oppression. "We are your friends - support us instead of the Establishment/ British/ male/ white/ straight world which oppresses you".
For working people specific forms of oppression do not exist in isolation, however, and can never be a single issue. Sexuality is inextricably linked to race, class and gender oppression (or privilege). Equality with your peers is only useful if you are otherwise "normal", ie privileged. Gay liberation has always been about the links between different aspects of oppression and the totality of the lives of lesbians, gay men and bisexual people. Liberation means changing the society which needs your oppression to maintain itself - I am working class and bisexual, and I want to be free, therefore I am an anarchist.

....Unquote

By contrast with Sullivan, Colin Spencer, who shares his viewpoint that same-sex affections and behaviour are unremarkable, takes the premise that it is not these that need to be explained - they just exist, and have always done - but societies' attitudes towards them.
So, his very personal perspective takes the form of an anglo-centric history of imposed sexual moralities clashing with human sexual behaviour. He does attempt to link the rise of capitalism with the rise of the modern homophobic society we live in (although he does not treat capitalism as the start of history as a marxist might; he starts with pre-history, and prehuman times!), but his analysis of the developing ideology of British capitalism and its need for a homophobic component is not particularly sharp.
And there's the rub, at 400 pages of text the book is neither an exhaustive history (it is anglo-centric, but draws on other societies as they affect English culture in this respect), nor a disciplined analysis. Very readable, and with a remarkable sweep to it, it is an enjoyable book, but not a satisfying one. It also scores points for honesty in acknowledging that the history of Homosexuality (ie same-sex love) is largely the history of Bisexuality. I'd recommend it to anyone who is interested in people as they really are, but someone needs to write a proper theoretical analysis of the relationship between heterosexism, gender and oppression in capitalist society. Any takers?

Peter Principle

The Full Sutton prisoners' strike

A brief account of a strike of around 250 prisoners at Full Sutton prison in England, from Black Flag magazine #207.

On November 13th, 1995, prisoners at the high security dispersal prison Full Sutton went on a work strike. It's hard to get accurate information about numbers but one estimate reckons on 250 cons refusing to work. This is a massive show of strength for any prison, but especially for Full Sutton where the authorities have traditionally been quick to crush resistance.
Four of the six wings (i.e. all except those for sex offenders) participated in the strike which started in E-Wing and lasted for 3 days. It was ended by the authorities sending in the MUFTI squad, screws tooled up in riot gear, to break it up. This resulted in some clashes with cons, labelled a "riot" by the press where it was mentioned at all. The protest came after a series of restrictions placed on cons over the previous months and was sparked by a new "Incentives and Earned Privileges Scheme" introduced at the start of November.

The instruction to governors setting out the incentives scheme is full of jargon and buzzwords like "incentive-based accommodation units". But it is clear form reading it that the scheme is aimed at increasing the pressure to conform. It adds another level of control in prisons, to the Prison Rules and to Governors' discretionary powers. These already allow for prisoners to be punished for virtually anything, at the whim of a screw and with the inevitable agreement of their superiors. The scheme tries to pretend that it's not about more punishment: "The loss of an earned privilege ...should be seen as a normal consequence of a general deterioration in behaviour and/or performance. It should not be associated with guilt or punishment." Prisoners just aren't convinced!
The scheme makes things previously regarded as rights, specifically visits, access to private cash, association time, wearing your own clothes and home leave into privileges to be earned. Prisoners lose access to these for "acting uncooperatively" or gain more if they play the game the prison's way. To restrict prisoners' contact with family and friends is a blow, and to put prisoners on different levels of pay is intended to create divisions and tension.
But the Full Sutton prisoners are clearly not daft. They could see that to take away what little they had and to make them grovel to get a bit back, is to take the piss. They stuck together and more power to them. One of the lessons of the 1990 Strangeways Revolt is that if prisoners stick together and fight back they can at least win some concessions out of the system.
They are faced with the reversal of some of the positive changes introduced since the 1990 uprisings. The aim is to reduce prisoners' rights, isolate them and reduce the chance of collective action. As the Full Sutton strike has shown, if you push people enough they'll do exactly what you don't want them to, fight back.
The following is an edited account from someone who was there.

A Burning Sense of Injustice

On Wednesday 15th November a serious altercation took place on this wing, in which at least four people were injured after a peaceful demonstration became confrontational & MUFTI and some inmates were involved in violent clashes.
In recent months there have been a number of oppressive measures which have left many inmates with a burning sense of injustice due to the sheer one sided nature in which they have been implemented. This has culminated in the prisoners here taking strike action which led directly to the incident here on E-Wing.
At present the whole prison remains in a state of tension and fear that further trouble may ensue. I have to live here and I can assure you that being in a calm environment with some privileges and rights is still a severe hardship, to have to live in an atmosphere that has in recent months bred hatred and animosity among so many people just seems barbaric and has a detrimental affect on both inmates and staff. There is not a prisoner left in this jail who in under any illusion that they are here FOR punishment and not AS a punishment.
Tow separate issues have caused much ill feeling as they have taken away basic human rights. They relate to an appellants right to phone their solicitor, and proposals recently introduced make contacts with one's family a privilege to be earned with some prisoners getting more visits than others.
I recently complained about the removal of phonecall facilities for appellants, which is now at the sole discretion of a prison officer to decide, often with inmates with appeals pending being told to write letters, which the authorities then sit on. Since my complaint I have had to use the pay-phone, at the expense of contact with my family.
The new pay system that is in operation has caused enormous feelings of resentment. It is a divisive means of trying to ensure that the prison runs smoothly and was a major factor in both the protest and disturbance. The onus is now so much on punishment it seems a major step backwards in terms of trying to make this prison a positive and calm environment.

by "AA"

Source: Taking Liberties, (London ABC)

Black Flag 208 (1996)

Partial contents of issue 208 of Black Flag magazine, published in 1996.

Contents

"The Land is Theirs"

Black Flag #208, June 1996, covered a land squat in London done by "The Land is Ours". This article is the critical evaluation of this by someone who participated.

THE LAND IS THEIRS
or, pace George Monbiot, "This Land Is my Uncle's"

Hailed as the next big thing since Newbury, 'The Land is Ours' provoked surprisingly little police interest. In fact the police had to be called and told that a bit of land had been taken, with the response, "Oh that sounds interesting - I'll send a couple of officers down to have a look." On arrival the two officers seem satisfied, "this seems to be a civil matter" and walked off.
Considering that we could have occupied anywhere - a minister's garden perhaps? - and that the police had shown interest at earlier, maybe they were quite satisfied that we had enough cops of own to prevent any naughty ideas. (This is not to say that a confrontation with the cops is necessarily what makes a campaign politically challenging.)
We were about 300 people at the meeting place in Hammersmith. The first 100 piled into the coach and went on their way to secure the location before the next 100 could join them. This was all jolly fun. After learning the location, the writer jumped in a van and went off to see. About half way there we were followed by two police vans who after arriving at the Shell garage next door turned around and drove off!
The site had a large wooden fence around it with a strong metal gate which had been painstakingly hack-sawed through the previous day. The location itself was a derelict piece of riverside land opposite a housing estate in Wandsworth. It was probably the only piece of green land the children from the estate could see from home... [cue violins!]
It was also nesting ground for ducks and it seems we were about to trash it. In fact the whole action had the appearance of being fundamentally ecologically unsound. It seemed that little thought had been put into taking the existing inhabitants (i.e. plants, animals and insects) into account - the site was divided up on the basis of suitability for construction projects.
The task of turning it into an alternative scout camp was well under way. With all the necessary middle class concern we had our own health and safety officer to make sure we were all doing it properly. Yes, an extremely tall scaffold tower was being constructed on site for conversion into a house. This fearsome construction, which reached the staggering height of 15 foot, could potentially harm all those involved in its building, and so we all had to wear hard hats!
We were also shepherded over to the other side of the field so as not to upset the neighbours, because our talking could supposedly be heard over the fuck-off big road next to us.
After complaints about egotists ordering you to plant the potatoes the right way up, there were inevitably a few disillusioned activists fed up with being ordered around by Oxbridge graduates. Why did we resent this campaign so much? Is it because George Monbiot sounds too much like Prince Charles?
Unlike last year's Land Is Ours event, this year we did actually go to the place that we planned to go and we were to stay longer than last year. George attempted to do the decent thing and step down from his usual media pulpit. However the five who volunteered to take over were shoved aside by the media vultures who went straight to George, undeterred by the great man himself, and yet again the reports acted as a launch pad for broadcasting George's personal socio-political interpretations.
So what did the locals think of it all? A good point of the campaign was that attention was given to going out and leafleting the local estates. It seems that most were pleased with what we were doing except for the usual couple of nutters who get wound up about anything.
It was indeed unfortunate that the initiative to regenerate this land came from an abstract group and not from the locals. There seemed to be little we could do about this. Perhaps the kids from the estate were dying to get on the land but couldn't. Maybe we unlocked a desire that had been in the minds of most of the locals who didn't want a supermarket there and wanted it for themselves. As with any permanent project that is to be successful it needs the full participation of local people as opposed to remaining securely in the grip of lifestylists, theorists and specialists. Increasingly as the week progressed, more locals showed an interest and were getting involved.
So what were the aims of this campaign? According to its leaflets, they were to house the homeless, i.e. make affordable housing, and to boost employment, i.e. create jobs. Both of these aims were to "bring the community together." To follow on from these points, there are already enough empty homes in London for all the city's homeless. However sustainable these new houses are, we don't need to be building them on London's few remaining green spaces.
The campaign claims that we need concentrated, centralised cities in order to prevent destructive urban sprawl. But the fact is that people who actually live in cities need green spaces for their well-being. Shouldn't we try to make empty houses sustainable? There are approximately 860,000 of them in the country after all.
There is an obvious contradiction in building sustainable communities - which should not include alienating work for the capitalist system, i.e. turning labour into a commodity- and yet advocating "full employment". The term "employment" is riddled with capitalist assumptions. Surely advocating employment in these terms only serves to perpetuate alienated social relations - the antithesis of the authentic community that we all seek to build.
In the context of the rest of their aims it is implausible to assume that this term is being used in a subversive way.
The general impression was that the campaign, as well as having reformist demands, was still very middle class, which had put some people off from attending the planning meetings. It seemed as though what we had all thought of as being a part of the movement was becoming increasingly alienated and away on its own trajectory, becoming seriously assimilated into dominant culture.
It seemed we were less into challenging authorities and more into putting a reasonable argument across and winning the hearts and minds of the Guardian-reading public.
We were not about radically confronting private property.
And what of Monbiot's "working in partnership with Guinness" theme, where both the campaign and Guinness can come to some compromise? After all, it would provide wonderful P.R. for their environmental record, making it easier for them to destroy other areas of land. Guinness have so far not come to some "amicable agreement" despite the campaign's pleas. Admittedly campaigners went and told Guiness what they had done and invited them to have a look thus in their action there was no compromise, only in the campaign using the talks to look reasonable to the media.
According to the leaflet we also need:

"some physical and political space. This means:
New planning guidelines, bolder targets for derelict land use, banning off-site planning gain".

Where is the physical space in this? Who decides what is derelict and what does it mean? Is it taking over the few remaining green spaces in the city? and what's all this legitimising the power of the state?
With the campaigns own submission of a planning application to the council and with the campaigns "make cheques payable to Land Reform" it is clear that what the campaign is really asking for is a reform in planning policy.
They are not saying this land is ours.
They are not challenging the issue of private property.
They, like so many others, are tinkering with the system demanding concessions, trying not to induce panic into the minds of all capitalists, and mocking the whole land rights issue. Meanwhile in Third World countries these same capitalists they are trying to compromise with daily extirpate land from people in a bid for economic growth.
In so doing they become another form of oppression against which the dispossessed must fight. The Land Is Ours is making the land issue safe, ridding it of any potential of changing anything.
The campaign attempts to unite what squatters and travellers have been doing for years, with the permaculturists' ideas of sustainability.
The campaign uses two methods to do this-:
1) content
2) symbolism and media representation

If we are talking about real content when it comes to solving "homelessness" etc., we are talking about taking over some of the empty buildings in London and making them more sustainable to cut down the suburbanization of our countryside, not using the few green spaces in the city.
The problem with taking over houses would mean that although this type of action could be turned into a media spectacle it would hardly be original and for media interest it would have to be novel e.g. turning Westminster into a squat. The idea to take over a building was also mainly turned down by the permaculturists who wanted to show how to grow things in a more sustainable way.
The symbolic part is supposed to get more people involved and to educate the public about the issue so that they become sympathetic to their aims...
As regards to symbolism the campaign turned "The land is ours" into something intelligible to the public. The campaign's way of doing this was to turn it into a digestible media package. We could launch into a critique of the media but this is hardly necessary. The danger is that representation becomes more important than that to be represented leading us into the realm of virtual politics.
The other side of the coin not mentioned is confrontation (note this could also have a side effect of media spectacularisation). This type of action for example could be taking over a bank or ministers house and filling it with grow bags. This would not be the soft option of taking over a remote piece of land that no one's particularly bothered about, it is certainly more challenging to the Property ethic. Impinging on the personal property of land owners would be more confrontational, questioning the whole property ethic. Taking over vacant corporate property is something of a neutral territory for a company the size of Guinness. In terms of their annual profits the value of the land in question is next to nothing. Their corporate image, as well as maintaining an appearance of environmental conscience, could potentially benefit, and give their sterile corporation a human face.
We can see that no action is without its flaws and simply because we live in a capitalist society, the campaign balanced the two points well. We should obviously seek to improve our actions but it is equally important how the participants perceive their action in terms of the relationship between its nature and its aims.
So let's get to the real issues here. No one can deny that the event was mainly a demonstration model for the purpose of influencing future government policy.
The fundamental concepts underpinning the land issue are totally ignored by this campaign - i.e. class struggle (approximately 95% of the land is owned by 5% of the population).
Let's look at the specifics of this campaign that have led many to feel that unlike any other perceived single issue campaigns in our movement this is specifically liberal.
Monbiot's line is that direct action at present (including by implication The Land Is Ours) "transcends class and traditional loyalties."
The only reason direct action nowadays has such an interesting alliance e.g. workers and hippies, capitalists and the exploited is that it focuses on the green issue (primarily environmentalism not ecologism- see footnote) which is seen to affect everybody. The thing that stands in the way of realising a sustainable ecological future is the organised power of the state. Unless this is taken on board no real change is possible.
In common with most others of his type, Monbiot sees his ideas as being apolitical, this is a fundamental error in that liberal democracy is as much a political ideology as any other. It does not cease to be so when stained Green.
He puts the neglect of environmental concerns as-
"In the absence of meaningful initiatives from government, local authorities and business, it is left to activists to do what these sectors have neglected."

To suggest that we are just a reaction to government incompetence and not that government laws such as the CJA are a reaction to our struggle is a staggering statement for a direct action group to make - essentially saying that the state/capitalism is somehow inefficient i.e. its not doing its job properly - that we can somehow fill this gap and help them.

]

This is all based on the completely incorrect assumption that capital cares! Within this context the very concept of Direct Action becomes hijacked and used as a tactic to change government policy. Direct Action is not about negating individual responsibility but instead about empowerment to take control of your own life.
It is very difficult to call for revolution from one isolated action, some may say they have transitional demands but it's a different story altogether when the very nature of those demands inhibit any chance of real change i.e. inhibit other peoples struggle against the state.
"Reasonableness" is one of their key themes - based on the liberal view that society is simply composed of individual human beings who share common human interests; hence any conflicts which arise are simply the results of misplaced fears or misunderstandings.
The Land Is Ours is made up of respectable and honest human beings who are making a valuable but unorthodox contribution to society (i.e. have been forced to take action because government, its agents and business are not doing their job properly). Within this context the way forward is to demonstrate to the rest of society (or the section of it that reads the Guardian at any rate) the reasonableness and positive nature of their demands.
The Land Is Ours was about overcoming prejudice, showing the state that we were positive - the campaign was thus apolitical.
 The Land Is Ours denies the state as a social force
 The Land Is Ours falls into the trap where the representation becomes more important than that to be represented.
 The Land Is Ours is defeatist i.e. notably not thinking about building a movement to smash capitalism because we are too weak to do so.

Liberalism presupposes democracy as a freedom to choose. However our choices have parameters, we are not allowed to argue fundamentals like the choice of whether we have a government or not, only which government to have and the forms of oppression they will use on us. Liberalism is an attempt to disguise these given laws.
The Liberal is someone who is complicit with the system, who understands and is sympathetic with all points of view, even those of a radical. However, the liberal draws a line which the radical must not cross. That line is when the actions of a radical challenge the system. The radical is then dismissed as being violent, extremist, unobjective. You can be sure that if the police did wade in on the demonstration and some people defended themselves, the liberal would be the first to turn you over to the police, as you would be accused of discrediting the campaign and therefore not being reasonable.
You would be provoking the police to be violent. You become the negotiating tool. Monbiot and his Oxbridge friends identify with the system. They are not the dispossessed they claim to represent. They can see no conflict of interests.
Taking the land issue seriously means stopping it being hi-jacked by opportunists like this.

 Note-You'll have to push the destructive nature of this rambling aside. After all the divisive and counter-productive theoretical pettiness of the left it's refreshing to see people going out and doing something. We believe that the land issue is vitally important struggle which has unfortunately been taken over by those with little or no intention of changing class relationships in society and as a result becomes a safe and toothless part of the very system that oppresses us. Both action without theory and theory without action are equally destructive what is desperately needed is effort towards a unity of theory and practice. The purpose of this criticism is therefore to be constructive.

[Footnote] Environmentalism studies the world in a dualistic and reductionist way having little bearing on relationships in reality. It is purely set up in a way that serves capitals needs. Ecologism assumes relationships in a more interdependent way.
"There is no such things as species" see E.O. Wilson's Diversity Of Life for an in depth description
Written by infantile, paranoid ultra-leftist

Albert Meltzer obituary

This obituary originally appeared in Black Flag #208, June 1996 and was penned by Stuart Christie.
Albert Meltzer, anarchist, born London, January 7,1920;
died, Weston-Super-Mare, North Somerset, May 7, 1996.

Albert Meltzer was one of the most enduring and respected torchbearers of the international anarchist movement in the second half of the twentieth century. His sixty-year commitment to the vision and practice of anarchism survived both the collapse of the Revolution and Civil War in Spain and The Second World War; he helped fuel the libertarian impetus of the 1960s and 1970s and steer it through the reactionary challenges of the Thatcherite 1980s and post-Cold War 1990s.
Fortunately, before he died, Albert managed to finish his autobiography, I Couldn't Paint Golden Angels, a pungent, no-punches pulled, Schvejkian account of a radical twentieth century enemy of humbug and injustice. A life-long trade union activist, he fought Mosley's Blackshirts in the battle of Cable Street, played an active role in supporting the anarchist communes and militias in the Spanish Revolution and the pre-war German anti-Nazi resistance, was a key player in the Cairo Mutiny during The Second World War, helped rebuild the post-war anti-Franco resistance in Spain and the international anarchist movement. His achievements include Cuddon's Cosmopolitan Review, an occasional satirical review first published in 1965 and named after Ambrose Cuddon, possibly the first consciously anarchist publisher in the modern sense, the founding of the Anarchist Black Cross, a prisoners' aid and ginger group and the paper which grew out of it "” Black Flag.
However, perhaps Albert's most enduring legacy is the Kate Sharpley Library, probably the most comprehensive anarchist archive in Britain.
Born in 1920 into a mixed marriage in the London of Orwell's Down and Out in which there were few homes for heroes, but many heroes fit only for homes, Albert was soon enrolled into political life as a private in the awkward squad. His decision to go down the road of revolutionary politics came, he claimed, in 1935 at the age of 15 - as a direct result of taking boxing lessons. Boxing was considered a "common" sport, frowned upon by the governors of his Edmonton school and the prospective Labour MP for the area, the virulently anti-boxing Dr Edith Summerskill. Perhaps it was the boxer's legs and footwork he acquired as a youth which gave him his lifelong ability to bear his considerable bulk. It certainly induced a lifetime's habit of shrewd assessment of his own and opponents' respective strengths and weaknesses.
The streetwise, pugilistic but bookish schoolboy attended his first anarchist meeting in 1935 where he first drew attention to himself by contradicting the speaker, Emma Goldman, by his defence of boxing. He soon made friends with the ageing anarchist militants of a previous generation and became a regular and dynamic participant in public meetings.
The anarchist-led resistance to the Franco uprising in Spain in 1936 gave a major boost to the movement in Britain and Albert's activities ranged from organising solidarity appeals, to producing propaganda, working with Captain J R White to organise illegal arms shipments from Hamburg to the CNT in Spain and acting as a contact for the Spanish anarchist intelligence services in Britain.
Albert's early working career ranged from fairground promoter, a theatre-hand and occasional film extra. Albert appeared briefly in Leslie Howard's Pimpernel Smith, an anti-Nazi film that did not follow the line of victory but rather of revolution in Europe. The plot called for communist prisoners, but by the time Howard came to make it, in 1940, Stalin had invaded Finland, and the script was changed to anarchist prisoners. Howard decided that none of the actors playing the anarchists seemed real and insisted that real anarchists, including Albert, be used as extras in the concentration camp scenes.
One consequence of this meeting was Howard's introduction to Hilda Monte, a prominent but unsung hero of the German anarchist resistance to Hitler, which may have contributed to his subsequent death en route to Lisbon.
Albert's later working years were spent mainly as a second-hand bookseller and, finally, as a Fleet Street copytaker. His last employer was, strangely enough, The Daily Telegraph.
While by nature a remarkably gentle, generous and gracious soul, Albert's championship of anarchism as a revolutionary working class movement brought him into direct and sustained conflict with the neo-liberals who came to dominate the movement in the late 1940s. Just as people are drawn to totalitarian movements like fascism and communism because of their implicit violence and ideological certainties, many otherwise politically incompatible people were drawn to anarchism because of its militant tolerance. Albert was vehemently opposed to the re-packaging and marketing of anarchism as a broad church for academia-oriented quietists and single-issue pressure groups. It was ironical that one of this group, the late Professor George Woodcock, should publicly dismiss anarchism as a spent historical force in 1962, blissfully unaware of the post-Butskellite storm which was about to break and the influence anarchist and libertarian ideas would have on this and generations yet to come.
It was his championship of class-struggle anarchism, coupled with his scepticism of the student-led New Left in the 1960s which earned Albert his reputation for sectarianism. Paradoxically, as friend and Black Flag cartoonist Phil Ruff points out in his introduction to Albert's autobiography, it was the discovery of class struggle anarchism through the "sectarianism" of Black Flag under Albert's editorship that convinced so many anarchists of his and subsequent generations to become active in the movement'. The dynamic and logic of Albert's so-called sectarianism continued to bring countless young people into the anarchist movement then and for a further thirty years until his untimely stroke in April 1996.
It is difficult to write a public appreciation of such an inscrutably private man. Albert Meltzer seemed often like a member of a tug-of-war team; you never quite knew if he was there simply to make up numbers or if he was the anchor-man of the whole operation. To Albert, all privilege was the enemy of human freedom; not just the privileges of capitalists, kings, bureaucrats and politicians but also the petty aspirations of opportunists and careerists among the rebels themselves. Much of what he contributed to the lives of those who knew him must go unrecorded, but he will be remembered and talked about fondly for many years to come by those of us whose lives he touched.

Stuart Christie

Chemical World

This article was originally in Black Flag #208, published in 1996. It was written by a member of the grassroots Communities Against Toxics, who publish ToxCat.

Phthalates, dioxins, other chemicals and infants

Scientists tell us that there are 500 measurable synthetic chemicals in our bodies which are capable of disrupting our fertility and intelligence. Politicians and industrialists tell us the levels are insufficient to cause these problems. Who do you believe? Who do you trust?
What are the consequences to society of a 5% drop in IQ? What if the decline in sperm count continues to the point that men become infertile? These are crucial questions because these chemicals are ubiquitous in society. They are found in pesticides, plastics, detergents, cosmetics and environmental pollutants. Eventually, in tiny amounts, they end up in our bodies where they cause a range of illnesses from respiratory disease (on initial exposure), to cancer (up to 20 years after exposure began), and reproductive effects (which begin during cell development in the foetus where the damage is permanent).
Your choice is simple. You can trust the politicians' rhetoric and allow yourself to be exposed to these chemicals, or you can change your life style and do something about it.
We live in a toxic world, some would say a world with its biological diversity in the first phase of meltdown. Yet the print and electronic media trivialise the issue of chemicals in food and in our bodies, not least because scare stories are the rage in our risk management society.
"There's no gain without pain," our ruling elite argue, and we can only agree that if we want to create a world that is a technological and scientific marvel we must take and accept these risks.
It's this "we" that I have trouble with, not forgetting those who make these utterances when we (the majority of global society) meekly question what is happening to us during this quest for the technological nirvana. Let's not get carried away cry the bureaucrats and industrialists when someone wonders why chemicals in infant formula milk might be a problem.
It was Lewis Mumford, writing more than half a century ago, who put this debate in perspective when he attempted to clarify why technological progress would have an impact on society. "By putting business before every other manifestation of life," he wrote in The Future of Technics and Civilisation, "our mechanical and financial leaders have neglected the chief business of life: namely, growth, reproduction, development, expression. Paying infinite attention to the invention and perfection of incubators, they have forgotten the egg, and its reason for existence." So this most recent food-scare is not a problem if you actually understand anything about the means and modes of production, particularly the processes used by the multi-billion dollar, multinational chemical industry and about capitalist industry, particularly its dependence on fossil fuels, petrochemicals and their derivatives. We cannot manufacture our products without these chemicals, industry screams whingeing all the while about technological progress. Modern society cannot exist without these products, the chemical industry in particular insists.
This, as you should know, is not true, a point once made by Beeching who did more than most to promote the development of the petrochemical industry. "Instead of producing new products to satisfy existing industrial needs, it is, increasingly, producing new forms of matter which not only replace the materials used by existing industries, but which cause extension and modification of those industries. To an increasing degree it forces existing industries to adapt themselves to use its products."
On one side we have industry and its obsession with technological progress while on the other we have not only the human species but every other earthly species as well. To keep on the track of technological progression the chemical industry must continue to synthesise new compounds combining petrochemicals with chlorine but in doing so it actually creates synthetic chemicals capable of disrupting the fertility and intelligence of thousands of species including humans.
Phthalates, the chemicals found in infant formula milk, are abundant in modern technology; they are known as plasticisers because they soften polyvinylchloride (PVC) and are also used in paints, inks and plastic flooring and covering. If you have been following the debate (and that is all it is at the moment) about environmental oestrogens and endocrine disrupters - synthetic chemicals capable of mimicking and disrupting ovarian hormones - you will know that phthlates are the very tip of an iceberg that contains a myriad of very toxic substances. If, sadly, you are one of the many out there trapped in wage-slave-television culture, dependent on mass media for your social and political awareness and creative stimulation, you're probably either confused, apathetic or scared shitless. If you are confused you have my sympathy - for the time it takes me to blink; if you are apathetic you rise my anger and despair; if you are scared shitless you give me hope, that you will begin to do something about the ecological and biological damage being done by mankind (sic) to this planet and its species.
The synthetic chemicals present in our air, seas, rivers, soil, grass and food are a major problem, but you don't need to be a toxicologist, endocrinologist, epidemiologist, biologist or environmental scientist to understand what this means. You certainly don't need the media to patronise you while feeding you lies and excuses from bureaucrats, industrialists, politicians and scientists. What you do need to know is that these chemicals do not go away; they do not break down, they are not biodegradable. Because they are fat soluble they accumulate in the cells of each species that encounters them, slowly rising up the food chain where they will stick around for at least seven generations causing gradual and varying degrees of biological damage that might well be irreversible.
Not only do we live in a toxic world, the toxic chemicals live in us - in wildlife and in humans. The damage to wildlife over the past four decades alone from toxic pollution is as sure an indicator as you will find that many species have lost the ability to reproduce or to adapt to environmental change. The anecdotal, never mind scientific, evidence that chemicals are affecting wildlife has been ignored for years. To echo the words of those scientists who have been trying to alert the ruling elites to this disturbing reality, "you'd have to be an idiot not to believe that we are next".
Yet despite what the enlightened few are describing as an apocalyptic scenario the media and parliament treat us to a game of trivial deceit, debasing the quality of our lives with scare stories that insult our intelligence.
So yes, we probably are all idiots to believe what the mainstream media tell us. It's worth remembering, if you are old enough, that 'toxic' scare stories in the media have been around since people like Murray Bookchin and Rachel Carson warned us about the dangers of pesticides in the 50s and 60s. There's nothing new about them - the media's presentation is as ignorant as ever; it is the treatment not the content that makes the story for the media. So it is perhaps significant that this summer we have gone full circle with the toxic scare stories of the latter half of the 20th century; notably pesticides, herbicides, pharmaceuticals and synthetic chemicals which are more commonly known as DDT, lindane, 2,4,5-T, dioxin, thalidomide, DES, etc..
But let's start with the thalidomide "scare" story. In 1954 enterprising German chemists created a new drug called thalidomide. It seemed to be an ideal sleeping pill and tranquilliser and after three years of animal tests it was judged so safe that it was approved for over the counter (non prescription) sale throughout Germany. By 1960 thalidomide was Germany's most popular sleeping pill and tranquilliser. It was also a huge financial success and was marketed under 50 different trade names in 24 countries, including Distillers in Britain where it was prescribed as a morning sickness/nausea pill to pregnant women.
Then a report appeared in a British medical journal, indicating that persistent users of thalidomide had developed nerve damage in their hands and feet. In Germany there was an outbreak of phocomelia (which means literally "seal limbs") - a terrible deformity in which babies are born with tiny flipper-like stumps instead of arms and hands. In America a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) officer who had been considering an application to market thalidomide in the US asked the chemical company who wanted to market it to conduct studies to show that the drug could be safely taken by pregnant women without harming the foetus. In November 1961 Dr Widuking Lenz in Germany and Dr W.G. McBride in Australia, almost simultaneously, observed that the mothers of several babies with phocomelia had one thing in common, they had taken thalidomide in the first 20 to 40 days of pregnancy. In September the following year the extent of the damage was confirmed.
In the four years since 1957, when this wonderful pill was first approved for sale, thalidomide had caused 10,000 cases of birth malformations in western Germany. In England a thousand cases were reported. No one has ever tallied the damage in the other 22 countries where the drug was sold.
Reading this story now probably gives the impression that it broke as soon as the scientists discovered what was happening - but it didn't. Although the Sunday Times 'Insight' team is given and takes credit for breaking the thalidomide story in reality the media has nothing to congratulate itself about, no less than government. Although those critical of synthetic chemicals had tried to alert the wider public to the dangers of the chemical and pharmaceutical industries it was several years before the tragedy of thalidomide became clear and even longer before the British Government and Distillers admitted their liability. It was 1973 before the Thalidomide Trust was set up to distribute compensation to those born with birth defects as a result of their mothers' misfortune and even then only 460 people were included among those officially deformed by the drug. Distillers graciously gave £19 million, the Government £5m; obviously this wasn't enough to compensate the victims of thalidomide so the Trust had to keep plugging away at the company and at government for more money. Distillers finally paid another £37.5m and told the Trust that was thei "žr lot - if they wanted more the government would have to fork out. On June 5, 1996 the Government announced that it would pay another £7m.
Was this a major news story? In some papers it merited a paragraph, in others it was ignored. The reason? Because it wasn't a worthy news story. Yet thalidomide was a quality "scare" story when it broke during the early 60s, simply because its effects were apparent fairly immediately.
The same cannot be said about phthalates or DDT, or even about dioxins, because, as a news editor of a national newspaper will tell you "there's no dead or deformed bodies?" By distorting the phthalates story the mainstream media has, whether deliberately or accidentally, trivialised the issue to such an extent that most people don't know what to believe anymore. Phthalates are of concern because the levels found by the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (MAFF) have been reported to cause reproductive effects in wildlife. They are an issue because the synergistic effects of endocrine disrupters such as phthalates and dioxins and PCBs work at low rather than high doses - which means that there is no safe level. The body burden of these chemicals is already sufficient to cause damage to fertility and intelligence but don't be waiting for the dead bodies or the deformed babies. Instead consider, as they grow, the intelligence levels of your friends' and neighbours' young children, if after a while you even notice that children are still being born. But of course they are and of course children are as intelligent as they always were; after all I'm just scaremongering - aren't I?
Let's not ask why teachers using the same methods they always have, regardless of trendy "new" methods, are finding the reading age of the average pupil to be well below their biological age; or that the drop in sperm count is being recognised as being accompanied by a decrease in motility (they can't bloody swim) and an increase in mutant sperm that are just not viable...

On the same day that the government announced its £7m payment to the Thalidomide Trust, Shanks and McEwan (who own ReChem) gleefully told the media that they were in pretax profit again. And ReChem, after losing £388,000 in 1994, had made pretax profits of £418,000 in 1995. Yet Rechem, who "sue and bruise easily", are one of many filthy firms who make it their business to guarantee the need for future incarnations of the Thalidomide Trust, and for ever larger segments of our population. In 1990 the Welsh Affairs committee recommended, on the basis of extreme levels of PCB at Rechem, Pontypool, that Ã’major incinerators are not in future located near residential areas. PCBs and dioxins have no safe threshold level, and are the cause of various deformities in newborn babies around the Rechem plant (though legally the victim must prove harm, with no pressure on industry to prove their case - see the recent farce over BSE). These deformities include microphthalmia (no eyelids), and anophthalmia (lack of an eye). Other problems, all seen throughout Britain at this time, and also linked to incineration, include limblessness and skull-plate deformities. In adults, chloracne, cancers, immunological problems, and reproductive failures (in men and women, the former suffering reduced sperm counts and deformed sperm, the latter suffering, in extreme cases, intersexuality, wherein the "woman" has both female and male genitalia inside herself, neither functional) are amongst the terrible health effects of proximity to these toxins. These chemicals are becoming common throughout the environment, and no longer just in industrial areas. When we reach the "population threshold" (ie; when the localised effects spread until they join up, making the maps of toxics one big red danger zone), who then will be able to afford "charity"? Despite which, yet another urban incinerator (SELCHP) was opened in Bermondsey, South London, only two years ago - and another is proposed for Woolwich.
Still, June is a good month for scare stories, a prelude to the silly season - as Shanks and McEwan announced their wonderful profits, and the government finally coughed up a little more for the victims of Thalidomide, the US Environmental Protection Agency announced that pesticide use in the USA had reached record levels. According to the Natural Resources Defence Council, which compiled the information for the US EPA, 544 million kilograms of pesticides were sprayed on crops and grassland in the year up to March 1995.
"Many of these chemicals are acutely or chronically toxic, cause cancer, birth defects, are endocrine disrupters and can cause severe adverse environmental impacts," said an official with the NRDC.
But so what! We know from bitter experience that this will make little difference to the capitalist industrialists until it is even more totally too late.

Robert Allen

Dunblane - what made Hamilton tick?

This was published in Black Flag #208, in 1996 not long after the horrific massacre at Dunblane. The media at the time were pre-occupied with gun control, here Albert Meltzer argues that they missed the point.

The Dunblane Massacre -
What Made Hamilton Tick?

Thomas Hamilton walked into a classroom at Dunblane, where he was well known, and shot the teacher and almost the entire class of five year olds. In the national mourning many questions were raised as to how this could have been prevented. As he had killed himself anyway, like Fred West the serial murderer-rapist, there could hardly be any of the usual cries for the re-introduction of the death penalty. Though it was generally claimed that it is all the harder for parents who can't understand why Hamilton acted the way he did, it was taken for granted politics must be kept out of it. Now that it is passed over as yesterday's news, perhaps the time has come to make those politics known.

Political understanding has everything to do with it. The police, local councillors, even the Secretary of State for Scotland, knew the man, had interviewed him and either failed to note he displayed obvious Naziclone tendencies or more likely ignored them as irrelevant to his having a gun licence. He was not far from their own mentality, just far enough to make him a misfit.

With the gun lobby on the defensive the question was raised of peaceful farmers or local people in the Highlands and Islands needing handguns to shoot rabbits, either as a pest or for food where vegetables and fruit are rare and expensive. It should be noted that the same Scottish Office which granted a gun license to Hamilton, refused one to an Islands resident, then an editor of Black Flag with no criminal convictions, who just wanted to shoot rabbits like everyone else there. Why? On account of his 'political extremism'. For them, Hamilton was 'a bit queer perhaps but otherwise one of us.'

What is a Naziclone?

One can distinguish, though they are all obnoxious, between the fascist who wants to keep down the working class by all necessary means, and also the one who thinks it is an alternative political or racial theory which may perhaps entail violence against those naturally or forced into being defenceless. There is another type one may call the ''naziclone', i.e.someone who doesn't give a shit about the political or racial side of fascism or nazism but glories in the inevitable atrocities. The fantasist-fascist of this ilk is not uncommon though often confining him/herself to a dreamland where a handsome young führer struts through Whitehall planning mayhem. They can be incited to enact their fantasies by fascist propaganda, but also by reading anti-Nazi books. They lick their lips over the Holocaust books and bemoan insufficient illustrations. Colin Brady was one such, and with his partner Myra Hindley tortured and murdered small children from around the neighbourhood.

How could Hamilton's nature have been recognised? True, he had done nothing for which he could have been charged but clearly gun licences are subject to political assessment. Only the Establishment found his credentials impeccable.
All naziclones have an obsession with lethal weapons, over and above any use of them. They enjoy imposing harsh discipline. Swaggering with pistols is a kick in itself. They also have an obsession with physical fitness and discipline, especially in training young men and boys. 'Strength through joy means powerlessness through control'. None of this is necessarily anti-social but it didn't need a Sherlock Holmes to find the dangers in this case.
Naziclones usually despise women and often are rapists; they sometimes have sexual relationships with boys or young men whom they can treat as women. But they equally hate homosexuals with consenting sexual urges or loving relationships. Hitler put them in the death camps, didn't he?

The naziclone from Stirling spent his time training youngsters to physical fitness. He spent his hard-earned money photograph-ing young but fit boys in skimpy shorts. He toted as many guns as possible. He was bitter at being excluded from the bonding of the gun clubs, and refused entry into the Scout movement, after paedophiliac allegations which may or may not have been true.Why? They regarded him as a pervert, he protested. He petitioned Her Gracious Majesty but even She did not help her loyal subject. What was left to a naziclone but to act out his fantasies:- stage his own mini-holocaust and exit on a grand scale like the great man himself? And they say they can't understand it!

The debate centres on whether we should restrict gun llicences. It would be better to turn our attention to naziclones and how to restrict them socially.

Hunt Sabbing and the CJA

This article, from Black Flag #208 in mid-1995, was one of a series looking at the impact of the Criminal Justice Act, which aimed to criminalise the activities of hunt saboteurs, amongst others.

The Criminal Justice Act was introduced by a desperate Home Secretary, Michael Howard, to regain some popularity by attacking those the Tories believe were the scum of society - those who lived outside their property-based society. So travellers, squatters and hunt saboteurs became the focus of the rampant, union-jack waving, blue-rinse loyalists at the 1994 Conservative Party Conference.

Unfortunately for the 'get orf moi land' brigade, Mr Howard hadn't consulted the police about his pronouncements and that is where his trouble started. The police cope (or don't) with many public order activities - demos, football matches, and the like - which all have one thing in common. They are basically static, or at least those to be herded walk willingly and sheep-like in one direction at a time. In order to stop hunt saboteurs, the police have to catch them when they are on land they are banned from, and on which they are disrupting a lawful activity. Above all, they have to catch them...

So whilst ten coppers can easily police a demonstration of 100 or a football crowd of 1,000, in order to stop a hunt sabotage they effectively have to match the protesters one for one - and pursue them across often rugged terrain for several miles, then cart them back to waiting police vehicles which also have to be staffed, so that the remaining hunt sab in the bushes doesn't simply pop up at the opportune moment and let their mates out. Now if only twenty sabs in thirty hunt sab groups attack thirty hunts across the country each Saturday, you can quickly count the number of police needed - at the same time that they are supposed to be covering the major sporting events, prime time shopping, etc. The result over the past two hunting seasons has been that, in many areas, the police have simply allowed the sabs to get on with their peaceful disruption. And arrests for 'aggravated trespass' have often led to acquittals or charges being dropped before they reach court.

Where saboteurs have been arrested - on occasion at the start of the day before they have even reached the hunt - and later acquitted or having had the charges dropped, they have been quick to sue the police for wrongful arrest. This has funded sab vans and on one occasion a holiday to Tunisia at the expense of police forces in particular the Thames Valley. The hunting solicitors are up in arms about this, with Knights of Tunbridge Wells, who have been known to take legal action against people who have merely written to the local press stating that hunting is cruel, demanding an end to legal aid for the sabs in such cases. It appears that wrongful arrest should not be applied to animal campaigners.

According to the Hunt Sabs' magazine 'Howl', police in Norfolk only turned up twice during the first twnety hits of the last season, and even then did nothing to hamper the sabotage of the hunt. But iIn some areas, of course, the police have taken the new laws as a green light to pursue age-old vendettas against the sabs. Hence some sabs are now, as they would have been in feudal times, banned from part of Lincolnshire; following refusal of legal aid, ten sabs from Grimsby fell foul of the Earl of Yarborough of the Brocklesby Foxhounds and signed a lifetime injunction. Others have had bail conditions imposed that they are not allowed in the vicinity of a foxhunt, irrespective of where they live, or their employment, or simply their democratic right to protest. So in addition to the often violent attacks sabs receive at the hands of hunt supporters, paid "stewards" and terriermen (those who follow the hunt to finish off the fox with spade and terrier), they do still come up against the full might of the law in some areas.

In other areas, the police are so impartial and independent that they even attend the hunt ball as guests of the hunt! The policewoman whose sole job is patrolling hunts in the New Forest has not been transferred to another post, despite such antisocial social activity. The efforts of the Forest Filth are not enough for Rabid Roderick, writing in a recent 'Horse & Hounds' magazine, who commented on a recent mass hit, that "During various incidents which took place, the large police presence simply observed as spectators...curiously the number of arrests remained in single fugures and all those arrested were released later without charge...Subject to a few notable exceptions, this inertia among police officers in the hunting field has now reached intolerable proportions." Roderick should raise the matter at the next lodge meeting!

In Essex, however, the situation is different. After nearly a year's delay, last October saw the trials of 31 sabs arrested the previous November during a mass hit on the Essex Foxhounds. The CPS secured just 10 convictions for 'aggravated trespass', with 3 acquittals, 8 charges thrown out of court half way through, and a further 8 not even getting that far. Two more serious charges against the other two were dropped. The trial took place in Chichester, West Sussex, as the prosecution was unable to find a closer bench of magistrates who did not either hunt or have hunting connections. The Essex police have stood out as the main force determined to enforce the CJA, no matter the cost to the public - £40,000 for one day's policing (helicopter included) in the case of the above incident. Appeals and civil actions for wrongful arrest are now in progress.

What has perhaps been surprising is the tenacity of so many hunt sabs in resisting the law (if a pick-axe handle in the face doesn't deter you, I suppose a few days in jail is unlikely to) and the fact that in many areas the police have simply been unable to enforce the law. Of course, some sabs - for many reasons - have dropped out of active sabbing as the law has been tightened. But this has not made them any less committed to campaigning to ban hunting. And, with the majority continuing, the hunting aristocracy who have payrolled the Tory Party for so long are now resenting the ineffectiveness of this particular piece of the Criminal Justice Act. Don't take my word for it - just read the letters pages of the hunting press every week.

Foxhunting may not be the most pressing issue for those of us fighting to change society. But it does represent one of the last feudal activities of an outdated, cruel society that would treat the working class the same way as animals if it could. As Auberon Waugh wrote in the Mail a few years ago, "we should gas the working class like badgers". So, if you want to get actively involved contact: Hunt Saboteurs Association, PO Box 1, Carlton, Nottingham, NG4 2JY or for more information against hunting: League Against Cruel Sports, 83-87 Union Street, London, SE1 1SG

By Dan Carter

Rank and File or Broad Left? (Review)

A review of "Rank and File or Broad Left: Democracy versus Bureaucracy - A short history of the Building Worker Group" by Brian Higgins, from Black Flag magazine.

I feel old, I really do. In February 1986 I quit my job at the start of what turned out to be nine months on the dole, and walked straight onto a picket line. The "Laing's Lockout Committee" dispute remains one of the most significant of the post-Miners' Strike era, full of lessons about the possibility of resistance in the face of the most difficult of conditions and determined of opposition. It is at the centre of this excellent pamphlet. Congratulations to the Colin Roach Centre for publishing this.

The dispute taught me a lot, especially about the power of picketting where there is a history of union organisation, and a memory of solidarity, even though actual organisation has died. In the short term it can galvanise people who've been inactive for years and inspire those with no previous experience of union militancy. In the medium term they need workplace organisation to support them, in the context of wider class consciousness and organisation.

I also learned the need for guerilla tactics, stretching the bosses and their agents - union officials, the courts, police, etc. This spreads the dispute in the face of media blackouts - PR is not an option for workers who fight to win - and gives you a chance. If you stay in the same place, sooner or later pressure to cross picket lines is going to bite. The Old Bill also made up a law that only six pickets were allowed at each gate, derived from TUC/ACAS guidelines, and enforced it through the catch-all "obstructing a police officer" charge.

This is not just about the last of the Rank and File groups initiated by the then International Socialists (now SWP) in the 70's. It analyses of the realities of site and union organisation in construction. As well as being one of the most dangerous industries, where "health & safety" is non-existent unless enforced by militant organisation, this is where the bosses' preference for bogus "self-employment" began and is most blatant. All the rights belong to the boss, all the responsibilities - tax, National Insurance, holiday pay, health & safety - to the "self-employed" worker. The art of making industrial action "secondary", and therefore illegal, has also been perfected here by the use of labour-only sub-contractors, many of them gangsters.

Higgins sets out the need for "United Front Rank and File Organisation" to bring together "revolutionary ... and reformist workers ... by far the majority" around immediate demands, workplace organisation, and a longer term strategy. These are all-industry organisations, with no divisions by political or union affiliation or lack of either. The R&F group "should be the bridge between more popular economic and democratic site issues and the more difficult" political ones.

This is remarkably close to the Industrial Networks which form part of the Solidarity Federation, and is a big improvement on the standard "join the union, then form a rank and file group within it to oppose the officials" line of the left (when they're not cheerleading for those traitors, that is). However, I believe the majority of workers are not actively reformist, but apolitical, and to address ourselves to reformism (ie the left, Blair will reform nothing) is to give it room to manouevre. Where anarcho-syndicalists differ from this approach is not to separate the political from the economic by assuming the need to tone down politics in order to form a "united front" with reformists.

He goes on to outline the origins of the BWG and its split with the SWP in 1981/82 having developed a life of its own and outgrown the SWP's politics. As a former member of both the BWG and the anarcho-syndicalist Direct Action Movement once put it, "without subordination to a strong working class organisation, the middle classes are only capable of achieving party consciousness".

As well as the Laing's story, the violence inflicted on union militants by gangster subbies and the state is highlighted, as is the corruption and collaboration of the unions, particularly UCATT - names are named. The pamphlet also covers the decline of the Construction Safety Campaign into a "credibility" device for corrupt union official Tony O'Brien and his cheerleaders in the Workers' Revolutionary Party and SWP, as well as our old friends the Stalinists. Critiques of both the Joint Sites organisation in 1992, and the Offshore Industry Liaison Committee - unofficial union organisations - round off the pamphlet. Buy it, read it, learn the lessons in it.

[i]Peter Principle[/i]
[i](Taken from BF#208)[/i]
[i]Produced and Published by the Colin Roach Centre/Resistance £1.50. Available from 2 Bitten Court, Lumbertubs, Northampton
[/i]

Black Flag 209 (1996)

Partial contents of Black Flag issue 209, published in 1996.

Contents

After You've Gone... (Humanist funerals)

AFTER YOU'VE GONE....

Sadly, we have reflected a lot about funerals recently. How his funeral was conducted was important to Albert Meltzer, not least because he had seen so many old comrades and friends receive totally inappropriate send offs. Our secular correspondent (see note below) takes up this theme in the article below.

There are problems facing people who do not wish their death to be taken over by the religious. Most burials and cremations are carried out after a religious service. The service seems largely to be for the benefit and consolation of those mourning the departed, though how any sensible person can find consolation in a time of sadness by renewing their belief in an almighty being who could have avoided the sadness by prolonging the dead person's life had they wanted to is a mystery to me.
But there is no need to have a religious service as part of a funeral. Anybody can conduct a funeral. I have done a number myself. Anybody who wishes their remains to be disposed of without any religious ceremony should make this wish known to their friends and relations. It should be stated in your will and your executor should be made aware of it.
The principal organisations offering non religious funeral observances are the British Humanist Association and the National Secular Society. The best way to make sure you are given a non-religious funeral is to get a friend to agree to do one for you and to make sure you die before the friend. Clearly the friend must be someone reliable and not given to making promises they do not expect to keep.
The other way would be to make a bequest to the National Secular Society or British Humanist Association conditional upon them providing you with a non-religious funeral observance. The bequest need not be substantial but I would say £100 would be a reasonable amount. Whichever way you decide to follow to get a non religious send off make sure your executor knows about it and sets the thing in motion in good time, which is as soon as you are dead.
The addresses are National Secular Society, 47 Theobalds Road, London WC1
Tel 020 7404 3126

British Humanist Association,
1 Gower Street, London WC1E 6HD
020 7079 3580

But don't be too selfish about this. The funeral observance is for the benefit of those you leave behind, not yourself. They may feel the need of a religious element in your funeral, even if for reasons plain people like me cannot fathom. On the other hand non religious observances have great dignity and feeling. Those who have attended having only been used to the religious sort are usually very favourably impressed because of these factors.
Because of these considerations, as a lifelong atheist, my arrangements with my Christian wife are that if I predecease her she will give me a religious funeral, but that if she dies before I do I will give her a non-religious send off. It gives me an additional reason to seek to live for a very long time.

Note: this appeared in Black Flag #209 and was written by the late Peter Miller, a veteran anarchist and humanist. I've changed the addresses and phone numbers to bring them up to date and added urls.

In the Shell of the Old - Italy's Social Centres

Article from the 1990s containing information about Italy's movement of political squats called "social centres."

Living In The Heart Of The Beast - Italy's Social Centres
Every May Day since 1986, Forte Prenestino in Rome has hosted the 'Festival of Non-Labour'.

Through music, videos, theatre, good food, and debate, its occupants celebrate not only the coming of Spring, but the ongoing efforts of people like themselves to challenge and overturn the rhythms of capital and the state.

Forte Prenestino covers eight hectares south-east of Rome, not far from the Viale Palmiro Togliatti. Originally built a century ago as a military base, the Forte was abandoned in the sixties like so many of Italy's public buildings in this time of property speculation and public corruption.

Despite recent gentrification, the nearby suburb of Centocelle is still best known for its high levels of unemployment and heroin addiction. When a group of mostly young people from the neighbourhood decided to occupy the Forte on May Day nine years ago, they were inspired not by the legacy of Togliatti - the Italian communist leader who effortlessly blended stalinism and social democracy - but by a determination to establish and extend a radical, self-managed alternative to the marginalisation which life on the city fringes offered.

"All of a sudden, we were inside, 'running' the place - we who had never managed anything except our unemployment, our homelessness", they later commented wryly. "Many people are convinced that the Forte is run by just a handful of people, a management committee that makes decisions in the name of and on behalf of everyone else. Such people simply can't conceive - whether for reasons of ideology or cynicism - that a micro-society of equal persons can survive and prosper..."

Today Forte Prenestino plays an important role in its local community. It houses an exhibition gallery, practice rooms for bands, space for theatrical performances, a dark room, gymnasium, and cafe. Classes are held, there are regular film nights, courses on design and sculpture, and a documentation centre. Outside Rome, the Forte is best known for its music label, featuring local rap and reggae bands. It also produces the journal Nessuna Dipendenza, which documents the Forte's activities and engages in political discussion and debate.

Forte Prenestino is one of about fourteen 'Occupied Self-Managed Social Centres' (CSOA) in Rome. There are about hundred or so CSOA elsewhere in Italy - it's hard to be precise, as any given week brings news of a new site or two established, or an old one evicted. Their origins go back to the mid-seventies, a time when the extra-parliamentary left played an important part in Italian youth culture. Even then, the CSOA were often established in reaction to the growing conservatism and authoritarianism of such groups, whether these be the little parties formed after the Hot Autumn of 1969, or the apparently more radical collectives known as Autonomia Operaia (Workers' Autonomy).

By the end of the seventies, the organised far left had largely been smashed, caught between extensive State repression on the one hand, and a flight into private life or terrorism on the other. In industry, a decade-long battle for control over working conditions came to an end, with the massive 1980 lay-offs at FIAT flagging an impending victory for managerial prerogative throughout Italy.

The CSOA that survived the chaos of those years eked out their existence during the early and mid-eighties as bastions of an 'alternative lifestyle'. 'Transgressive' identities - from those associated with punk music, to more traditional anarchist or autonomist politics - played a central role in holding many of the remaining social centres together, in the face of an Italy where opportunism, fear and cynicism apparently reigned supreme.
The late eighties onwards have confounded many of the glib arguments that class war in Italy is over, or that the future has been reduced to a choice of 'Export or death'.

Beginning in 1987 among school teachers and railway staff, a growing dissatisfaction with the inability of existing unions to defend pay and conditions has spread to other sections of the workforce, creating a small but lively current of rank and file groups and 'alternative' unions pledged to direct action and self-organisation. Unrest among school and university students has brought a similar cycle of mass action since 1990, with occupations 'under self-management' a frequent occurence.

Much of this activity has fed into the revival of the social centres in the nineties. As dozens of abandoned buildings have been seized up and down the Italian peninsula, the social and political identity of the CSOA has become richer, more complex. Here are brief descriptions of three of the newer social centres, taken from an account published in 1994:

PIRATERIA DI PORTA is the most recent of the Roman CSOA, and the first to be established in the city centre. Born in December 1993, it is housed in a large warehouse near the Porta Portese Sunday market. With an emphasis upon youth concerns, it offers many activities for children: films, dance classes, martial arts.

In February 1994 it was shut down by the police, only to be immediately re-opened by the occupiers.

OFFICINA 99 can be found in a former garage in the working class suburbs of eastern Naples. It was first occupied in December 1990 by members of that year's mass student movement (popularly known as Pantera - the Panther) but immediately evicted by the authorities. It was reoccupied on May 1st, 1991, when 500 students and unemployed people marched from the university and took the site over. It is the most active social centre in the region, offering a meeting place not only for younger people, but also for workplace rank and file groups and the local unemployed movement. Its strength lies in its activity within the surrounding community, particularly over the questions of jobs and the fight for a guaranteed income. The first floor of Officina 99 offers a lovely view of Vesuvius, and was used as a location for the film Sud (by Gabriele Salvatores, director of Mediterraneo). The social centre has also spawned the popular political rap group 99 Posse.

BAROCCHIO is a spin-off from another of Turin's CSOA - El Paso - with which its members continue to work. It was occupied in October 1992, on the initiative of a local anarchist group. Both a social centre and a living space, Barocchio is best known for its music scene. For reasons of space, its annual film festivals
have been transferred to El Paso.

Two computer networks - the European Counter Network, and CyberNet - play an important role in keeping the social centres in touch with each other but the CSOAs' biggest risk continues to be that of closure. This problem has expressed itself in several ways: among the most immediate, are the difficulties involved in drawing the thousands who regularly attend concerts and other public activities into the daily work carried out by the dozens (often hundreds) of 'regulars'. Beyond this, there is also the challenge of communicating with, and learning from, activists outside the social centres' 'natural' constituency of urban youth. Interestingly enough, some of the more important initiatives taken by many CSOA in recent years have involved questions such as housing, jobs, racism, the lack of parkland in many urban landscapes.

Recently, Bruno Cartosio, a sympathetic observer of the CSOA from an older generation of the radical left stressed the importance of the social centres as practical examples of direct democracy in action. "This doesn't necessarily mean taking the social centres as a model, but rather of seeing, in their structure - in their very existence - an example not only of a necessity, but also of an opportunity from which to begin anew any overall political project".

Primo Moroni, another veteran and unofficial chronicler of Milan's radical scene, disagrees. Whilst conceding that "a formidable transformation" is presently underway within the CSOA, he has expressed some concern that the social centres remain "zones of defence", the product of "a generation which has decided to prolong its adolescence ad infinitum". Perhaps he is right. Or could it be that, in an age when "almost everyone lives in a state of terror at the possibility that they might awake to themselves" (Vaneigem), a self-conscious prolonging of adolescence might yet have its merits?

Adapted from an article by Steve Wright

This appeared in Black Flag #209, October 1996, with the following introducton.

Continuing our series looking at solidarity centres, we pulled this interesting article off the internet. We've edited it a little, but it gives an interesting flavour of a country where local centres are much more numerous, and are part of a much more significiant movement than we have here. The potential of the centres is, we believe emphasised by the act they are linked to local communities, and the individual centres featured here are more than just a home for youth rebellion.

The Christie Carballo committee and the rewriting of history

Article from Black Flag by Mark Hendy responding to lies from the then-editors of Freedom.

Attempting to cast doubt on Albert's sixty years of commitment and militancy, certain persons better known for the volume than the quality of their utterances (and that's being charitable - very) have asked in print "Where was he when Stuart Christie was arrested in Spain in 1964? What did he do to save Stuart from the death penalty?" As the Secretary of the Christie-Carballo Defence Committee, I can only say that I do not remember for sure. I do know, though, that Albert made available for our meetings his premises near the British Museum and that we only met elsewhere to make use of a telephone. After Stuart and Fernando Carballo Blanco's trial and conviction the Defence Committee met regularly at Albert's premises, and it was at least partly as a result of its efforts that Stuart was released in 1967.
I know that Albert's premises were available to any anarchist or related group, entirely free of charge - despite the fact that he himself was paying rent for them - for a number of years, both before and after their use by the defence committee, a service that was both unparalleled and extremely convenient in view of their situation. This in itself makes recent attempts to belittle his contribution to the cause of human freedom seem not merely spiteful but downright ungrateful!

Mark Hendy

This originally appeared in Black Flag #209, Oct 1996, with the following introductory note:
Editors' note: The article below is in response to some sadly typical lies in Freedom about our late founder, Albert Meltzer, and his activities in the sixties.

Mark Hendy was secretary of the Christie Carballo Committee. The article was in response to repeated claims in Freedom made by its then proprietor Vernon Richards (Vero) that dismissed Albert's involvement in the Spanish movement and supporting Christie.

"A Class Act" - review of "Educating Who About What - The Circled A and Its Parasites"

A CLASS ACT - Anarchism, Class and who we really want to talk to.

This article started out as a review/ response to the pamphlet "Educating Who About What - The Circled A and Its Parasites". Once I started getting into the issues, though, it took on a life of its own. I hope this provokes some debate. The pamphlet begins with the statement "90% of the Anarchist Movement is a Joke" and goes on to blame middle class domination of anarchist organisations for the fact that the people anarchism is from and for don't get the message. What I want to do is look at why those people don't get the message, whose fault it is, and to look at issues of class, culture, identity and organisation as a whole.

For a pamphlet which puts down situationism so neatly - "criticising society in the language of the privileged" it is irritatingly laid out in different typefaces, styles and sizes, very arty but a pain to read (it reminded me of the 80s popstars who wrote their names with capitals and normal letters reversed - bOLLoCks, if you ask me).

What is the middle class, so despised by the pamphleteers? Well, they don't define it. The sort of middle class attacked here are the "radical" types, who, to be fair, are an easy target. In my experience, the "radical" middle class always live in bohemian areas, anywhere where real people live is just too dull.

Most of the middle class doesn't live in inner cities - they live in the posher bits of every town and city in this country. We are not likely to come into contact with them much, except as bosses, bank managers etc, unless we mix with them socially. Yes, I find the bohemian types slumming it for a few years before they return to their overflowing trough irritating in the extreme and destructive to getting any real organising done politically. But they're an obstacle in the way of getting at our target, not the target itself.

The pamphlet's writers advocate a purely working class organisation as a solution to middle class domination of anarchist politics. Unfortunately, the working class isn't defined here either, so we get no idea of who decides who fits in a "working class" organisation? I have a good job, a mortgage, I like to engage my intelligence and I'm working class.

Many of our class cannot be defined by work, because they haven't got it. Increasingly there are all sorts of barriers between those of us who do have jobs and those without. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the DSS and Department of Employment. On the one hand, there are working class people expected to "seek" non existent jobs by poorly paid working class people, a lot on temporary contracts, and not very far from the same situation. There are still some workers in good situations - usually those who are well unionised or where there is a genuine shortage of their skills in the labour market (certain types of computer programmers spring to mind to illustrate the skills shortage, train drivers, airline pilots and engineering workers in large firms illustrate the former). Some would argue that the difference between the two classes is that between order givers (such as our poorly paid civil servants, teachers, social workers, cops etc.) and order takers (everyone who doesn't have any order-giving status in their job). While there is clearly a germ of truth in this, it is a misleading picture.

As a kid I remember being banned from the local swimming pool for staying in for three hours. The worker there told me I was "defrauding the council". He was giving orders, to me, a small child, because he had the power to do so. He had no power to order anyone else about, as he was just the changing room attendant. It was something in his psychological make-up that made him do it. Whether teachers are middle class or not is a debate that goes on and on. In purely economic terms, they're nearly all working class. Like the rest of us in work, they're only a few months pay packets away from poverty on the dole. The pamphlet calls this a cartoon view of the world, in that it simplifies the class relationships and misses some of what's going on in there.

However, the pamphleteers' version of the world does the same, only from a different angle. Bloody teachers, etc, - they have a limited amount of power and can give orders to kids, therefore they are middle class. Some teachers are bullies and take full advantage of the power they have over kids. But most are just people trying to do a job as well as they can within the restrictions placed on them - like class sizes, national curriculum full of bollocks, kids with no future, no books etc... The key issue here is power, and an anarchist approach has to be one of minimising any concentration of power and recognising cultural differences within the working class.

Many of the "middle class teachers, social workers and civil servants" wielding this power over working class people are people (usually women) who have escaped the drudgery of a small-minded working class culture. As well as asking them difficult questions about why they are doing what they are doing, we ought to be asking ourselves equally difficult questions about why so much working class culture encourages people to get out.

[b]MORE CULTURE THAN YOGHURT
[/b]
This is one of the strengths of the pamphlet - it recognises that there are working class cultures which are diverse and have different strengths. This is something we need to promote otherwise many talented working class kids will seize any opportunity to join the middle classes. These are the people in previous generations who filled the shop stewards' and convenors' jobs, acted as barrack room lawyers on their estates and stirred things up against the council, the boss or whatever dead arm of bureaucracy was interfering in their lives. We can't afford to lose them, and to keep them we have to show that there are alternatives within the working class. I remember talking to a woman brought up in a pit village who desperately wanted to be middle class. She saw middle class women with more control over their own lives than those of the women from her village. I suspect she'll be disappointed with the class to which she aspires, but decades of lionising of the miners by the left meant she identified that as the working class way to live, not merely a working class way of life.

To give another example of where we need to be critical of elements of working class culture, many out of town estates were hit by riots over the last few summers. Bored young men (and it was nearly all young men) had pitched battles with the police, stole cars, looted shops and set fire to community centres. The effect of this on other members of the community - who are no less working class - is often ignored by anarchists cheerleading for anyone having a bash at the cops. But the shops and community centres are vital to the rest of the community, the pensioners, those without transport to go to the shops in town, the single parents (overwhelmingly women) who use these facilities for mutual support, maybe a creche etc,. Anyone with an opportunity is going to get out of that estate, but why should they have to leave our class? There is a danger in mixing up class and identity too much, so in affirming their own identity, people must reject their class.

On a better point, I totally agree about other struggles, such as anti-racism and anti-sexism. Class is the most important factor in the struggle for a new society. Of course sexism affects all women, but the Queen mother (bless her!) gets to 94 and the media gush about how well she's doing for her age. Of course, she's never had to work for a living, or do the housework, or wait for years on an NHS waiting list for a hip operation. Anyone who does not recognise the class divisions at work is merely out for their own advantage (such as those liberal middle class women who wnat 50% of all MPs to be women, as if it will make a blind bit of difference to anything other than their careers) and as the pamphlet rightly says, they have no place in our movement. The opposite, unsaid, is also true - any anarchist who thinks it's OK to be sexist or racist, even using the excuse of "it's part of working class culture" should get short shrift from us.

ON ORGANISATIONS

The pamphlet is very critical of organisations, harping "Where are your members?" Why do anarchists then continue to try to form organisations, if no one is joining? I am not going to answer this question, except to say that people will always organise to achieve their aims. The problem with most anarchist organisations is their aims are so distant their purpose becomes blurred. The point of organisation is to improve your prospects of winning and facilitate collective action. Another trouble with anarchists in this country is that they get jealous of the Trots, even though we shouldn't be trying to replicate them as they don't share our aims.

Trot parties are set up to mirror the state they want to set up and control - with the rank and file paper sellers being the working class, the middle class consisting of branch organisers and full timers and the ruling class consisting of the leadership and central committee. They even go so far as to discuss getting a "few of the younger comrades arrested" when the need arises, like generals committing troops to battle. It might work, though evidence for this is scanty, but anarchism it ain't.

I am only interested in looking at two forms of anarchist organisation - the affinity group and the syndicalist union and commune (I have put these together for reasons which I shall explain). There are of course, others, such as the much tighter political group advocated by people like the Anarchist Communist Federation and the Workers Solidarity Movement in Ireland, where membership depends on agreeing with aims, principles and often policies.

The affinity group is based on shared belief and other close ties, friendship, socialising and so on. It is obviously self-selective and not open to general membership. It is vitally important for direct action as the members of an affinity group grow to learn from each other and trust each other. It is unlikely to win many people to anarchist ideas on a direct basis, and certainly not in any large numbers.

The syndicalist union and commune are libertarian, democratic and open to all who are part of their constituency - either workers in that industry or people who live in that area. By their nature they are working class bodies which can include all the workers. Indeed, modern anarcho-syndicalism has improved on the classical model by moving on to the syndicalist union advocating and calling "workers assemblies", sovereign decision making bodies open to all workers who accept their decisions as binding, regardless of union affiliation. (This is usually conveniently forgotten by Bookchin and other critics of syndicalism who really should know better).

We often come up against the "spontaneity" argument here. You know the sort, there's no need to organise workers, they will organise themselves when the need arises, spontaneously, and will be more revolutionary without unions, parties or ideologies to hold them back. This argument simply doesn't wash, and asks us to deny our own existence as workers. It's OK for the workers to do it, but not the anarchists. But aren't the anarchists workers too? Organisations can be sapping and contradictory at times, but it is through the experience of organising that lessons are learnt and digested.

These two models are not contradictory, it's simply a matter of recognising different tactics; you can go out there and "just do it" as the ad goes, or you can build a long, steady fightback by gaining respect from those immediately around you, and hopefully some of our ideas will find an echo in their experience. The point is to see that an active anarchist movement usually benefits from an active libertarian workers movement, and vice versa.

MINOR TARGETS

A good chunk of the pamphlet is taken up on attacking Chumbawumba and praising Pulp for their connectedness to working class culture. The points made are valid enough, and I prefer Pulp myself, but they are only pop stars. Pop stars are not going to change the world. Crass played the same role in the late 70s early 80s as Chumbawumba do now. I am one of the few anarchists of my generation who wasn't into punk, but I am glad it got loads of people interested, even if 99% have since fucked off, there are some real gems in that 1%. If Chumbawumba can do the same, good. If not, who cares?

MH

"Educating Who About What - The Circled A and Its Parasites" (£1 from Black Economy Books, Dept 8, 1 Newton St, Manchester M1 1HW).

This review was originally published in Black Flag #209, October 1996

Black Flag 210 (1996)

Issue of the London-based anarchist magazine Black Flag from the 1990s.

CONTENTS

Spyros Dapergolas - Greek Anarchist On Hunger Strike
INTERNATIONAL SHORTS - Wharfies ban Indonesian ship, General Strike in South Korea
Satpal Ram - Attacked by Screws
NAFTA - Auto Restructuring and Mexico's Maquiladora Zone
News from the Kate Sharpley Library
JSA - Volunteering and Workfare
Le Drapeau Noir - International Day Against Police Brutality
Free Water - VICTORY IN SIGHT FOR ANTI WATER CHARGE CAMPAIGN
Spezzano Albanese
Internet Censorship
DEFEND BRIAN HIGGINS CAMPAIGN
Rise Above
Letter - Mike, Manchester

SPYROS DAPERGOLAS: GREEK ANARCHIST ON HUNGER STRIKE

Spyros Dapergolas was arrested in June 1995, during an unsuccessful bank robbery. He is still in prison awaiting trial, even though the maximum period for temporary imprisonment in Greece is 18 months. Spyros started a hunger strike on November 9 1996. He has already lost 20 kilos and his health is in danger.

On December 22nd, Spyros wrote from prison "I am on a hunger strike for 44 days. Only a few days before completion of 18th months in jail, a period full of "constitutional rights", laws, arguments and above all justice. And the day after these 18 months pass, I'll still be in prison and no matter how much I try, I can't laugh with my situation.

There should be no doubt of my commitment to fight till the end. I choose this way, at least to reserve my dignity, not to sit quietly accepting the brutality and the mechanisms of oppression. The authorities seem to want to push things to the edge. Perhaps they believe that I will not be able to keep on going, but bury myself in silence and isolation. I can promise them that their expectations will not materialise. Regardless of all the problems, there are those in the society, who keep the flag of freedom and solidarity high, who laugh at the face of repression. These people stand by me and these are the people that I want to have with me.

INTERNATIONAL SHORTS

Wharfies ban Indonesian ship

Waterside workers and port employees in Darwin, Australia, placed a 24 hour ban on the Indonesian ship Fujar Kanguru on December 17th. This is part of the Aussie dockers protest action against the detention and trails of Indonesian union leaders Muchtar Pakpahan and Dita Sari now under way in Jakarta. The Maritime Union of Australia said there was "..no prospect of Mr . Pakpahan or Ms Sari receiving a fair trial."

The two union leaders face charges of subversion, which in Indonesia carry the death penalty. Their crime has been to build and lead independent unions in a country where only government-controlled unions are legal.

General Strike In South Korea

On December 29th 20,000 workers, shouting ''Down with (President) Kim Young-sam,'' marched on the ruling party headquarters as South Korea's largest ever strike entered its fourth day. The workers were allowed to march past the building. No arrests or injuries were reported.

The protesters were among 373,000 workers striking to demand the abolition of a law which threatens their job security. The 4-day-old strike has crippled hundreds of car, shipbuilding and other plants. The new law was passed in a special parliamentary session with no opposition members present.

The new law makes it easier for businesses to lay off employees en masse, something unheard of in South Korea. The government had tried to buy off workers by granting greater rights to unionise, but the new rights won't take effect for several years.

The car and shipbuilding industries were hardest hit. In addition to the leading car maker Hyundai, three other major manufacturers stood idle. South Korea is the world's sixth-largest car-maker, and gets about 30 percent of the world's shipbuilding orders.

Other key industries, such as semiconductors and electronics, as well as railroads and other utilities, have remained largely unaffected. The current strike is the nation's first organised nation-wide general strike. In the late 1980s, there was a lot of spontaneous worker and student unrest.

SAPTAL RAM: ATTACKED BY SCREWS

On 16th November 1986, Satpal Ram went for a meal at the Sky Blue Restaurant, Lozells, Birmingham. He was attacked by a group of six white people who threw plates and glasses at him, one of them stabbing him in the face with a broken glass. After being stabbed twice Satpal took out a small knife (which he used at work to open packages) and tried to warn of his attacker. His attacker went at Satpal again and bleeding and in fear of his life he stabbed him in self defence. The attacker died after refusing medical treatment.

At Satpal's trial, most of the prosecution evidence came from the group that attacked him and witness statements taken by the police from the Bengali speaking staff, were later disowned by them. Satpal's defence of self-defence was changed by his barrister at their only meeting (of forty minutes) shortly before the trial. Vital evidence from defence witnesses was not understood by the all white jury as no interpreter was provided. The judge said that he would interpret, despite the fact that he could not speak a word of Bengali!

This farce of a trial meant that Satpal was found guilty of murder, without the jury even considering if his actions were in self-defence. And at his appeal on the 24th November 1995 the judges still only looked at the evidence given by the five others who took part in the attack.

At the moment Satpal is in segregation and he is moved every 28 days to another prison. He has been attacked several times by screws, going on hunger strike, after being beaten and racially abused in Full Sutton prison. Satpal continues to campaign to prove his innocence and refuses to be silenced. Recently on Friday the 22nd November Satpal was again attacked by a screw called Hammond in Brixton prison. This attack took place after a visit from a supporter, during which the screw insulted her child and Satpal protested - he was then taken away and given a beating.

A picket of Brixton prison was immediately organised for Monday 25th, with supporters coming down from Birmingham. The picket attracted some local press and importantly made the screws aware that they can't just beat someone up in the privacy of their sadistic little prison regime without some kind of come-back. After giving out a load of leaflets highlighting Satpal's plight, the loud and vocal picket moved on to the visitors centre of the prison (at the end of visiting time so as not to disrupt other prisoners visits) where the embarrassed screws ran around in a flap, and then to the back of the prison to let the prisoners hear that something was going on.

It seems likely that the attack was timed to purposely discredit Satpal and ruin his attempts to be moved to the midlands prison HMP Gartree, where he would be closer to his family . He has been 'ghosted' in segregation from prison to prison since March following an assault on him by prison officers in Long Lartin. More recently Satpal had been moved out of segregation and taken of continuous assessment, his behaviour giving 'no cause for concern', and he was promised a move to Gartree.

But as is standard if a prisoner is assaulted they end up being disciplined and branded a trouble-maker. This is just one more incident in Satpal's ten year history of injustice and brutal victimisation at the hands of the British legal system.

The fight to free Satpal continues!

Messages of support can be sent to; Satpal Ram E94164

Though since he is often moved without warning he can be contacted via;

Birmingham Prisoner Solidarity, PO Box 3241, Saltley, Birmingham B8 3DP and

Free Satpal Campaign, c/o 101. Villa RD, Handsworth, Birmingham, B191 nh, phone-0121 507 1618.

NAFTA: AUTO RESTRUCTURING AND MEXICO'S MAQUILADORA ZONE

This article was sent to us by comrades in North America, and details how NAFTA is part of a broader agenda by global capitalism to slice up the world and make more profits. It puts telling arguments as to why workers in the north should be in solidarity with those in the south - after all, whose wages are we going to be equalised to by this "free market"?

The author is a member of the Candian Autoworkers Union, the leading private sector union in Canada with a good tradition of internationalism. As a side point, it's worth noting that the CAW has just won agreements from the US Big Three car makers not to contract out production away from core plants. An insight into the CAW can be given by the union's leader, Buzz Hargrave, saying "If you fight, you can win," and "You can't win if you don't challenge managements' rights." It's hard to imagine John Monks or Bill Morris challenging management's rights, or even fighting to win or even fighting. The deal between the union and GM was reached only after a three-week strike but deals were negotiated with Ford and Chrysler.

It's now expected that limits to a corporation's ability to outsource work will now be a key demand by other unions across the country as companies continue to shed workers.

Globalisation and the neo-liberal economic policies which go with it is the major problem facing the international workers movement today. We will continue to examine these themes in future issues of Black Flag.
...

The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) is a trilateral treaty designed to transform the North American continent into a single economic zone. It will facilitate the realisation of global economic order that will further entrench an increasingly unhindered global, market based economic system; and further erode, if not preclude, public policy involving significant state intervention in this economic system.

The origins of NAFTA can be traced back to the Reagan /Bush "Enterprise for the Americas" initiative which envisioned the creation of a free trade zone throughout the entire western hemisphere, including the Caribbean basin, Central and South America. NAFTA constituted the next logical step towards that end following the 1988 Canada-US Free Trade Agreement (FTA). The NAFTA treaty was signed on August 12 1992 and began to go into effect on January 1 1994. Superficial and largely ineffective side agreements on labour and environmental issues were also signed and implemented.

To properly understand the significance of NAFTA, it is vital to view it as a means to facilitate a sweeping multi-faceted or multi-tiered process of corporate restructuring within the context of the global capitalist economic system. This is particularly apparent with corporate restructuring in the auto industry throughout North America since the early 1990s. This restructuring has been marked by the widespread implementation of the lean or Toyota production system; the proliferation of non-union, Japanese transplants employing lean production methods; successive waves of plant closures by parts manufacturers and the US Big Three car manufacturers; and the growth of an enormous, export-oriented Mexican car and parts industry which also underwent major corporate restructuring during this period.

Content Rules

The two free trade agreements made changes to vehicle content rules. The 1988 FTA ended the 1965 Canada-US Auto Pact's requirement for a 60% Canadian content in vehicles (in Canada) and replaced it with a 50% North American requirement, with North American defined as US and Canada. NAFTA raised the North American content to 62.5% but redefined North American to include Mexico. These changes made it possible for corporations such as General Motors (GM) to relocate as much of their production wherever they wished in any of the three NAFTA countries without being penalised by tariffs. By giving corporations this unprecedented degree of capital mobility, NAFTA also made it increasingly possible for them to restructure their operations as they saw fit and to engage in corporate whipsawing.

Whipsawing is a practice in which corporations draw workers from different plants into defacto bidding wars by competing with each other for work. In these bidding wars those plants with local unions that accept what leading North American auto executives commonly refer to as "competitive agreements" stand the best chance of either retaining existing work or acquiring new work. These are also called Modern Operating Agreements or Living Agreements (Living agreements can be re-opened at any time with the consent of both parties). Significantly, the most competitive agreements are those with the most contract concessions and in which only the union surrenders its rights.

The car corporations' desire for "competitive agreements" highlights how the lean system of production fits into this scenario. Acceptance of the Toyota or lean system and the contract concessions that go with it are the principal criteria used to determine whether particular plants or operations will continue to operate and /or attract new work. The lean system means continuous restructuring of work processes and specific work operations in pursuit of "continuous improvement" and the corporate objective of eliminating "waste". It specifically involves restructuring focused on the shop floor and at the plant level, with the goals of maximising output with minimal manpower and "rightsizing" or downsizing the workforce (corporate speak for sacking workers).

Corporate whipsawing in the car and auto parts industries enables the car corporations to accelerate the drive to lean production as fully as possible throughout their organisations. This shows that there is a direct and complementary relationship between lean's implementation; phenomena such as the waves of plant closures throughout North America over the past 15 to 20 years(ie GM's announcement in 1991 that it would close 21 plants and eliminate 74,000 jobs) and the implementation of free trade agreements such as NAFTA consciously crafted to facilitate this restructuring of corporations to make them more competitive in the increasingly global economic system.

Understanding the relationship between these things is essential to understanding what has caused the dramatic decline of the United Autoworkers (UAW) union in the US. In 1979 UAW membership stood at about 1.5 million ; now it is only slightly more than half that number. Furthermore the UAW's pitiful decline has been a major cause of the decline of the US labour movement. Today only about 9% of private sector workers belong to a union.

Mexico Factors In

Mexico has factored into this situation principally because the implementation of NAFTA allowed car and auto parts companies to locate as much production as they want in any of the countries that signed the treaty. To consider what this has already meant in very stark terms, reflect on the following statistics:

In 1986 20,500 vehicles were exported northward from Mexico

In 1995 the US Big Three alone exported 385,000 cars and 168,000 trucks northward from Mexico, while Nissan and Volkswagen exported 225,000 northward, out of a total of 778,000 vehicles from Mexico. (38 times the 1986 level)

In 1992, the year NAFTA was signed, auto parts companies (including GM & Ford subsidiaries) exported US$6.4 billion worth of parts northward from Mexico

In 1995, the figure rose to US$9.5 billion.

In the same period, the number of auto parts plants based in Mexico rose form 192 to 210 and the number of workers employed from 156,000 to 210,000.

Approximately 450,000 Mexican workers are now employed in the car and auto parts industries, which now account for 21% of Mexico's manufacturing exports.

Consider the situation at GM's Mexican operations. In 1981 GM employed a Mexican workforce of 7,000. Today it employs about 75,000 in 54 facilities. Furthermore if GM's Mexican operations were a single corporation, it would be the 135th largest in the world. Such developments leave no doubt that GM dramatically expanded the its Mexican operations both before and after NAFTA. In the meantime GM reduced its Canadian workforce by more than one third, from about 40,000 to about 26,000.

In view of these things it is essential to consider the situation of both automotive workers in Mexico and Mexican workers in general, and to see that they face horrendous problems of their own. The principal problems faced by Mexico's workers are the low wages they are paid and the poor conditions they live in. Indeed Mexican workers' wages generally range from as little as US$4 per day to $1.25 per hour. The latter is the rate paid to workers in the US Big Three's assembly operations in Mexico. The particular problems faced by Mexican workers in the industry reveal the very same forces that have eroded the gains made by their US and Canadian counterparts since the 1930s.

An article headlined "Detroit South" in Business Week (March 16th 1992 edition) stated that, "In Detroit's view, Mexico's young workforce adapts more quickly to new industrial regimes than entrenched workers in the Rust Belt," and went on to say that this workforce is "amenable to the manufacturing revolution." Simply stated, Business Week was reporting that Detroit believed Mexican autoworkers were more adaptable to the lean system than traditional US blue collar workers. To further appreciate this, it is only necessary to draw on a brilliant article by Kevin J.Middlebrook entitled "The Politics of Industrial Restructuring: Transnational Firms Search for Flexible Production in the Mexican Automobile Industry", which appeared in Comparative Politics in April 1991. It perceptively starts from the premise that "restructuring in the auto industry is fundamentally a global process" and emphasises that the shift to the construction of export-oriented automotive manufacturing facilities in central and northern Mexico has coincided with efforts to redefine labour relations in the new plants to lower labour costs and limit union influence in the manufacturing process. Notably, auto corporations have taken advantage of the passive unions in the Mexican automotive industry, which are usually linked to the government controlled Confederation of Mexican Workers (CTM). Within the car industry, CTM unions have obstructed efforts to unify workers in different auto plants and in effect allowed the corporations to blackmail workers at older, more established plants to gain greater management flexibility.

A trend has emerged where older plants with better paid workers and more rights often saw their operations restructured or closed, while new, comparatively more lean production facilities were built that employed younger, more poorly paid workers with fewer rights and less, if any, union experience. In short, Middlebrook recognised that workers were being subjected to a phenomenon similar in nature to whipsawing and were on the receiving end of exactly the same type of corporate restructuring which autoworkers in the US and Canada have faced.

Mexican autoworkers and other Mexican labour activists are quick to acknowledge that such things have happened and they see similarities between what has been taking place in the automotive industry there and in the rest of North America.

Some of the most compelling evidence of just how harmful this restructuring has been for Mexican workers can be seen in the rapid growth of car and parts plants within and in close proximity to the Maquiladora Zone and in the conditions of life for the workers in these plants. Many believe the Maquiladora Zone shows what the future holds for the entire Mexican working class, once NAFTA has fully come into effect.

The Maquiladora Zone is located throughout the US-Mexican border region. It is only a few miles wide but it is 2,000 miles long and includes several urban centres which are immediately adjacent or in close proximity to US border cities, both large and small.

There are over 3,100 maquilas or foreign-owned industrial plants producing mainly for export in the Maquiladora Zone. These currently employ more than 670,000 workers and produced 39% of Mexico's exports in 1995.

Besides car and auto parts there are numerous textile, metal and wood products plants and a rapidly growing number of electronics plants especially in Tijuana in north-west Mexico. The transnational corporations that own most of these facilities are only required to pay taxes based on the value added to goods while they are in Mexico.

These transnational corporations profit from employment of workers who are not only paid less than workers elsewhere in Mexico, but receive few, if any, benefits. Most are under 25 and work in plants with no union whatsoever. Those who are in a union are usually represented by the government controlled CTM, whose national leadership has repeatedly agreed to and helped enforce a freeze on workers' wages that holds them far below Mexico's rate of inflation. Nonetheless, it should be pointed out that there are some dissident local unions within CTM. These unions have tried, and in some cases succeeded in functioning like legitimate workers' organisations.

Mexican Labour Law

Another problem workers in the Maquiladora Zone face is that they are kept in the dark about Mexico's progressive but poorly enforced labour laws. Indeed the maquilas have been able to operate outside of Mexico's federal labour law since the 1970s when these plants began to be built in any numbers. They were built to order according to Kathryn Kopinak of the University of Western Ontario in a recently published book about the Maquiladora Zone, "Desert Capitalism". Because the plants operate outside federal labour law, workers in the Maquiladora Zone are routinely denied the right to organise independent unions that are genuinely accountable to them and have even faced police violence when they tried.

Ciudad Juarez is a city of over a million people located next to El Paso, Texas, and has a thriving maquila industry. Few of the workers are unionised and almost all of those who are belong to a CTM union. As a direct consequence of this most strikes in Ciudad Juarez are wildcat strikes organised by temporary coalitions of workers that form around specific issues and then dissolve once each struggle is over.

In 1995 there was a series of wildcat strikes over wages in Juarez. One of these took place at a Zenith plant and another at a Ford plant. Both of these strikes were actively opposed by CTM officials representing the workers in these plants. The CTM had negotiated wage increases for the workers within the limits of the wage freeze. Yet both of these illegal strikes won wage settlements that were superior to what the CTM had negotiated.

Health and safety laws are likewise poorly enforced in the Maquiladora Zone. The situation with hazardous waste materials labelling is indicative of the reprehensible situation that prevails with respect to worker health and safety. The text of the labelling is often only in English. Containers from Canadian firms such as Custom Trim Ltd, of Waterloo, Ontario, have even been found with bilingual labels - in English and French! There is a callous disregard for the health and safety of the young women workers who make up half the workforce in the border region (i.e. unprotected exposure of women of child bearing age to soldering fumes in electronics plants, such as Zenith at Matamoros). Sexual harassment is also overt and rampant throughout the region.

Environmental laws are likewise poorly enforced throughout Mexico and toxic pollution is an extremely serious problem in the Maquiladora Zone. Domingo Gonzalez, a leading environmental activist in the border region and a prominent member of the tri-national Coalition for Justice in the Maquiladoras based in San Antonio, Texas perceptively described the Rio Grande which runs through the border region as a toxic time bomb created by massive poisoning of the water table.

Two incidents that occurred in the early 1990s involving severe toxic pollution dramatise the seriousness of the situation. A sampling taken by the US-based National Toxics Campaign from a ditch next to a GM Fischer Body Bumper plant in Matamoros revealed the presence of the hydrocarbon xyklene in a concentration of 2,700,000 parts per billion, (about 6,000 times the US standard).

The same hydrocarbon was found by the National Toxics Campaign at 53,000 times the US standard behind a Matamoros plant owned by the Stepan Chemical Corporation of Northfield, Illinois. Stepan is arguably the worst toxic polluter in the region, and the Coalition for Justice in the Maquiladoras made a video about it called "Stepan Chemical: The Poisoning of a Mexican Community".

More recently US activist organisation Public Citizen, in an extensive investigation of the environmental crisis in the border region, found that the situation has worsened since NAFTA. The findings disputed the claims of NAFTA's supporters who have consistently tried to argue that the environmental situation would improve as a result of economic development facilitated by the treaty. Most importantly, this toxic pollution is routinely located either in the midst of, or very close to, the colonias or residential districts where the maquila workers live. In some cases ditches with the stench of toxic pollution coming from them run right by workers' houses. The children of these workers play immediately around these ditches as well.

Living conditions and the lack of economic infrastructure have not been seriously addressed since NAFTA. Most workers live in homes that are little or no better than shacks, without heat, running water, acceptable toilet facilities and in some cases electricity. Almost all the roads that run by their homes are unpaved and the colonias in which they are located typically have no garbage collection. One colonia in Matamoros is built over what used to be a rubbish dump. As a result the danger of cholera outbreaks is all too real. These conditions exist in large measure because of the low wages paid to the workers, rapid and uncontrolled economic growth and the fact that the transnational corporations operating in the Maquiladora Zone typically do not pay municipal taxes.

The Peso Crisis

In addition, the immediate economic situation of the workers, many of whom migrated to northern Mexico due to the wide availability of work there, has grown considerably worse since NAFTA, despite NAFTA's supporters' claims that the treaty would produce rising incomes for Mexico's workers. The most immediate cause of this development was the sharp devaluation of the Mexican peso at the end of 1994. Because most of the goods purchased in the Maquiladora Zone are bought with US dollars the purchasing power of the pesos paid to Mexican workers there dropped by about one half. This development was especially brutal because many of these workers were witnessing a sharp drop in the real income of Mexico's workers for the second time in about a decade.

During the 1980s the wages of all Mexican workers were cut roughly in half when the government limited wage increases as part of a package of economic reforms. Those economic reforms were designed to liberalise or restructure Mexico's economy, in response to the country's debt crisis and pressure from the International Monetary Fund. The reforms were meant to make Mexico open for business. In the aftermath of the 1994 peso crisis, it became common for families in the Maquiladora Zone to need at least three wage earners to maintain a subsistence income. At the same time the sharp decline in the value of the peso also yielded a sharp drop in labour costs for employers in the border region and a sudden surge in their plants' profitability. This is in turn stimulated additional foreign investment in the Maquiladora Zone, more uncontrolled economic growth and more corporate restructuring.

In short, the corporate restructuring and greatly increased mobility of capital that were facilitated by the implementation of NAFTA have been, and continue to be, synonymous with the economic and ecological plunder of Mexico's Maquiladora Zone by transnational corporations. These very same corporations, particularly in the auto industry, are relentlessly restructuring and downsizing their operations elsewhere in Mexico, the US and Canada at the expense of workers to become lean and yield a higher rate of profit.

In conclusion, these things illustrate the kind of barbarism that is being wrought in North America by the global corporate agenda, and this barbarism will not be stopped until we understand the forces that are creating it and recognise and act on the need for workers to build a movement of resistance on a multi national basis.

Bruce Allen, Canadian Autoworkers Local 199
Coalition for Justice in the Maquiladoras

NEWS FROM THE KATE SHARPLEY LIBRARY

The cataloguing of the British Isles' voluminous Anarchist archive is trundling ahead, so that the collection of English language pamphlets is now on a database, and the books will be following after. Those who've been waiting for these catalogues with bated breath can get a regular update on that, and learn more about Anarchist history, in KSL (the Bulletin of the Kate Sharpley Library), which has resumed quarterly publication after a spell of "exciting irregularity". Issue No 6 (with the "lost Anarchists" spot, an account of Kate Sharpley, and more) is now available for 50p + SAE from:

Kate Sharpley Library
c/o BM Hurricane
London
WC1N 3XX

Also in this issue is a list of KSL publications, and future publishing projects. We would recommend that anyone clearing out their cupboards of libertarian material should get in touch with KSL to make sure that historical gems are not lost forever. Regular readers of Black Flag should not need reminding that unless we know and control our own history it will be taken and used for their own purposes by academic mercenaries and their allies. The Kate Sharpley Library is a vital part of the fight to prevent our history (as a friend put it ) "being re-written to take account of nobodies".

JSA: VOLUNTEERING AND WORKFARE

The Job Seekers Allowance (JSA) is being introduced to provide a reserve army of cheap labour for the bosses. However, the government is obliged to ensure adequate provision of welfare, for the unemployed, aged and infirm, lives up to certain international standards. The voluntary sector's role is to meet those standards with funding from certain bodies such as the National Lottery. That wouldn't be so bad if the voluntary sector avoided being manipulated into upholding the values of the government of the day. This occurs because social and political debate is forbidden within projects and will alienate the client group. That of course is pure nonsense and would only be true if we lived under a totalitarian regime, where the state would provide all "welfare" and those considered undeserving would simply be put to death.

While we would be rightly alarmed if projects were used to recruit people to political parties, to forbid debate denies our basic civil liberties. The JSA will force the poor out of any meaningful social and political debate in this area.

The government encouraged the shift from statutory towards voluntary provision of welfare both as a cost cutting exercise and to re-establish Victorian values on the 19th century philanthropic model. Workfare programmes will be introduced along with a hierarchy of volunteers. These volunteers will be initially divided between those who have free time and want to help out and those who are coerced under the threat of benefit cuts.

At this point the true volunteers will be separated and charged with supervising the coerced volunteers, who will of course be perceived as being lazy, shifty, too critical, deviant and diseased. Those with any political outlook will be placed at the very bottom, accused of agitating and endangering the future funding of the project.

One may consider this scenario far fetched, but the processes were already in place for its introduction during the early 80s with the Youth Training Scheme(YTS). In the late 80s this was replaced by Employment Training but neither were challenged in earnest because they established the skivvy mentality. Those involved in promoting YTS and ET alleged they were perfect models but if that was the case where are they now? They were merely part of a greater plan and served only to pave the way for a passive and compliant workforce for both private employers and voluntary agencies. This can only mean a severe drop in the quality of life for many because we will no longer have organisational bodies required to both maintain and win our rights.

Therefore voluntary agencies must seriously stop to consider whose agendas they may be following. The need to seek their own agendas in favour of their specific client groups who should be defining their won needs is paramount. The jargon that alleges "needs led empowerment" should be placed deeper into reality where decision making is honestly needs led rather than being paid lip-service to. Also, we must abolish the JSA - don't adapt!

Both paid and voluntary workers should join unions (preferably anarcho-syndicalist ones) to protect their won rights and to ensure there is no abuse of the client group's rights. Unity is Strength

Graham Short

LE DRAPEAU NOIR: INTERNATIONAL DAY AGAINST POLICE BRUTALITY

The Swiss group "Le Drapeau Noir" has initiated a world-wide "International Day Against Police Brutality" on Saturday March 15th, 1997,. They say in their call for the International Day, "We are tired of the police brutality. No more beatings! No more racism! No more "mistakes"! It's time to do something, to support those who have been hurt, to denounce those who - being protected by a badge and uniform - commit crimes, to show we won't stand it anymore.

They call for demonstrations, teach-ins, marches, throughout the world. Responses have already come from groups in France, Canada and the US.

If you have access, their web sites are:

in english:
http://www.mygale.org/06/zebwis/cops.htm

en francais:
http://www.mygale.org/06/zebwis/flics.htm

FREE WATER: VICTORY IN SIGHT FOR ANTI WATER CHARGE CAMPAIGN

For almost 3 years, working class people in Dublin have been fighting water charges. On 13th November 1996 as activists picketed the council estimate meetings which set the following year's budgets, the councillors lost their nerve and refused to set a water charge for the following year, referring the question instead to the government. At the same time the courts rebelled and adjourned cases all over Dublin, awarding costs to the non-payers who were heard on the day and in one case expenses as well to every one of the 95 who turned up defend themselves.

Anarchists from the Workers Solidarity Movement have been involved in this campaign since its inception three years ago, including the campaign secretary and another member of the co-ordinating committee. The campaign has grown in this time to 15,000 paid up householders with 80% of households eligible to pay either behind or not having paid any of the charges. This mirrors the anti-poll tax movement of 1988-92.

The WSM has argued against Militant that it is only the power of the working- class organising itself and taking decisions by itself which puts fear into the hearts of the misleaders of the current political system. Militant have been pushing that the campaign should support candidates in elections (guess whose?) even though other individuals have been elected on non-payment platforms and then gone on to support implementation of the charges. (Sound familiar?)

The real lesson opf the campaign is that we can only change things by acting ourselves and not by passively supporting one or the other 'trustworthy' politician or political party. Capitalism will only be overturned when the working-class take things over and put an end to privilege and power. The anti - water charge campaign has taken small steps right across Dublin towards rebuilding class confidence and community solidarity. It has laid the beginnings of networks and contacts and given people the confidence to find the ability within to break the law and take on the powers that be.

SPEZZANO ALBANESE

Spezzano Albanese is a small town of 6000 situated in the Sila, in Calabria. The albanese community where one speaks again of the old albanais and orthodox religion.

The interview was carried out by 2 comrades of the group who went to southern Italy this summer. The remarks are from Domenico Liquore, one of the oldest actors in this experience.

Drapeau Noir: How did the Municipal Federation of the Base become constituted?

A: The FMB is the result of an intervention for the past 20 years by the local anarchist group which began to agitate at the end of 72 beginning 73. The FMB was born during 92. All the activity which we have deployed was always characterised by a particular attention given to local and territorial problems, without ever ignoring national and international issues. For example, the death of Franco, the reconstruction of the CNT in Spain, which brought about a debate at the national level in Italy, was resumed across different interventions in Spezzano. In the region of Cosance, where there are different groups, there was talk of creating a Calabrian federation. Those were the years of the strong social movements in Italy. We were at the beginning of the 70s, after the Massacre of the Piazza Fontana. Here, this was expressed in a strong student and unemployed movement. There were 2 textile factories which were threatened with closure, so there was a movement of workers of Inteca, etc. Our group quickly understood that it couldn't limit itself to an ideological intervention and it was thought that our principles must be matched with the practice of the struggle which was self experimenting in these times. The group was made up of students, unemployed, some building workers and dailies (?). The only group not represented was perhaps women. Our eternal problem while there were more and more women in the collectives coming out of these struggles. From these struggles were organised the first Committees of the Unemployed, of Workers, which formed the first mass structures which wanted a national extent/ size. In these structures there weren't only anarchists. They were completely autonomous from the specific work of the anarchist group. A dual vision of the organisation - on one side, the specific groups, on the other, the mass organisations. This work was carried out until 1977, the years in which the anarchists of this place served as a rallying point for the whole Castovillari region. The other Marxist movements, such as Lutta Continua, which were very strong in this region have completely disappeared. At a national level in those years we started to talk of the reconstruction of the USI (Unione Sindacale Italiana - AIT section). There were 2 ÒcongressesÓ, one in Rome the other in genes, from where emerged 2 tendencies. Here, we have fought much for anarcho-syndicalism because the intervention which we make brought about our feeling the need of a union structure already before the debate took place nationally. We participated in the national debate and it was reported that the Italian situation didn't correspond to our manner of reading reality. Which we brought about with the positions more in accord with our view. One saw in the national debate a mainly ideological discourse, of almost personal polemics and one perceived that the USI wasn't born from the world of work but from the wishes of certain anarchists who simply changed their name. During this time, in Spezzano, the anarcho-syndicalist discourse was building itself in the committees of struggle which engulfed a vast territory and were composed not only of anarchists, but also of comrades from extra-parliamentary groups, some from Proletarian Democracy or Marxist formations and the majority were workers, unemployed, etc. While the birth of a true mass structure was proposed, at a national level, there was little anarchist presence in the struggles which were raging in this period (hospital workers, airport workers, etc) And the USI was born inside the specific movements incapable of regrouping dissidents from the official unions. This situation brought about, at the Congress of Genes, the 2 different positions. On 1 side certain comrades wanted the renaissance of the USI, on the other were those who prioritised work within the base structures (e.g. temporary school workers). We did not see ourselves in either of these motions and on returning to Spezzano it was decided to unify all the different structures of the territory in one Union Sindacale de Zone (USZ). The USZ formed in 78, did not adhere to the CAD (Committee of Direct Action) formed in Bologna after the Genes Congress, nor to the USI constituted in the Parma Congress in 1979. With the USZ, work was done for more than 5 years on the problems of the world of work, unemployment & became interested in the theme of territorial opposition to the town hall. From this communalist and municipalist current came, in 1992, the FMB. . I would like it to be understood - the diversified mass structures, which were doing a specific job, with the USZ, found unity which translated onto larger territory. It passed from a classical syndicalist vision to a complex intervention which put together not only workplace issues but also the other realities present in the communal territory. It was begun to look at the administrative choices which were denounced in public interventions for their clientist character and blackmail, for the choices discriminatory and repressive, surely this must concern us. There were struggles over health, education & the question of fraud in the commune. This drove to create a rapport of struggle with the communal administration which tried to stop our meetings. Sympathy was growing towards us. There were 200 in the organisation of which 30 were very active

DN: Which were the left groups working in the same terrain at the same time?

A: In 76, Luta Continua disappeared. In 77, the Marxist left came back into parliamentary institutions as Proletarian Democracy. There were some M-Ls and Workers Autonomy who never had much weight with us. There werenÕt any groups organised and already in 77 our group was the only reference in the whole district.

DN: Which party controlled the Town Hall?

A: The mayor was Communist Party, but was worse than a Christian democrat. Our work consisted also to make understood that political membership didn't change things deeply. . Power corrupts. There the libertarian ideology of the USZ could be seen and it was agreed to propagate this idea, even if it meant hard struggles with the base of the PC whose leaders worked up against us. There were moments where the confrontation tended towards being physical. In 92 the magistrate charged the mayor and a group of councillors . People began to understand that everything we had been denouncing since the end of the 70s wasn't just affabulations. This made people more interested in our activities. Before 83, in full conflict with the communal admin, the mayor often defied us to denounce to the magistrate his dealings knowing this was against our logic and our praxis. In 83, some of the workers in the USZ, after a big debate at the personal level, decided to take the matter before the magistrate. A year later, following the enquiry, a split occurred in the PC. In 84, to keep his place, the mayor was obliged to buy a councillor of the MSI (fascists). In 85, during the electoral period, we realised the opportunity to create an alternative to this situation. There were strong pressures to present a list )of candidates) however over the years we developed an abstentionist practice. . The message got across at the national level but in the locality the illusion of being able to change things by elections was tenacious. And in one effect, a civic list was presented in which we refused to participate. This list, in an indirect manner, had libertarian aspirations and took back many of the methods which we had used effectively in the previous years. With time, it changed practice and objectives in defending the same interests as the previous lists. While the civic list was being constituted we recognised that a libertarian response, to explain again the reasons for our abstentionism at national and local level, a Federation Municipal of Base which wanted to be an alternative to the power of the town hall. And while the others made their electoral campaign, we set up a Committee for the FMB in an attempt to gather together everyone who saw themselves in the discourse of self - organisation and direct action in opposition to the choice of abdication of power in favour of the municipal council. . The FMB was as such an anarchist proposal and quickly heard from a large part of the population. IN the full electoral campaign, a constitutive assembly of the FMB was held. The Town Hall was made up of the civic list, socialists, CDs and the PC in opposition. The mayor was from the civic list.

DN: What were the relations between the FMB and the communal administration?

A: The FMB posed an alternative. It was set up on that basis. It has always wanted to be something other than the power of the Town Hall and that's why we defined ourselves as an alternative. Relations with the Town Hall were conflictual. In what concerned the organisation the FMB took into account all past experience and volunteered a complex structure. A mass organisation which didn't want to be only about the bread and butter issues of the workplace, unemployment and the school, but also political. It had to be the bearer of a project which makes a glance at what could be a future libertarian society, that is to say a complex organisation of the society which prefigured the libertarians. In the FMB were workplace union structures but they gathered the different social categories in the civic union.

DN: What's the civic union?

A: The workers were not only those who fought for their rights but also citizens enrolled in a common territorial theme. All the particular structures had the right to sit in the civic union. This structure organises in the district services, education and health in opposition to the choice of the administration and offer a different way of managing and deciding. When we began to talk about the FMB, we were afraid of being misunderstood by the libertarian movement, of being accused of being ÒinterclassistsÓ, of constituting the UIL Committee of Citizens (UIL is a right wing union) proposed by Benfento. (?Who he) That was what made us afraid but it was the logical follow-on from our intervention over the years. It must be stated that our conception of municipalism is different from that of Bookchin. Communalism is very varied. In Italy, there have been, historically, proposals in the communalist tradition. Berneri is one of the greatest agitators in this tradition and I believe he would have much to say to Bookchin, as he would to Malatesta, in his later years when he began to talk of gradualism. It is certain he would not have agreed with Bookchin.

DN: What does Bookchin propose?

A: He proposes that anarchists should become like the other parties, present themselves for election, to manage power in the town halls. ÒSince one is anarchist, one could give an impulse to a democracy of the base and directÓ> We believe that to enter into the electoral game is to lose to anarchism its specificity and its values. Anarchists refuse the delegation of power. They can never create a party. To accept power and to say that the others are in bad faith and that we would be better, is to act as if a party of the society, whether you like it or not, which would be obliged to force non-anarchists towards direct democracy. We have refused this logic and affirm that all organisations must come from the base.

DN: How do you define communalism?

A: It is the interest borne at the district. The commune understands about the world of work, civil life, etc. In intervening at a municipal level, we become involved in not only the world of work but also the life of the community. Every time the Spezzano council make a choice, the Civic Union of the FMB make counter proposals, which aren't presented to the Council but proposed for discussion in the country to raise the people's level of consciousness. Whether they like it or not the Town Hall is obliged to take account of these proposals. For example, it was proposed that the rates and the land use plans and its variants should be discussed in a general assembly. It is clear that the administrators have made choices which we have fought and continue to fight, but this has served to make understood that it is possible, by positioning oneself as an alternative, to make alternative proposals & manage it properly.

DN: We read in Umanita Nova that there was one assembly where 4 mayors were invited. How did you arrive at that decision and what was brought to the FMB?

A: We have made a square (?) over 4 communes because we felt that our experience should go beyond Spezzano. In effect, the FMB is already known since Spezzano is the main place in the canton and because our activity and public intervention was not only heard in the country around but by many passing through. We think that we must make a qualitative leap to promote the formation of identical structures in the neighbouring areas where there already exists sympathy for the FMB. IN areas such as Terranova, Tarsai, etc, research on services and administrative choices was done. We have been to 4 communes where they have been given provisional rates and studied them and looked at the choices involved. It must be said that in this work we have some facilities because after 20 years of existence not one commune dares refuse what we ask out of fear of public denunciation. In this study, a document was produced where we laid out the choices and put counter proposals at a departmental level. Those proposals which touched services, health, education and town planning were addressed not just to Spezzano, but also to Terranova, Tarsia and San Lorenzo. AT the end of this work we made the assembly where we invited the mayors for them to see the functioning and critiques of the assembly. The assembly was positive because it created the condition for this type of intervention to grow to the whole district. After the summer holidays, it's the type of intervention we are going to develop. Today, nationally, this type of intervention is much discussed. The fairs of self-organisation area mirror of all which in Italy turns to the question of Communalism versus municipalism or self government (the 2 terms used in Italy - municipalism a la Bookchin or communalism which we prefer)

DN: Do other experiences of this type exist in Italy? Or others who work from the same perspective?

A: When we were thinking about the Civic Union we were afraid that many comrades would misunderstand our step. This led us to little publicise the FMB. The editors of Umanita Nova we made only a report of the initiatives leading to the FMB without explaining what they truly were made up of. We immediately received a quantity of letters which asked for further explanations. In effect we got the contrary reactions which we thought we would. This got us to broadcast our step. It was discovered that other realities agitated on the municipalist problem. We made contact with a network of small entities which were co-ordinated from Bologna. From it was born a first congress. At the same time the Liga Nord were making a discussion of federalism in this manner. On one side, in Italy, there is a reactionary federalism, racist and conservative, borne by The Liga, and on the other, in opposition, libertarian federalism was revalued with its historic ideological roots. Comrades of Milan, Turin and others had the idea of a fair of self- organisation to confront all the realities which are active in the domaine of municipalism, communalism or simply self -organisation, as an alternative to the logic of domination. At Alessandria, the first fair of self- organisation happened and many different currents were present. This fair linked all ages and it became more important as much on a quantitative level as a qualitative. There were also some publications (the book of Sandro Vaccaro and mine). I would like to reaffirm that municipalism wasn't invented by Bookchin. Municipalism is part of the historic ideological patrimony of the anarchists. Bookchin has taken a type of this theme and put his things inside it, things which are not shared by all, including us. We refuse the logic which poses to the anarchists a candidature which obliges them to manage power and which could lose them their identity. This type of logic can arise from real base movements but the anarchists must have to capacity to defend an alternative project. Otherwise, they risk becoming no better than the other parties. Those comrades who follow the logic of Bookchin and present themselves for municipal elections are few and are not taken to be in the general anarchist movement.

DN: In your book, you speak about the attitudes and language that the anarchists have taken to the Marxist movement. You consider it embarrassing and negative, why?

A: I think that the anarchists, historically, have an inferiority complex towards Marxism (also in the Spanish revolution I believe many errors were due to this complex). If one takes as an example the concept of class and class struggle, we still retain the Marxist conception of the proletariat. In the anarchist movement, the class is not only the proletariat but all the exploited, dominated, those submitting to power. One goes on to speak of the exploited, of the dominated, inside of which we have the proletariat, but not only. When we begin to speak only of the proletariat, our logic is Marxist. Even our syndicalism, which is complex and not only supportive (anarcho-syndicalism ), has submitted to the same logic. The Spanish CNT has at its core a strong conception of the proletariat even though it realised communalism and self organisation. It's as if the anarchists want to use the same Marxist logic, logic in which they will be lost. If the Marxists have, as perspectives, the question of power, the anarchists must take account of all the exploited, of all the dominated and create the social structures which presage that which must be the future libertarian society. Apart from the Spanish revolution we have not succeeded in that. I think that just as the Spanish revolution must be discussed in a critical manner to separate the positive aspects and their limits.

DN: Does the FMB limit itself only to this work of counter-propositions to the Town Hall or does it seek to create alternatives on the ground?

A: We have created a co-operative, "Arcobaleno" (Rainbow) of house painters. We have also tried to organise agricultural workers and services. We want to be capable of creating self-organised work. The big merit and the goal of self- organisation is to regroup the comrades not only for political discussions on municipalism but to confront the practical experiences like the co-operatives. Beyond intervention in opposition to the institution, one wants to create alternative structures of production capable of making a glimpse of the reality of a future society.

DN: Let's be devil's advocate. Are you not afraid that your co-operative will become like the co-operatives in the north of Italy? These co-operatives, in their confrontation with the capitalist economy succeeded in achieving self exploitation, that is to say their insertion in the logic of the market which has made them lose all alternative potential.

A: The end of the co-operatives in Italy is as you say but the origin is a libertarian idea of self - organisation. They must be taken back to their origins. One could have the same fears concerning federalism: the US is federalist, Bossi (leader of the Liga Nord) is federalist, Switzerland is federalist. They have taken many of our words, such as federalism, self -organisation, etc, but should that stop us using these words? As for the co-operatives, it is sure there are some dangers especially when there isn't a strong libertarian presence. We have had many difficulties when we created the co-operative because it lacks a mentality and conception of production and working in an alternative way, in opposition to the capitalist model. Again today, there is this type of problem and contradictions. One can certainly be mistaken but if one is profoundly convinced and if the anarchist movement begins to be interested, in a practical manner, in these things and to be on the inside, there will be less of a danger of an authoritarian drift. When we are not present and only allow others the initiative, it is clear that the co-operatives shall be like Emilia and Romagna.

DN: The co-operative is an economic structure and must be accountable to the market. It is for this that I spoke to you of self-exploitation. To survive, where you create an alternative market, an alternative manner of living capable of blocking the race to consumption, which ends by denaturing it.

A: It's sure that if the co-operatives are born in an isolated manner, if they aren't inserted in a global debate which includes different realities (that is the aim of the self- organisation fair), the danger of which you speak is very real. We always have it in mind. That's why we seek to bring together all the realities, all the problems and contradictions, to seek solutions. You spoke of self- exploitation. It is certain that it is possible that in a co-operative one wins less and works more. But all that can change if there are more comrades who have input and a network of different realities. The important thing is that you do something without a boss. Decisions are taken altogether. One can make some concessions seen that which the capitalist system puts forward, because we are beginning to model an alternative society. In the anarchist movement there is a division. Certain comrades are for the supportive struggle, political, conflictual towards power. They think that the co-operatives, the self-organised groups, must be refused because they are not manageable within the capitalist system. The others think that it's necessary only to work in function to creation of co-operatives or the self-organising moments. For me, both lack something. They must be brought together, one cannot live in an antagonist manner. In a system of domination, one must be in conflict with the power and at the same time one can put forward alternative structures; these 2 attitudes are part of the same struggle against domination. On the contrary, many among us live either 100% class struggle, or a life of retirement in the fortunate isles. In both cases there is a danger of reintegration.

DN: After a long absence one is struck by the uniformity that the south has submitted to and by the push to the race of consumption. For 12 years there has existed here a quantity of different cultures and poverty could easily be distinguished from the rich. Today it seems that the social fabric might disintegrate.. People live in front of the tv where the programmes are identical to those of France. In one of the poorest regions of Italy there is an appearance of impressionable riches. One would like to know what you evaluate this process and what is your position towards these new facts.

A: The same situation can be seen which everywhere else is perhaps amplified by the fact that people identify with the tv models to have the impression that they can leave their under development. I donÕt believe that this should be something positive because this hides the contradictions that we live in. For example, in Spezzano, with time, many albanese words are replaced by Italian words. It is submitted to the tyranny of an italianising culture. The anarchists must be sensible and in this changing situation, not making it a priority of their fight but to insert it in a wider cultural reflection , to make understood that a different way of life to that proposed by consumerism and capitalism does exist. A communalist intervention could take account of this question, not to retreat but to project towards the future in a federalist discourse of respect for minority cultures. Our struggle must be global and culture forms a part of it.

DN: What do you think of Bossi's proposition of secession from Italy?

A: I can say that in the south, this type of debate doesn't exist. In Sicily, in the last regional elections, there was a tentative independentist list but it failed. There isn't a strong independentist movement here and secessionism is badly viewed. There is, on the contrary, a strong demand for administrative decentralisation. In the FMB there are also people who see federalism as a means of decentralisation. For example we are often asked why our taxes must pass through Rome, and why we can't decide ourselves on their use? Ourselves, often say that it is the community which ought to decide and not twenty people and that the logic of paying taxes to Rome which after they are returned to us in financial form. This discourse elicits much interest. If there doesn't exist an independentist sentiment, the Liga Nord is rather rejected than viewed as a project to which to adhere, it exists when even that demand to be against the state. the State with us is seen in a contradictory way. It is hated and liked at the same time, liked for the facilities it gives.

DN: What are your links today with USI?

A: We adhered to USI because we believed that , inside USI, it doesn't matter any longer what syndicate, one could have a discourse of social organisation a real project of society. Today, with the split of the USI, it was decided to stay outside. We think that it's lacking and that it will be indispensable at the moment, a great debate on anarcho-syndicalism: its ends and means. For the moment this debate does not exist. And without it we can't see what will come out of it.

INTERNET CENSORSHIP

What do the Nigerian Military Dictatorship and the Central Committee of the Socialist Workers Party have in common? Neither are very happy about their inability to control information on the internet. Obviously the danger posed by one of these groups of authoritarians is much more than the other, but the same thought processes are at play in both.

The SWP have a number of fraternal organisations internationally, known as International Socialists. An internet discussion list was set up, the IS List. In August 1995 the Central Committee banned SWP members from using this list. They gave three reasons, security, accountability and that the internet is a diversion from paper selling and being ignored in the high street. All of these are fair enough in themselves but one can't help but get the feeling they're simply worried that their members might be exposed to a few new ideas, particularly when they say "we therefore lack the means to make the list accountable to the organisations making up the Tendency" (emphasis added). You can access the document via http://www.tcp.co.uk/~johnboss/isg.

Meanwhile the Nigerian government of General Abacha has turned down a proposal by a private consortium to develop the country's telecommunications infrastructure to facilitate access to the internet.

The consortium had proposed a plan to help Nigeria catch up with other African countries such as Ghana, Zambia, Kenya and Uganda, where the Internet is already further developed. Businesses complain that Nigeria's business and trading relationships are likely to suffer for example where local exporters laboriously mail catalogues to foreign buyers, which take a month to get there, while their competitors, in Ghana, do the same in a matter of minutes electronically. When the consortium raised the money the government replied that the Internet could be detrimental to national security. There is a considerable amount of information documenting Nigeria's dismal human rights record online, and e-mail links would provide a fast and relatively secure means of communication with supproters abroad.

DEFEND BRIAN HIGGINS CAMPAIGN

Some of our readers will remember the feature on the Southwark 2 in BF207. The latest on the 2 building workers' cases is that Terry Mason is being backed by his union (EPIU) for an industrial tribunal. John Jones didn't get the backing of UCATT (arguably Britain's most corrupt union, and a strong contender for least effective) so he is taking his case via the local law centre.

The UCATT full timer for the area, Dominic Hehir, was quoted in the Irish Post about another IT case. Brian Higgins, secretary of the Building Worker rank and file group and of Northampton UCATT branch wrote to the Irish Post asking why he hadn't done the same for John Jones. Was his pending election anything to do with it (the successful IT case was actually won by another full time official).

Almost immediately Brian Higgins received a letter from UCATT connected solicitors Christian Fisher on behalf of Hehir. Referring to the letter, some BWG leaflets and Brian Higgins' pamphlet Rank and File or Broad Left - Democracy versus Bureaucracy (reviewed in BF208) the solicitor's letter stated "These publications have caused considerable loss and damage to our client" and went on to demand costs and damages with the threat of legal action.

This attempt to gag a principled opponent of the UCATT bureaucracy by a full time official is a disgrace and breaks all standards of behaviour within the labour movement. If Hehir disagrees with Brian Higgins he should say so within the labour movement, not in the bosses courts. there is a further question to be raised apart from Hehir's motives - where's he getting the money. Litigation is not cheap and a full time official's wages couldn't cover it, so where is the money coming from? If Hehir's action is successful it threatens our very right to criticise the bureaucrats. The timing of this attack is also suspect - the BWG were about to launch a major health and safety initiative in the industry, based on solidarity and direct action.

For more info contact the
Brian Higgins Defence Campaign,
c/o Colin Roach Centre,
56 Clarence Rd London E5 8SW
tel 0181-5337111.

We particularly urge any of our readers in UCATT to take up this case through their union branches.

RISE ABOVE

In May of '96 a photo-copied magazine by the name Rise Above was circulated in the town of Morrow and through other areas of Clayton county Georgia with an official circulation of 33. However more copies were made and passed out by others. Most of its contents were excerpts from other anarchist publications as well as quotes from anti-authoritarian activists, authors and bands.

On July 7th an explosion went off at the Centennial Olympic park in Atlanta, killing two and wounding others. A few days later, on the day Jason Moreland (the editor of Rise Above) returned from Florida, he was informed that the police would like to "talk with him about his publication." When Jason arrived at the police station he was told that there was a warrant out for his arrest and taken into custody - his mother fainted. The Clayton county police began investigating the magazine on July 8th (two months after it been released) when officer Peabody received a copy of the publication. However no arrest was made until after the explosion of the 27th with Jason being charged with advocating the overthrow of the Government of Georgia (O.C.G.A. 16-11-4), because of an obviously incorrect recipe for making moltov cocktails and a tiny graphic that depicted a person throwing a moltov at something the police felt resembled the capital building of Georgia.

During Jason's questioning the authorities asked him about his beliefs, his publication, read him a list of names (to see which he recognized), and about the bombing at the park. At this time he did not have a lawyer present. He spent a week in jail and his bond was set at $50,000 then later lowered to $25,000. He is now awaiting trial and is faced with a $20,000 fine and a possible 20 years in jail; all for recycling other people's work and expressing his fears and hopes for the world in which he lives.

The media coverage of Jason's arrest was all but unbiased as the few newspapers that covered the story turned Jason into a minor mad-man or a mixed up kid or as AM 750 put it a "fascist." Stressing that his co-workers thought he was weird as he had occasionally slept on the roof of his place of employment, handed out literature dealing with various topics (police brutality, racism, homelessness, etc...), and "didn't like authority." The press also grossly exaggerated the contents of Rise Above, claiming it was filled with expletives, anti-government rhetoric and anti-police cartoons completely skipping over such statements as "Anarchy & Peace," "love and unity is the key," "Wake Up!," and a host of others about self-empowerment and taking control over our own lives. One newspaper felt that Rise Above encouraged mindless violence, because of a reprinted flyer about direct action encouraging people to disrupt corporate america; and according to Jason another completely created a quote from his mother. All in all Jason hasn't been given a fair shake. Since his arrest, Jason has been asked to appear on a radio talk show about first amendment cases, has put together a benefit to help pay for his court costs (with more benefits to come) and is attempting to put out another issue of Rise Above or create a new 'zine altogether. However, he has been hindered in his political activities since he has basically become a marked man. Also he has also become concerned about rumors that Officer Peabody (the officer that began the Rise Above investigation) has been spreading rumors about "those punks from Rise Above." Another disturbing note is that GBI has been asking to talk to Jason about the bombing at the Centennial Park. I know this sounds ridiculous, but it is a sad truth. The state of Georgia is prepared to send Jason to jail for 20 years for a tiny graphic in his publication. And even though the Clayton county police don't believe that Jason has anything to do with the bombing at the Centennial Park, they have expressed their happiness in stopping "whatever he was up to," and in the process ignoring his right to freedom of speech. The American Civil Liberties Union has taken up his defense and is demanding that all charges against him be dropped. However that will be not be enough to sway the District Attorney, so his supporters are asking for you to write District Attorney Robert E. Keller demanding that all charges against Jason P. Moreland be dropped as he had not advocated the overthrow of the State of Georgia and these proceedings are in direct violation of Jason's constitutional rights.

Contact: DA Robert E. Keller
Clayton County District Attorney
200 Annex, Clayton County Courthouse
Jonesboro, Georgia 30236
If you would like to contact Jason write to:
Circle A Magazine c/o Ignatz
PO Box 80967
Chamblee, Ga 30366

LETTER: MIKE, MANCHESTER

Dear Comrades

Please find enclosed a cheque to renew my sub to Black Flag. I really enjoyed issue 209 especially the article on the JSA, and it's great to have the paper coming out again on a regular basis. Can you send me a standing order form and I'll see if I can come up with the necessary - I was made redundant again last month but will see what I can do! Sometimes I can hardly believe that I have been reading BF since 1973 - where did all those years go! I was very sad to hear of Albert's death. I first met him in 1973 but had not been in touch for many years. I had just finished his book and was meaning to give him a ring when I read issue 208 - it was a shock and left me feeling very sad. But then recalling Albert cheered me and I raised a large glass of Bushmills to his memory! He was a very exceptional man and a great anarchist,

Best wishes to you all

Mike, Manchester

This issue originally from here: https://web.archive.org/web/20160818142058/http://flag.blackened.net/bla...

Black Flag 211 (1996)

Issue of the London-based anarchist magazine Black Flag from the 1990s.

Contents

Building worker group win in Milton Keynes

On January 6th a bricklayer in Northampton UCATT told branch secretary Brian Higgins that he and 12 others had been sacked that morning on their return from the Xmas break. Eight others had started in their place! At the invitation of the men Brian went to Milton Keynes two days later and established that the men were entitled to notice or pay in lieu of notice. As there were only a couple of weeks left on the job the men involved demanded that all wages owing and a week's wages in lieu be paid that day or they would picket the site the next morning. The bosses thought this was a bluff and didn't settle but contacted UCATT headquarters instead. UCATT "organiser" Dominic Hehir, who is threatening Brian Higgins with a libel action (see BF210) said Higgins had no authority. At 7.15am the next day the picket was on. By 9am the site was at a standstill and by 1pm the contractor had settled in full. Once again, direct action gets the goods.

Anarchist News-Service from Czech Republic

Squatters from the last remaining anarchist squat in Prague - Sochora Street broke up a police attack on 15th February this year. Police officers stated that they had an official order to evict this "house of junkies and dangerous anarchists". The local police commander was so depressed by defeat of his policemen, that he declared to use special anti-terrorist assault troops in few more days to evict the squat. Sochora was squatted in 1992 and hosts Prague meetings of the Czech Anarchist Federation and other groups. You can help the squatters by sending protests to your Czech embassy: (Subject: Eviction of Squat in pplk. Sochora 28 in Prague 7)

Four days later 70 anarchists demonstrated in support of Sochora 28 squat. We had one large slogan banner "Flats instead of banks" (the Sochora street is endangered by the project of one bank) and black/red anarchosyndicalist flag.

We, The Anarchists! A Study of the Iberian Anarchist Federation (FAI) 1927-1937
by Stuart Christie Published by The Meltzer press; £12.50 spiral bound

This book contains some very important lessons for anarchists that deserve a wider circulation. The Spanish revolution and the events leading up to it are the most important events this century from an anarchist perspective. (So far at least!) This issue of Black Flag marks 60 years since the May Day events in Barcelona marked the triumph of the Stalinist reaction and the defeat of the revolution. The role of militants of the FAI and the CNT (Spain's anarcho-syndicalist union) in the revolution has been subject to much interpretation, particularly by those hostile to anarcho-syndicalism. Christie's book deals with most of what bourgeois commentators have said about Spain. But the real value in this work is that it places the betrayal of anarchist principles by the FAI and CNT in the context of the evolution of those organisations, and addresses the question of leadership, but more importantly, the question of "followership".

Christie starts by explaining how three factors need to be considered to understand recent Spanish history. Firstly, that anarchism was embedded deeply in the working class, at least partly because it reflected their relationships and values. Secondly, that anarchism was the predominant ideological influence within the labour movement. And thirdly, that the anarchist militants who defended and built up their organisations through decades of repression were motivated by a desire to bring about a libertarian communist society, objectives which brought them into conflict both with the state and the bosses, and the leaders of their own union confederation.

The book outlines the historical development of anarchism in Spain, and how it developed and influenced the labour movement, particularly in Catalonia, the industrial heartland. It also takes an analytical view and tries to address, in the author's words, "how can ideals survive the process of institutionalisation? If this is not feasible, at least to be able to identify the turning points so that we can counter the process".

From about 1927 onward, a struggle broke out within the CNT between the leadership of the CNT and conscious anarchist militants of the rank and file over the heart and soul of the union. This struggle was to culminate in the split of the CNT in 1931 when the treintistas, leadership figures who had signed the "manifesto of the Thirty", left the Confederation taking a small number of unions with them. Outside commentators have claimed the reformists were pushed out by a rigidly disciplined party-type organisation -the FAI. The truth is somewhat different.

Christie takes us through how the reformists, many of whom were national or regional secretaries, believed that they had to concentrate on trade union type issues and compete for members with the socialist UGT. However, the UGT's co-operation with the Primo de Rivera dictatorship, which passed labour laws favouring them and attacking the CNT, had lost them credibility and the CNT was growing with its message of open class warfare and direct action. The CNT leadership, though popular as individuals, were out of touch. One of the reasons that individuals like Angel Pestaña were in these positions was that anarchist militants refused to take them because of their corrupting nature.

The reformists tried to change the CNT's constitution, moving it away from federalism and anti-capitalism to being a mere mediator between workers and capital. At the same time the UGT was working with the structures of the dictatorship of Primo de Rivera, and using this position to attack the CNT. The reformists wanted the CNT "in from the cold", so to speak, and able to operate free from the socialists' attacks. Against this background, a small number of militants met in Valencia in 1927, founding the Federacion Anarquista Iberica, the FAI, which also included Portuguese militants. The FAI addressed how it would relate to the CNT, a relationship described as the trabazon, an organic bond at local level between the CNT and FAI through Defence Committees and Pro-Prisoner Committees.

AT this time, the FAI was an ad hoc association of affinity groups. It never even grouped a majority of anarchists in the CNT into its ranks, despite the allegations of bourgeois and Marxist historians like Woodcock, Carr and Morrow that it was a centralised party-like apparatus. It consisted of anarchists who refused to go along with their union's leadership and asserted the historic anarchist role of fighting authoritarian ideas and defending the libertarian spirit of the CNT. Indeed, many of the more famous names associated with it were not even members, and there seems to be doubt whether Durruti was ever a fully fledged member.

The roots of the collaboration proposed by the reformists were in the tactical co-operation they had had with military and political oppositionists of all shades under the dictatorship. . Though the anarchists were a minority, they did exercise a powerful moral authority within the membership of the union. Many FAIstas had graduated from the open class war of pistolerismo, where employers hired gunmen to murder CNT members. When the dictatorship collapsed, there was a surge in strike activity and the FAI were blamed, even though in this period their very existence was nominal.

By now, Pestaña and his allies held the upper hand. They published a paper, Acción and controlled the National Committee. They were pressing for closer contacts with the republicans as a strategy, not just as a tactic. One of them, Juan Peiró, had to resign after signing a particularly dubious manifesto, Inteligencia Republicana. That April, after the CNT National Plenum advised a tactical vote for the left, a Socialist- Republican coalition won the elections overwhelmingly.

The Second Republic enacted a number of measures against the CNT, some deliberate to favour the UGT, others, such as the mixed juries, as a by product. On May Day, civil guards fired on the CNT demonstration, killing one and wounding 15. The FAI now began to emerge as a pole of dissent within CNT against the reformists. The arguments came out at the III Congress in June, but were not resolved.

During the summer, heightened social conflict with the government polarised these differences. The reformists gambled with the "manifesto of the 30", to isolate the revolutionaries. They failed. The rank and file, subject daily to the brutality of open class war from the bosses and the state, sided with the FAI. The Treintistas left the CNT and Pestaña went on to form the Syndicalist party. Christie now argues that the FAI had done its job but was taken over by "rootless intellectuals" like Diego Abad de Santillan. It is certain that most of its militants went back to their day to day activity as members of the CNT. Many others were taken out of activity after the abortive uprising which led to the massacre at Casas Viejas and a wave of arrests and repression. De Santillan had joined the FAI in 1933. He had an obsession with economic planning and saw the FAI as providing anarchism with the discipline and organisation to fulfil its historic mission. Groups around De Santillan argued for "greater democracy" within the FAI and moves were made to expel the Nosotros group (which included Durruti, Ascaso etc) though nothing came of the latter. Quite definitely the culture changed and many of the working class militants no longer felt at home in the FAI, to quote Progreso Fernández, "Lots of people dropped out then, but we remained anarchists, because anarchism is an attitude to life".

Christie's analysis points out one of the failings of the most common criticism made of the Spanish anarchists by English speaking anarchists: that they did not take organisation seriously enough. If only, bemoaned the Platformist (later Leninist) Anarchist Workers Group, if only the Spanish translation of the "Platform" had reached them, they might have been equipped with better ideas to win. The fallacy of this argument is obvious - it was not a correct political line which could win the revolution, but the deeds and actions of the militants involved. Those who advocated greater organisation within the FAI were not those who were the first to rise and defeat the fascists in Barcelona and elsewhere.

The success of the revolution on July 19th 1936 is well documented. There is no need to go over it again here. But what is interesting is the way the FAI and CNT ended up collaborating with the State and even joining the government. Christie's view is that this happened because, just because of their history, these organisations substituted themselves for the organs of the revolution - the factory and neighbourhood committees. It was in this way that Federica Montseny became co-opted into the government. Her neighbourhood committee sent her along to the CNT-FAI headquarters to find out what was going on. Instead she got co-opted onto the committee. Christie's account of the defeat of the revolution does not make light reading. His conclusions are that we must not and cannot separate ends from means. By adapting to circumstances, the FAI found itself on the wrong side of the struggle for social justice and equality. It would be purely speculative to suggest other things that could have been done at the time. The anarchists of Spain faced a difficult dilemma, and we should not judge their failings too harshly, rather we should learn from them and try not to make the same mistakes ourselves. And he poses the question of why the anarchist rank and file went along with a lot of the actions of the CNT-FAI at the time which betrayed anarchist principles by ignoring the relationship between ends and means.

On a final note, this book is way too expensive for what it is. I contacted The Meltzer press about this, and they are prepared to give a discount for groups buying more than one of 50% on subsequent copies. I think this should be more widely available and in a cheaper format. All you book publishers out there should contact TMP.

MH

Shorts

More Minsk Arrests

Every week or two, more and more activists are being arrested and harrassed in the Belarussian capital of Minsk. The latest wave of arrests occurred on Friday and Saturday (March 14-15) in Minsk. About 100 people were arrested for peacefully demonstrating. Among these were three anarchist students. Pavluk Konovalchuk was given 10 days and has declared a hunger strike. He is asking that protests be made to the General Procuror of Belarus and at the Belarussian embassies abroad. His arrest is just part of a continuing pattern of harrassment that will either lead to the destruction of all political movements via obedience or absolute repression.

The other two anarchists arrested were given five days each.

Any protests should address the issue of repression in general but should also mention Pavluk. It is important as a well known activist that the pigs understand that he has comrades in Moscow and other places; last October letters of protest and phone calls from Moscow and elsewhere was of great help to some of our comrades who were locked up. Telegrams can be sent to the City Prosecutor's Office, 24 Internatsionalnaya UIitsa, Minsk. Protests may also be sent via fax to Moscow at 7(095)141-3467 or via e-mail to cube@glasnet.ru.

Anarchist History: Trotskyist Lies On Anarchism

It’s fair to say that most Marxists in Britain base their criticisms of the Spanish Anarchist Revolution of 1936 on the work of Trotskyist Felix Morrow. Morrow’s book ‘Revolution and Counter-Revolution in Spain’, first published in 1938, actually isn’t that bad – for some kinds of information. However, it’s basically written as Trotskyist propaganda. All too often Morrow is inaccurate, and over-eager to bend reality to fit the party line.

The Bolshevik-Leninists, for example, an obscure sect who perhaps numbered 20 members, are, according to Morrow, transformed into the only ones who could save the Spanish Revolution – because they alone were members of the Fourth International, Morrow’s own organisation. ‘Only the small forces of the Bolshevik-Leninists...clearly pointed the road for the workers’ (1); ‘Could that party [the party needed to lead the revolution] be any but a party standing on the platform of the Fourth International?’ (2), etc.. The POUM – a more significant marxist party in Spain, though still tiny compared to the anarchists – is also written up as far more important than it was, and slagged off for failing to lead the masses to victory (or listening to the Bolshevik-Leninists). The Fourth Internationalists ‘offered the POUM the rarest and most precious form of aid: a consistent Marxist analysis’ (3) (never mind Spanish workers needing guns and solidarity!). But when such a programme – prepared in advance – was offered the POUM by the Fourth International representative – only two hours after arriving in Spain, and 1/4 of an hour after meeting the POUM (4) – the POUM weren’t interested. The POUM have been both attacked (and claimed as their own) by Trotskyists ever since...

It’s Morrow’s attacks on anarchism, though, that have most readily entered leftist folklore – even among Marxists who reject Leninism. Some of Morrow’s criticisms are fair enough – but these were voiced by anarchists long before Morrow put pen to paper. Morrow, in fact, quotes and accepts the analyses of anarchists like Camillo Berneri (‘Berneri had been right’ etc. (5)), and praises anarchists like Durruti (‘the greatest military figure produced by the war’ (6)) – then sticks the boot into anarchism. Morrow obviously wanted to have his cake and eat it.

Typically for today’s left, perhaps, the most quoted sections of Morrow’s book are the most inaccurate. Here’s a detailed look at three of them:

According to Morrow, ‘Spanish Anarchism had in the FAI a highly centralised party apparatus through which it maintained control of the CNT’ (7). In reality, the FAI – the Iberian Anarchist Federation – was founded, in 1927, as a confederation of regional federations (including the Portuguese Anarchist Union). These regional federations, in turn, coordinated local and district federations of highly autonomous anarchist affinity groups. So, while the FAI may have had centralising tendencies, a ‘highly centralised’ political party it was not.

Further, many anarcho-syndicalists and affinity groups were not in the FAI (though most seem to have supported it), and many FAI members put loyalty to the CNT (the anarcho-syndicalist union confederation) first. For instance, according to the minutes of the FAI national plenum of Jan-Feb 1936: ‘The Regional Committee [of Aragon, Rioja, and Navarra] is completely neglected by the majority of the militants because they are absorbed in the larger activities of the CNT’. And ‘One of the reasons for the poor condition of the FAI was the fact that almost all the comrades were active in the defence groups of the CNT’ (report from the Regional Federation of the North). These are internal documents and so unlikely to be lies (8).

Anarchists were obviously the main influence in the CNT (which was anarcho-syndicalist long before the FAI was founded). But ‘FAI control’ was an invention of a reformist minority within the organisation – people like Angel Pestana, ex-CNT National Secretary, who wanted to turn the CNT into a politically ‘neutral’ union movement. Pestana later showed what he meant by forming the Syndicalist Party and standing for Parliament/the Cortes. Obviously, in the struggle against the reformists, anarcho-syndicalists – inside the FAI or not – voted for people they trusted to run CNT committees. The reformists lost, split from the CNT, and ‘FAI dictatorship’ was born.

Again, following Morrow, marxists have often alleged that the Socialist and Workers Alliance strike wave, of October 1934, was sabotaged by the CNT.

To understand this allegation, you have to understand the background to October ’34, and the split in the workers’ movement between the CNT and the UGT (unions controlled by the reformist Socialist Party, the PSOE). >From 1931 (the birth of the Second Spanish Republic) to 1933 the Socialists, in coalition with Republicans, had attacked the CNT (a repeat, in many ways, of the UGT’s collaboration with the Primo de Rivera dictatorship of 1923-30). Laws were passed, with Socialist help, making lightening strikes illegal and state arbitration compulsory. Anarchist-organised strikes were violently repressed, and the UGT provided scabs – as against the CNT Telephone Company strike of 1931. During and after CNT insurrections in Catalonia (north eastern Spain) in 1932, and the much wider insurrections of January 1933 (9,000 CNT members jailed) and December 1933 (16,000 jailed) Socialist solidarity was nil.

Socialist conversion to ‘revolution’ occurred only after the elections of November 1933 – when they lost, and all the laws they’d passed against the CNT were used against themselves. When cabinet seats were offered to the non-republican right, in October 1934, the PSOE/UGT called for a general strike..

If the CNT, nationally, failed to take part in this – a mistake recognised by many anarchist writers – this was not (as reading Morrow suggests) because the CNT thought ‘all governments were equally bad’, but because of well-founded, as it turned out, mistrust of Socialist aims. A CNT call, in February 1934, for the UGT to clearly and publicly state its revolutionary objectives, had met with no reply. Rhetoric aside, the PSOE’s main aim in October seems to have been to force new elections, so they could again form a (mildly reformist) coalition with the Republicans (9). The CNT, in effect, were to be used as cannon-fodder to help produce another government that would attack the CNT.

The ‘workers alliances’ were little better. These were first put forward by the marxist-leninists of the BOC (Workers and Peasants Bloc – later to form the POUM) after their attempts to turn the CNT into a bolshevik vanguard failed (10). PSOE interest began only after their election defeat – when the alliances were seen as a means of dominating the workers movement in areas the UGT was weak. The Socialist ‘Liaison Committee’, for instance, set up to prepare for insurrection, only allowed regional branches to take part in the alliances if they could guarantee Party control (11). And only one month after the first alliance was set up, one of its founder members –the Socialist Union of Catalonia – left in protest over PSOE domination.

During October, apart from Catalonia (where the Catalan government arrested CNT militants the night before, then tried to declare Catalan autonomy), and Madrid (where a general strike was supported by the CNT), the only real centre of resistance was in Asturias (on the Spanish north coast).

Here, the CNT had joined the Socialists and Communists in a ‘workers alliance’. But, against the alliance’s terms, the Socialists alone gave the order for the uprising – and the Socialist-controlled Provincial Committee starved the CNT of arms. This despite the CNT having over 22,000 affiliates in the area (to the UGT’s 40,000).

Morrow states that ‘The backbone of the struggle was broken...when the refusal of the CNT railroad workers to strike enabled the government to transport goods and troops’ (12). Yet in Asturias (the only area where major troop transportation was needed) the main government attack was from a seaborne landing of Foreign Legion and Moroccan troops – against the port and CNT stronghold (15,000 affiliates) of Gijon. Despite CNT pleas the Socialists refused arms, Gjon fell after a bloody struggle, and became the main base for the crushing of the entire region. This Socialist and Communist sabotage of Anarchist resistance was repeated in the Civil War, less than two years later.

Finally, Morrow claims that the Friends of Durruti ‘represented a conscious break with the anti-statism of traditional anarchism. They explicitly declared the need for democratic organs of power, juntas or soviets, in the overthrow of capitalism..’(13). Typically, in Morrow’s topsy-turvy world, all anarchists like the Friends of Durruti (Morrow also includes the Libertarian Youth, the ‘politically awakened’ CNT rank and file, local FAI groups, etc.) who remained true to anarchism and stuck to their guns (often literally) – represented a break with anarchism and a move towards marxism, the revolutionary vanguard party (no doubt part of the 4th International), and a fight for the ‘workers state’...

Those anarchists, on the other hand, who compromised for ‘anti-fascist unity’ (but mainly to try and get weapons to fight Franco) are the real anarchists because ‘class collaboration...lies concealed in the heart of anarchist philosophy’ (14).

The Friends of Durruti were formed, in March 1937, by anarchist militants who’d refused to submit to Communist-controlled ‘militarisation’ of the workers’ militias. During the Maydays – the government attack against the revolution two months later – the Friends of Durruti were notable for their calls to stand firm and crush the counter-revolution. They did not ‘break with’ anarchism – they refused to compromise their anarchism in the face of ‘comrades’ who thought winning the war meant entering the government. Their leaflets, in April ’37, called for the unions and municipalities to ‘replace the state’ and for no retreat (15). Their manifesto, in 1938, repeated this call (‘the state cannot be retained in the face of the unions’), and made three demands: For a National Defence Council, elected and accountable to the union rank and file (including those at the front), with all posts up for regular recall; for ‘all economic power to the unions’; and for the ‘free municipality’ to cover those areas outside the unions’ mandate (16). More recently, Jaime Balius, one of the FoD’s main activists, has stated: ‘We did not support the formation of Soviets; there were no grounds in Spain for calling for such. We stood for “all power to the trade unions”. In no way were we politically orientated’ (17). (‘Political’ here meaning ‘state-political’ – a common anarchist use of the word).

Morrow’s book may bring comfort to those marxists who look for ready-made answers and are prepared to accept the works of hacks at face-value. Those who want to learn from the past – instead of re-writing it – will have to look elsewhere.

Notes & References

1) Felix Morrow, ‘Revolution and Counter-Revolution in Spain’, 2nd Edition 1974, p191.

2) Morrow p248.

3) Morrow p105.

4) Morrow p139.

5) Morrow p153.

6) Morrow p224.

7) Morrow p100.

8) Juan Gomez Casas, ‘Anarchist Organisation – the history of the FAI’, p165 and p168. Most of the information on the FAI comes from this. Also see Murray Bookchin, ‘The Spanish Anarchists, The Heroic Years, 1868-1936’.

9) See for instance Adrian Schubert ‘The Asturian Revolution of October 1934’ , in ‘Revolution and War in Spain’ ed. Paul Preston.

10) Paul Preston, ‘The Coming of the Spanish Civil War’ p117.

11) See Schubert (above). Most of the rest of this section comes from Preston ‘The Coming of the Spanish Civil War’, Bookchin (above), and Abel Paz ‘Durruti, the People Armed’.

12) Morrow p30.

13) Morrow p247

14) Morrow p101

15) Quoted in Paul Sharkey, ‘The Friends of Durruti – a Chronology’.

16) ‘Towards a Fresh Revolution’. The idea of a National Defence Council wasn’t the radical break with the CNT that some claim. Before the civil war the CNT had long has its defence groups, federated at regional and national level, and the CNT insurrection – of December 1933 – had been coordinated by a National Revolutionary Committee. During the war a national plenum of regions, in September 1936, called for a National Defence Council, with majority union representation and based on Regional Defence Councils. The Defence Council of Aragon, set up soon after, was based on these ideas. The need for coordinated revolutionary defence and attack is just common sense.

17) Letter to Ronald Frazer 1976 – in Frazer’s book ‘Blood of Spain’ p381.

La Princesa

La Princesa is an old cinema situated in the centre of Barcelona. The Spanish state owned the cinema as an inheritance from the Sindicato Vertical (the Francoist official union). A former sub-secretary of the Employment Office (Ministerio de Trabajo) sold the cinema, which now belongs to Carmen Companys, widow of the businessman Salvador Forcadell. With this paperwork, and convinced that this sale operation was illegal, some squatters arrived to the building and established their squat there. La Princesa was a forgotten place, ridden by rats, and dirt, and used by some business people to speculate with the building's value. The squatters worked fast to clean the place, and in few weeks they had the neighbours' sympathy, and started transforming an abandoned empty space into a local centre where a number of cultural activities were going to take place. In fact, Jordi Llovet, the president of the residents association of Ciutat Vella, where La Princesa cinema is, said that he supported the squatters because it was the first time in twenty years that this abandoned space had been put to any use. It didn't make any difference. The new Cððdigo Penal (the equivalent of the Criminal Justice Bill) considers that squatting is illegal, even if you enter an abandoned building without breaking in, that is, without violent means. Tension was building up, and, on the 20 of October 1996, in a music concert organised in support of the squatters, the coppers charged against the people, beating up squatters and members of the general public attending the festival.

Back to the bad old times.

Finally, on the early hours of Monday 28th of October, the big battle. 200 coppers, 20 police vans and 1 helicopter arrived at the old cinema. The squatters, behind the barricades built with old furniture on the terraces of the building, tried to defend themselves throwing objects to the police, but the coppers attacked them shooting rubber balls and using water„cannons, before entering the building (they were equipped with ladders for this purpose). Finally, the squatters were defeated and 48 people (squatters and sympathisers) were arrested. 20 people injured. All political parties (except the right wing ones, surprise, surprise) criticised the police's brutality. The situation now is that 15 people remain arrested, and 6 of them have already been on trial, with sentences between 1 and 2 years of prison. Normally, if you get a sentence of less than 2 years you don't have to go to prison. In the case of one prisioner, he got 2 years and 2 months plus 1 year for "Insumisión" (that is, for refusing to do the military service or any other social service as compensation), plus 1 year for anti-fascist stuff. Altogether, 4 years and 2 months, so he'll have to go to prison. Since that initial court case, 9 other squatters have been called to court, with expected sentences for 1-2 years. Two of them who are under eighteen have denied the allegations. The other seven have refused to testify. They are: Jorge Alberto Fernandez, Pau Vilaseca, Juan José Pareja, Gabriel Javier Vigaté, David Pocez, Luis Vicente Gil and Basilio Oko Ejaka. Another case is that of Todd Benson, an English teacher who has been sentenced for 2 years for rioting against the police... at a time when he was teaching miles away!. In spite of him providing proof of this, he has still been sentenced! He, like many of the arrested people, was guilty of being young and trying to cross the street. They need scapegoats to set an example, they need sacrificial lambs for their "new" regime, so called law and order. And they don't care.

Finally, it must be pointed out as well that there were some irregularities in the legal process. The judge taking the case did not send Mr. Arnau (the squatters' lawyer) the eviction order until three hours AFTER the police had evicted the squatters, so Mr Arnau didn't have the chance to appeal against that decision. On top of that, at the time of the eviction, the squatters were still negotiating with the owners. The judge didn't take the squatters' statements into account, because she said that the police provided more guarantee of reliability than a bunch of youngsters. Is this the new democratic Spain? Where, from the start, the coppers are always right just because they are coppers, full stop? Where an English teacher can be sentenced for 2 years for doing NOTHING? Where a group of young people doing a creative, constructive and socially positive task, and demanding a right as basic as sleeping under a roof can be imprisoned? At the moment, somesolidarity groups are carrying out a number of actions, like picketing some Tourist Agencies in Catalonia. Any ideas, letters of support, etc. will be welcomed.For more information and letters, you can write to: Assemblea d'Okupes Barna (Ateneo Llibertari@Gracia) C/Perill 52 baix Barcelona 08012 Spain Telephone: 00 34 3 458 46 37 Fax: 00 34 3 474 46 15

Internet: http://www.pangea.org/atcorne

email: atcorne@pangea.org

Take Back the Night! Demo Against Police Violence in Stocholm

On International Women's Day, there has for the last 7 years been a "Take Back the Night!" demonstration organised by the anarcha-feminists in Stockholm in the evening. Women protest against the fact that they do not feel safe to be able to walk their own streets at night.

This year, on March 8th, 70 mainly young women gathered at 9pm on the square Medborgarplatsen on the island of Södermalm which is the traditional workers quarters of the city. As in past years the demonstration went through the city streets stopping at porn shops along the way. Near one porn shop, Golden Rose, the police planned an ambush.

The police closed off both ends of the street using 27 police cars (including 4 anti-terrorist vans) and mounted police Without warning the two ends converged upon the demo. Horses from one end and batong weilding anti-terrorist police from the other.

Three young women; 18, 16 and one under the age of 16 were hospitalised Many others were beaten but out of fear have not sought medical care. In addition, many women were "frisked" by male policemen (unlawful according to Swedish law) and violated in the process.

A number of women have brought charges against the police for assault. There are even rumours that certain policemen have brought charges against their own because of the excesive use of force.

The issue was covered in the national press and in Parliament. The police have begun an internal inquiry.

On Saturday the 15th of March a demonstration against police violence was held. Approximatly 500 anarcha-feminists, anarchists and libertarian sympathisers paricipated in the march to the newly opened police station on the island of Södermalm. This is a very good turn-out for a Swedish anarchist demonstration - especially with the short notice. This demonstration has been a sort of unified rallying point for us.

Speeches were held at both the beginning and end of the demo and police presence was minimal. No permission had been applied for but the police granted it anyway! It is worth noting that the majority of the police escort were women. The resignation of the commander in charge of the attack on the anarcha-feminist demonstration was demanded.

The international protest day against police violence was mentioned in both the demo flyer and a speech. It also appeared in full in Swedens largest daily newspaper's sunday edition, Dagens Nyheter. Support from anarchists in Geneva, Switzerland was especially mentioned!

Vitrolles: The Logic of the Urns

This article was translated and abridged from Le Monde Libertaire. Vitrolles is a town in France whose council was won at recent elections by the fascist Front National. It is the fourth city run by the FN - the others are Toulon, Orange and Marignane.

Vitrolles: The Logic of the Urns (there's a pun here that English readers won't appreciate - urnes in French means both ballot boxes and funeral vases)

The socialists were too gross. They preferred to safeguard the feeble chance of taking the Mayoralty of Vitrolles by playing the republican card and trying to impose an alliance on the right. Keeping the Socialist list meant the election of the Front National mayor. The local militants who made it up, and said as much, have since been expelled from the Party. Once again politics has taken priority over the antifascist struggle and the logic of favouring the FN to divide the right can be seen.

The rules of the Game

The failure in Vitrolles of this struggle, shows a fact many find hard to accept. It's a matter of democratic principle to delegate power. At the time of the FN successes at Toulon, Marignane and Orange, the revulsion of all those shocked or well meaning was focussed on the minority aspect of the victor. That a party could, with one third of the votes and even less of those registered to vote, win a municipal election and manage the life of all was unacceptable. But they forget that all elections function this way. And that most of those who run Town halls are a "minority". Their logic implies that all parties are equal except the FN. The latter have the right to play with the others only if they stay in the role of asserting or being a scarecrow, for the 'democratic spectacle'. But if they participate fully and win, like the others, then "democracy is in danger". It's completely true.

It is doubly true when the later election of Vitrolles isn't the result of a minority vote but that of a majority vote without a saucer of irregularity or fault of the electoral code. An anti-democratic party has the right to accede democratically to power to apply their programme. It has the right because all the parties have it and, as is thought, the FN is a party like all the others (This is not a compliment!). In the same way it can take the right to interfere in the purchases of the municipal libraries because everyone else, socialists included, have done this for a long time - in all democracy!

The democratic contradiction

Is the power of the people in danger? This depends on your definition of the people. If the citizen is spoken of, it must be admitted that they only exist as a brave few and are diminishing even now, except for the privileged citizens. If it's a matter of the nation, we are already in a totalitarian world yet risk knowing other totalitarianisms more restricting. The root of the problem is the principle of delegation of power to the dictatorship of a majority - or a minority - over all.

The principle of giving, and also of losing, one's voice in elections is the basis of the democratic illusion. Article 27 of the constitution, title IV on the Parliament, which says "all imperative mandate is null" shows well the role of politics. If the MP cannot impose a vote by his group, it is one part to safeguard his role as a free arbiter and the other part to divide parliament, but it is also to recall that the nomination doesn't give any control over him by his electors. He represents then those who voted (for or against) and those who didn't or couldn't vote. An elected MP represents the whole world, not the mandates of the population, nor even of his party. This infers that in Toulon, for example, the council represents all Toulonnais, the foreigners there included.

It is the system which is at fault, not the beneficiaries in the FN. To want to deny them yet appeal to the "democratic ideal" is to admit defeat. It is to continue to deny the freedom for all to take their destiny in their own hands. We prefer the direct action and self organisation

Claude Delattre - group Humeurs noires, Lill

Brazilian Dockers Occupy Ships

As we go to press, troops are poised to intervene to break the peaceful occupation of two ships in the Brazilian port of Santos, where workers are resisting attempts to replace them with contract labour on a berth belonging to COSIPA, the São Paulo Steel Company.

According to Santos portworkers' web site and e-mail received by the Liverpool dockers, the "Marcos Dias" and the "Vancouver", moored at the COSIPA terminal, are occupied. On Monday 7th April, COSIPA requested that the Army be brought in to clear the occupation. The unions expect an imminent armed military intervention., despite assurances from the local army commander that he will not send his men unless ordered to do so by the President himself.

Some time ago, COSIPA proposed contracting out of cargo handling in their own berth, which came to a head when they obtained legal authority to impose their plans. Santos portworkers' then struck from the 2nd to the 5th of April, with a general stoppage of Brazilian ports on 4th April. On Saturday 5th April, 3 workers were injured in clashes with the Military Police. On 7th April COSIPA succeeded in gaining authority to call in the Army.

According to the Lloyds list coverage, "The crisis is being widely seen as the crunch point in the long-running drive to privatise Brazil's waterfront, with President Cardoso under heavy pressure to personally authorise the use of troops."

"Henrik Simon, a director of Hamburg Sud in São Paulo, said: "This crisis is one of the most crucial points in the privatisation push. If the government gives in on this then the whole modernisation and privatisation law comes into question.""

For more info check out the Liverpool Dockers Page on Labounet, where regular updates are posted. Http://www.gn.apc.org/labournet/

Contact the Brazilian portworkers by fax on 0055 13 232 4877 or email them at interportus@portodesantos.com

What Is Anarcho-Syndicalism? - Libertarian Reformism, Vanguardism or Revolutionary Unionism?

About a dozen years ago a pamphlet published by the Direct Action Movement asserted that the (anarcho-syndicalist) International Workers' Association contained three main currents - Anarcho-Syndicalists, Revolutionary Syndicalists and Syndicalists. In reality there is no such thing as just "syndicalism", and anarcho-syndicalism and revolutionary syndicalism are one and the same thing.

However, the pamphlet's author, Col Longmore, was describing debates within the International between poles described in these terms. The debate is really between a kind of anarchist vanguardism (styling itself anarcho-syndicalism) and a libertarian reformism (styling itself revolutionary syndicalism). Both poles of the debate contain elements of anarcho-syndicalism, but each is being selective in its interpretation.

The vanguardists emphasise the anarchist principles, particularly opposition to class collaboration exemplified by the longstanding IWA hostility to participation in Works Councils [1] and collaboration with the state, and are keen that all actions of affiliated unions pass stringent standards of political soundness. The libertarian reformists are just as disingenuous in their emphasis on other principles, particularly apolitical membership, mass recruitment and union autonomy. For the principled anarcho-syndicalist there are merits to both viewpoints, but we fall between self-righteous stagnation on the one hand, and a drift towards class collaboration on the other.

This debate remains stillborn within the confines of the IWA today. The existence of libertarian reformist organisations is not seen as evidence of a problem facing anarcho-syndicalism as it breaks out of its sects and ghettos, to be analysed and avoided as we seek to establish a revolutionary practice in the here and now. The discourse is one of contagious treachery, exposure to which must be avoided in order to remain revolutionary. The penalty for exposure is demonisation and expulsion, and deep suspicion of any comrades with whom there is contact.

To do this debate justice it needs to take place both among and beyond the (disputed) membership of the International, because the majority of those who need to speak and to hear are those whose participation is currently taboo. For many of us revolutionary organisation poses a challenge. To meet it we need to recognise, understand and overcome the flaws in our theories, organisations and strategies that can lead to libertarian reformism. We find it bizarre that we can work with authoritarian reformists, whose organisations can teach us little about our own, but must shun libertarians from whose reformism we can learn and strengthen our own revolutionary organisation and resolve.

Revolutionary Unionism

Syndicalisme Revolutionnaire is the French term coined to describe the theory and practice of the Confederation Generale du Travail (CGT), set up by anarchists such as Emile Pouget in post-Commune France in response to the party-affiliated fragmentation and impotence of the labour movement. It stressed workers' unity and militancy and an anti-parliamentary practice based on direct action and revolution precipitated by the Social General Strike. Apoliticism (as an antidote to party-affiliated unions) and union autonomy, a result of the anarchists' federalism, were always part of its make-up.

It is worth remembering that it was French anarchists who first coined the term "libertarian" to describe themselves as a means of avoiding the post-Commune censorship, and who found that the content of their ideas and actitivities was more important than a label that carried the certainty of repression. (It would be many years before "anarchist" became a term safe for bourgeois liberals and individualists to cloak themselves in spurious radicalism with.)

The history of revolutionary labour movements is dominated by Spain, however. The lack of scope for reformist trades unionism meant that, aside from the Asturian mineworkers, the Socialist Party-affiliated Union General de Trabajo (UGT) was composed predominantly of craft unions before the industrial boom provided by Spanish neutrality in the 1914-18 War.

This left the organisation of semi-skilled and often internal migrant workers to the anarchists. Cycles of organisation and repression linked to political upheavals eventually gave birth to the Confederacion Nacional del Trabajo (CNT) in 1910-11. The close identity of anarchism and mass labour organisation in Spain and its former colonies meant that in the Spanish-speaking world the same phenomenon as the practice of the French CGT was termed more explicitly anarcosindicalismo.

The two terms describe the same phenomenon, although in the English-speaking world Syndicalisme Revolutionnaire became "syndicalism". This is also the direct political descendent of the federalist workers' organisations affiliated to the original International Working Men's Association, for whom Michael Bakunin served as a spokesman. Indeed, the modern IWA was formed in 1922 as a reformation of that organisation. Federalist and economic, not centralist and political.

We also got the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), whose English language publications are more readily available than translations of our French and Spanish antecedents' propaganda and ideas. Technically-speaking the IWW espouse a theory called Industrial Unionism (the One Big Union), derived from the ideas of American marxist and Socialist Labour Party leader Daniel De Leon.

This is also the form of socialism espoused by Irish Republican hero James Connolly, incidentally, although you'd be hard pressed to get any "socialist republicans" to admit he was a syndicalist, and you won't find Socialism made easy, his fullest exposition of his syndicalist ideas, in the most recent edition of his complete works, either.

The only people I can think of who call themselves just Syndicalists as if it was some kind of distinct theory are Hull Syndicalists/Syndicalist Bulletin. They draw heavily on the 1930's IWW ideas expressed in Ralph Chaplin's The General Strike, which is pacifist and hostile to any activity not focussed on the workplace. It was pushing this agenda alongside an ill-concealed hostility to anarchism in the pages of Direct Action which led to their acrimonious departure from DAM in 1986.

Partly as a result of the spurious anarcho/revolutionary syndicalism split, partly to give our ideas a label in plain English and complete the translation of Syndicalisme Revolutionnaire, I prefer to use the term "revolutionary unionism". What I mean by this is anarcho-syndicalism, undiluted and without distortions.

Vanguard, what vanguard?

One problem with the use of the term anarcho-syndicalism in Britain is the fact that in the early 1980's genuine anarchists adopted the term in order to distinguish ourselves from the pacifists, hippies, liberals, individualists and eco-fascists who were able to call themselves anarchists without either understanding the term or having its meaning rammed down their throats after their teeth by aggrieved proles. Unfortunately, many of the anarchists (real ones) had as sketchy an idea of anarcho-syndicalism as the unwashed had of anarchism.

While this is partly due to the lack of concrete anarcho-syndicalist organisation and practice and of English language propaganda, the existence of both in Spain, for example, has not prevented similar problems from arising there. The real problem has to do with the legacy of (fascist) repression in the 1930's and post-war labour policies in Western Europe. The living culture of anarchism and anarcho-syndicalism has been interrupted by these events, and it has been possible to dress cobblers up as anarchism without being shown up by the real thing.

A widely-held view of anarcho-syndicalism involves a misreading of history and of the role of anarchist organisations. This view can be summed up as "if you have your CNT, you need your FAI". The FAI was the Federacion Anarquista Iberica, in reality a loose federation of diverse anarchist groups embracing everyone from those who would today be termed lifestylists to those active in CNT Defence Committees.

Many anarchists misread the FAI as a vanguard organisation essential to keeping the CNT on its revolutionary course, without which it would have succumbed to the reformist tendencies fools believe to be inherent in the working class and our organisations (some "anarchists" show a remarkable consistency with leninism at times).

While the above characterisation may be over-simplified it accurately sums up the basis on which some comrades, who currently dominate the IWA, act. The role of the contemporary FAI in both the (Spanish) CNT-E and the IWA is questionable, but it continues to haunt us. Historically, it would have been both impossible and unprincipled for the FAI, or any faction, to control the CNT, or any mass anarcho-syndicalist organisation.

Although anarchists did fight reformists within the CNT in the 1930's, notably the bureaucrat Angel Pestana, they did so as anarcho-syndicalist workers preserving federalist, autonomist and democratic principles which were basic to the union's principles and culture, not as a rival leadership. There was no role for a vanguard to play because a healthy anarcho-syndicalist organisation established through class struggles dating back to the 1860's embodied a tradition and culture of libertarian organisation which belonged to the working class as a whole, not to some "revolutionary" priesthood.

The destruction of such mass organisations by fascism and the Allied victory in the 1940's has robbed us of our culture and left us nursing a shadow of it. It is unfortunate that the guardians of the shadow seem to prefer it, which they own, to the real thing, which belongs to the working class as a whole.

Post-War stagnation

The IWA suffered post-war stagnation - the CNT was in exile; the Swedish SAC was sucked into collaboration with the state in order to survive in a society dominated by social democracy, robbing the international of its last mass organisation; prominent anarcho-syndicalists like Rudolf Rocker and Augustin Souchy came out in favour of bourgeois democracy. Resistance continued in Spain, however, and provided a focus for networks of anarchists in Western Europe.

When younger revolutionaries attracted to armed resistance became active in the late '60's and the '70's as part of the re-emergence of revolutionary activity characterised by workers' militancy in Britain and the "events" of 1968, a link with our history was there. Our comrade Albert Meltzer played a key role in this process, and Black Flag is part of its legacy.

With the death of Franco in 1975, underground networks who had maintained the traditions of anarcho-syndicalism, as well as participating in armed resistance actions (both branded "terrorism" by the state), re-formed the CNT. The reaction of the exiled organisation is instructive - they denounced the militants for using the name CNT, as it was the property of the exile organisation!

Reality won through eventually, and led to a revival of the IWA in the late '70's, among the other sections were the CNT-F in France and the revived Unione Sindicale Italiano (USI). The (allegedly three) members of the Syndicalist Workers' Federation in Britain formed the Direct Action Movement in 1979 with a disparate membership of anarcho-punks, squatters, ex-Wobblies, stray Australians, etc. Since the reformation of the CNT-E was the catalyst for this revival, it took some years for the British Section - DAM - to get over a hero-worship phase towards the Spanish Section.

A long-running controversy in the IWA was the participation of the CNT-F in elections for Works Councils, for propaganda purposes on an abstentionist basis (or so we have always been told). This section was also traditionally the "revolutionary syndicalist" source of opposition to the affiliation of anarchist-dominated anarcho-syndicalist "propaganda groups", as opposed to revolutionary/anarcho- syndicalist unions only. The former issue was a matter of debate within the French CNT, but the majority position remained that unions might participate in elections on an abstentionist basis, and that this fell into the sphere of union autonomy.

Another was relations with the ex-Section in Sweden, SAC, now firmly established as a reformist union dispensing welfare to workers on behalf of the state in the Swedish mould, but with a strong pride in its libertarian traditions and a degree of militancy at odds with social democracy. SAC's pluralist political culture leads it to seek international relations with any union or political group who will deal with it, and to plead innocence when it causes offence.

Patrimony

Ultimately, the most damaging process has been the dispute over the CNT-E's "historic patrimony". In 1939 the victorious nationalists seized the assets of both the CNT and the UGT. Part of the process of "restoring democracy" was the return of these assets to those unions, the greater share of which belonged to the majority union in Spain at the time - the CNT. The attraction of the money caused two splits from the CNT to unite and claim that they were the real, "Renovated" CNT, and that the anarcho-syndicalist organisation recognised by the IWA was merely a rump living in the past.

Since the patrimony was held by the state, the CNT went to court to settle the dispute, causing varying degrees of disquiet among anarcho-syndicalists worldwide. While officially maintaining loyalty to the CNT-AIT and denying the lie that there were two CNT's in Spain, other IWA Sections sought clarification of the CNT-E's position and to express concern over an anarcho-syndicalist union asking the state to establish its credentials.

Muddying the waters was the SAC, who offered assistance (financial) to "both CNT's", which the phoney, reformist organisation accepted, and the CNT-AIT refused - partly due to SAC's dealings with the rival claimants, and partly due to official IWA hostility to SAC dating back to the dispute over which SAC disaffiliated in the '50's.

SAC has always claimed innocent neutrality in its defence, but this is the neutrality of the arms dealer, prolonging the dispute and increasing the bitterness both in Spain and towards itself. I strongly suspect that had SAC offered assistance only to the CNT-AIT the original dispute would have been regarded as an irrelevance.

Bizarrely, among those championing the "two CNT's" theory were the anti-syndicalist anarchists who endorse the Organisational Platform of the Libertarian Communists, among them the newly-formed Anarchist-Communist Federation in Britain. Strangely, those who are convinced that anarcho-syndicalism is reformist, and who have adopted a neo-council communist line on unions [2], are the first to endorse libertarian reformists who claim to be anarcho-syndicalist (particularly in France where there is a proliferation of both groups) even as they make denunciation of the real thing their distinguishing characteristic in the "revolutionary" marketplace.

The root cause of the splits in Spain had been participation in Works Councils, which although associated with the European Union and the Maastricht Treaty's Social Chapter are the direct descendants of the fascist corporatism of the Franco regime in Spain. The CNT-AIT promoted the idea of the Union Section - shopfloor organisation represented by directly-elected, recallable delegates - in opposition to the Works Councils, which are a form of industrial parliamentarism.

Eventually, the courts ruled in favour of the CNT-AIT, and the "CNT-R" was forced to change its name to CGT. At the XVIII Congress of the IWA held in Bordeaux at Easter 1988 the dispute was still in the hands of the judges, and a source of friction between the CNT-E and other sections. The attitude of some Spanish delegates, and of their General Secretary, Garcia Rua, to any query about the CNT-E's attitude towards other sections and the use of courts (ie collaboration with the state) was openly hostile. It was also obvious that some of our "comrades" in Spain regard the IWA as their overseas auxiliaries, not fellow anarcho-syndicalists working under different conditions.

The problems this caused led the members of the CNT-E National Committee present to soften the organisation's attitude, and to decide that the IWA Secretariat should not be drawn from members of the Spanish Section. It was eventually forced on a member of the German Section, the Freie Arbeiterinnen und Arbeiter Union (FAU).

While the move of the Secretariat led to greater openness in the International, and vastly improved communication, particularly for non-Spanish speaking sections, the personality of the General Secretary and his relationship with the Section from which he had been chosen [3] caused a lot of problems. This led to the Secretariat returning to Spain in 1992 - two steps forward, one step back as it turned out.

The French dispute

Having settled the patrimony dispute to the satisfaction of the CNT-E, the attention of the IWA turned to expansion, particularly in Eastern Europe in the wake of the collapse of the Soviet system, and also in Asia, Africa and Latin America. This is still a source of strength and hope for the international, but sectarianism [4] continues to dominate.

Among those lending support to the CNT-E in the patrimony dispute was a Swiss groupuscule calling itself Les Amis de l'AIT (Friends of the IWA), which specialised in exposing the dubious associations of those supporting the future CGT in Spain. As a reward for this they were awarded the status of "Friends of the IWA", which is neither a Section nor a Candidate seeking affiliation, but has a de facto privileged status nevertheless.

Having reached an impasse through the proper channels, the minority within the CNT-F who were implacably opposed to any involvement with Works Councils or elections to them decided to internationalise the dispute. This they did by engineering a split (although outwardly conciliatory, the majority appeared quite happy to let this happen), and demanding the IWA Secretariat recognise them, not the majority, as the true IWA Section in France.

Quite rightly the General Secretary declined to interfere in the internal business of a Section, and for this he was vilified by the Swiss, who then offered themselves as "impartial mediator" in the dispute! Matters spilled over at a Plenary of the IWA held in London in 1994, which involved provocative dossier flicking by the minority faction, known as "Bordeaux" who claimed that some of the unions in France had only one member, and were a paper majority. It culminated in a walkout by the minority faction from the next Plenary in Cologne when they weren't endorsed as the sole representatives of the French Section.

This coincided with the build-up of an increasingly poisonous atmosphere in Spain, sparked by the receipt of the patrimony from the state, and disputes about its distribution. Certainly the then General Secretary of the IWA was under pressure from his Section, in breach of the rules, to take sides in the French dispute. Eventually he resigned under the pressure.

The legacy of the patrimony dispute, and the corrupting influence of the money, has had an impact on the nature of the CNT-E. Small, unpopular unions run by those whose families have traditionally been associated with the CNT have received money, and are now no longer dependent on the support of the larger unions.

Those who see the CNT and anarcho-syndicalism as their property, forced to compromise in 1975, have taken revenge on the modern CNT. The majority of the CNT in Catalunya has been expelled. In international terms the clock has turned back to 1988, and the Spanish Section is now dominated by those who see the IWA as merely its auxiliary.

This process has been confirmed at the XX Congress of the IWA, held at Madrid in December 1996. The CNT-E tried to exclude one of the parties to each dispute - in France and Italy - at the stage of confirmation of credentials, before any debate had taken place. Attempts to investigate the disputes fully, in order to have sufficient information to make the right decision, were rejected. This led to only two Sections voting to expel the majority in France and the Rome-based split of USI - CNT-E and Norway's NSF.

The rest abstained due to insufficient information, and the British Section were told by the hosts that they were not following their mandate in an attempt to get another vote for expulsion. In fact the Solidarity Federation's mandate was based on full investigation and reconciliation where possible, and it is a measure of the proprietorial attitude of the host Section that they should regard another Section's delegates as accountable to them.

The decision to expel the majority in France was greeted by cheering from many Spanish observers and the bus-load of "Bordeaux" CNT-F who had turned up. An atmosphere of intimidation and confusion was encouraged by the hosts, and exploited to slip through changes to the Principles of Revolutionary Unionism and the Statutes of the IWA without proper discussion or consideration of their implications. A comrade from the British Section was abused by another from Spain when trying to establish some order and clarity from the chair.

Principled anarcho-syndicalists now face the prospect of spending the next four years trying to repair the damage, and in all likelihood such a course will attract the attentions of the smear-machine which runs the Swiss franchise - sold to Les Amis de L'AIT in return for political support for the sectarians.

Laying down the line

The majority CNT-F has retained its name - it was affiliated to the IWA, but existed in its own right - and is consistent with its own traditions, warts and all. By not investigating the French and Italian disputes thoroughly, the IWA has wasted an opportunity to get at the truth (we think we've been misled or lied to by both sides), and to examine the relevance of anarcho-syndicalism in the real world. It has also missed an opportunity to identify how an anarcho-syndicalist union can drift towards libertarian reformism.

Worse, the Statutes of the International have been amended to create "conditions for disaffiliation" (expulsion), which include:

"A) Failure to comply with the Principles, Tactics and Aims of the IWA." (My italics.)

The word "Tactics" also now appears in the Conditions of Affiliation. There are no "IWA Tactics". This is saying that no section has the right to tactical freedom, or to allow union autonomy. We await the party line, based on the assumption that Spanish conditions are universal. Opposition to Works Councils, in the guise of opposition to class collaboration, has now been elevated to a universal principle, rather than being a matter for sections. We were supposed to be becoming less eurocentric.

Similarly, an attempt to update the Principles of Revolutionary Unionism by adding two points, on Environmentalism and on forms of oppression not economic in origin (race, gender, sexuality, etc), has had a negative outcome. Both points were proposed by the Solidarity Federation. The point about environmentalism was accepted. On the other point we suddenly found ourselves in Militant....

The Solidarity Federation proposed:

"Revolutionary unionism is opposed to all hierarchies, privileges and oppressions, not simply those which are economic in origin. It recognises that oppression can be based on race, gender, sexuality or any other perceived or actual difference, and that these oppressions both must be fought for their own sake, and because they are fundamental to the maintenance of capitalism. However, all oppression, whatever its origin, has an economic aspect and is based on a power relationship. Concepts of "equality" which fail to recognise this fact, and any attempt to fight discrimination without also attacking hierarchy and privilege based on class will chiefly benefit hitherto excluded sections of privileged classes, and will not end discrimination against those without class privileges, even where they achieve some short term gains."

What was drawn up by a Congress Commission and passed without proper discussion was (amendment in italics):

"6 Revolutionary unionism rejects all parliamentary activity and all collaboration with legislative bodies. It holds that even the freest voting system cannot bring about the disappearance of the clear contradictions at the centre of present day society. The parliamentary system has only one goal: to lend a pretence of legitimacy to the reign of falsehood and social injustice. Revolutionary unionism does not recognise differences other than those of the economic order, national or regional, the result of these being the emergence of hierarchies, privileges and oppressions of every type (for race, sex, sexuality, or whatever difference, perceived or real)."

Try arguing with black workers that racism merely divides the working class, and is a diversion from the real struggle, rather than it is oppressive and must be fought in its own right, but is not independent of capitalism and class. I know what they think of that position, because I've seen the left, with their commitment to a 19th century universalism derived from the pseudo-science of marxism, try it. It's patronising. This is nearly the 21st century, the IWA has responded to the lessons of black, women's and gay liberation by diving back into the 19th.

Federalism, which includes such principles as regional and union autonomy, encourages diversity. At its XX Congress the IWA has subtly, possibly unintentionally, moved away from federalism and betrayed its anarcho-syndicalist heritage because of a preoccupation with sectarian disputes and the proprietorial attitude of the CNT-E towards both the IWA and anarcho-syndicalism. The challenge facing revolutionary unionists is to be true to our heritage, and to apply our principles to the world we live in, rather than retreating into what is familiar.

Principles in practice

Article 4, Part D of the Statutes of the International Workers' Association now reads:

"Revolutionary unionism rejects class collaboration, which is characterised by the participation in committees organised under corporate state schemes, (for example in union elections for company committees) and the acceptance of state subsidies which maintain union officials and other practices that can distort anarcho-syndicalism."

This is all very well but it assumes the Spanish model of industrial relations is universal, which it clearly isn't. Any potential anarcho-syndicalist union in Britain seeking recognition under Labour's proposed law to grant it to any union gaining a vote of 50% of the workforce in a (state sponsored) ballot would find itself in a tricky situation. If you can't deliver to your members, and you can't strike over everything, they will go elsewhere. OK, you strike for recognition, but your members will be lured to a reformist outfit who will use the law.

This new Article also puts question marks over such things as facility time for union representatives, and any participation in collective bargaining machinery. While ideally anyone would rather all management initiatives were rejected out of hand, sometimes they can be neutralised, or problesm avoided through talking.

We can play a double game in reformist unions, but impossible conditions are expected of a revolutionary union. There has to be room for union autonomy, and for people to make mistakes so that they can learn. As one French comrade once put it: "anarcho-syndicalism is like free speech, useless if you don't practise it."

This is the kind of dilemma that has faced anarcho-syndicalists on the continent. You recruit workers to your union on the basis of direct democracy, recallable delegates, control by the rank and file and direct action. Inevitably, they are not all anarchists, and are not committed to every dot and comma of the IWA Statutes, but there's nothing wrong with that because it's an anarcho-syndicalist union, not a disciplined party. You make some progress in getting revolutionary ideas across, and build up a libertarian culture of self-organisation.

Then you run up against a conflict between your apolitical membership (described above) and federalist union autonomy on the one hand, and too rigid an interpretation of anarchist principles on the other. Now, it's a mistake to base commitment to a union on a ballot, rather than on solidarity built up through a strike, but recognition on more than paper is going to lead to the latter after you've won the former. You learn (collectively) from the mistake. However, you are not allowed to make mistakes, and you've all been disaffiliated for breaching IWA Statutes.

In an anarchist journal like this it is easy to understand the thinking behind the IWA Statutes, but in the real world choices are harder. In France, in the private sector, CNT-F claims that Works Councils are the only means of gaining recognition. CNT-F unions have sought election to them, a grave error, but one you don't get to make twice. The natural consequence of union autonomy, an anarcho-syndicalist principle, is tactical flexibility. In Spain too, anarchists whose ex-CNT-E unions were expelled have ended up in the CGT.

To demonise these unions and their members is a grave error, because there are anarcho-syndicalists in them too. What is needed is communication, honesty and full information. The reason anarcho-syndicalism is advocated by this journal instead of disciplined political groups is because it establishes a libertarian, revolutionary culture within the wider working class. Without such a culture there can not be a successful social revolution, because that can only be made by the working class as a whole.

To put on a tactical straitjacket will prevent us gaining a mass audience for anarcho-syndicalism, without which it is pointless. We need to accept this, and to strike a working balance. Reformism is a real danger, we need to learn from other's mistakes, but we will learn nothing from retreating into sectarianism.

Where the Solidarity Federation stands at present we have an opportunity to avoid both errors, which are the product of a split, which has been manipulated by libertarian reformists and opportunists on the one hand, and vanguardists on the other. We must stick to our principles, but appreciate that the relevance of a hardline stance is going to be directly proportional to the level of hostility of the boss. Most fruitful will be areas where there is discontent and potential militancy, but no established union and negotiating structures.

If workers learn to organise the anarcho-syndicalist way, they will be sceptical of the reformist way. The top-down approach of the TUC affiliates scared of their members opens the way for us. Revolutionary unionists need to fill the vacuum they leave, by organising to win small victories around health and safety and other basic conditions, to organise education and briefing sessions on real issues, and to promote libertarian organisation, direct action methods and revolutionary goals as a practical package for establishing rights for workers.

Peter Principle

Notes:

[1] Works Councils are advocated by the European Union as part of its Social dimension. They are consultative bodies composed of annually-elected representatives. They have no power to negotiate and are a means of bypassing unions, and introducing individualised relationships between the workers and the company. They are consistent with the fascist idea of corporatism, denying differences of class interest and promoting social harmony. The Solidarity Federation is opposed to them, the TUC is sceptical, being in favour of collective bargaining. Labour....

[2] Many left or council communists believe that all unions are inherently reformist, and are barriers to workers' militancy, let alone revolution. Workers' experience of unions as their own organisations, and shopfloor organisations self-organised character are dismissed out of hand. The contradiction between the shopfloor union which belongs to the workers and the corporate body which has a stake in capitalism, hence the behaviour of its bureacracy, is not recognised, and cannot, therefore, be exploited. But if you are against workers' organisation except under revolutionary conditions you can slag off everyone under the guise of being more revolutionary than they are.

[3] While in office, the General Secretary and the other members of the IWA Secretariat cease to be members of their Section. This is intended to remove them from any pressure, and to ensure their neutrality. Unfortunately, it has not worked like that when the General Secretary has come from either Germany or Spain in recent years. In the case of the 1988-1992 period of office, a dispute between the General Secretary and FAU over its direction overshadowed the work of the Secretariat. When the Secretariat has been in Spain it has not always looked beyond the Spanish-speaking world.

[4] By sectarian I mean requiring the working class to share your own political perspective, rather than applying revolutionary principles to the reality experienced by the working class. Revolutionary ideas come from the working class and its traditions of self-organisation. As well as federalism, anarchism and by extension anarcho-syndicalism draw on the practice of the sans culottes in the French Revolution of 1789-1792. Kropotkin's history of those events is a good grounding in anarchist theory. The left often use sectarianism to mean attacking other political groups, but it is the sense of insularity which is damaging, and which I refer to here.

French CNT Win Legal Abortion Case

As we reported in BF 210, a prominent right wing anti abortion politician, Christine Boutin, was suing the French CNT. We are happy to report that Mme Boutin has lost her case, after nearly a year. The court found that the CNT's polemic against her, comparing her positions with those of the wartime Vichy regime which collabarated with the nazis, while "effected in a scathing tone" was not outside the bounds of political polemic. The CNT states that it can only feel comforted in its determination to fight for the right of women to freely control their own bodies.

Announcement: Albert Meltzer

Albert Meltzer's ashes will be scattered in the CNT section of Montjuich cemetary in Barcelona on Sunday 20th July. If you are interested in attending, please contact us for more details.

REVIEW: HUMAN RIGHTS OR CONTROL UNITS BY MAROON RUSSELL SHOATS

Published by Lancaster ABC-SG, PO Box 891, Lancaster PA 17608 USA (hopefully available from AK, Edinburgh and Active Dist, BM Active, London WC1N 3XX)

Maroon Russell Shoats is a black New Afrikan political prisoner. He was jailed for actions in support of the Black Panther Party in 1972, serving multiple life sentences.

This pamphlet contains two essays by Maroon on control units. A control unit is a special section within a prison designed to hold prisoners that the administration has decided must be locked up for 23 hours a day. It is different from normal solitary because it is indefinite. The essays aim to show how such regimes do nothing to reform and only produce even more embittered individuals who return to the poor communities they are from and wreak more havoc. Control units try to destroy the prisoner as functional individuals, the reasoning being that they would then no longer be a threat. The origin of these ideas are traced to the behaviourism of people like B.F Skinner and the experience of prisoners of war subdued by Chinese communist and North Korean mind control methods. That these practices are dehumanising doesn't bother the authorities. As Maroon states, "Our collective welfare demands that we do everything within our power to bring about an end to this form of imprisonment."

The crucial thing to remember is that the US wants to imprison more people so that it's economy can compete with low wage Asian economies, and this is done by the growing amount of prison labour, used by companies such as Microsoft and TWA at times.

Prisons in America are big business (coming here soon) and rehabilitation programmes, whether run by liberal organisations, churches, or the Nation of Islam are a threat to the system. If prisoners come out and fit back into society, the State will find it hard to send them back to prison. Bear in mind that someone was given life under California's reactionary 3 strikes system for stealing a slice of pizza. This system has no interest in rehabilitation, only in perpetuating itself as a multi-billion dollar business. Therefore, such units are not just an issue for those inside and their families and friends, but indirectly affect the ability of workers outside to defend their pay and conditions.

REVIEW: MORE OF THE SAME BY THE 1926 COMMITTEE

Available for £5 (payable to S.Cope) from Box 26, 56a Infoshop, 56a Crampton St London SE17

The 1926 Committee (or their earlier incarnation The Proles) have played at some of the best benefits I've been at in the last 6 years or so. Whether anti-poll tax, Liverpool dockers, Albert Meltzer's Birthday and funeral - whatever cause the movement has supported they've been there, in dusty halls or on picket lines. Here's your chance to repay that hard work and get yourself some right good anarcho-folk-pop at the same time.

Unlike so many worthy but dull anarcho bands, the 1926 Committee treat songwriting and musicianship as crafts. This tape contains ten tracks, played in a variety of styles. My favourite, just for its sass and humour, is "Attitude Problem", a chirpy little number about having pride in your class and not falling for all this classless society bullshit. I defy anyone working class not to find themselves somewhere in this song!

Some songs are explicitly political, like "Wandsworth Prison" and "Viva Zapata!". Others explore the everyday resistance inherent in even small acts, like finding your voice and having the confidence to sing, such as "Shattering Silence". Either way, the politics run right through, and the politics are good.

My biggest surprise came with the bluesy piano arrangement on "On The Blade", a song I didn't really like the first times I heard it. This works really well and Steve gets to show off his voice, which is strong and human.

I'm writing this review while listening to that great Wobbly singer Utah Philips. That the 1926 Committee can stand alongside him on a tape recorded in a living room is testament to their ability. If you like our music real and rootsy, buy this one.

MH

Vitrolles - the logic of the ballot box

This article was translated and abridged from Le Monde Libertaire for Black Flag #211 in 1997. Vitrolles is a town in France whose council was won in elections a few months prior by the fascist Front National. It was the fourth city run by the FN at the time - the others were Toulon, Orange and Marignane.

VITROLLES: THE LOGIC OF THE URNS
(urnes in French means both ballot boxes and funeral vases)

The socialists were too gross. They preferred to safeguard the feeble chance of taking the Mayoralty of Vitrolles by playing the republican card and trying to impose an alliance on the right. Keeping the Socialist list meant the election of the Front National mayor. The local militants who made it up, and said as much, have since been expelled from the Party. Once again politics has taken priority over the antifascist struggle and the logic of favouring the FN to divide the right can be seen.

The rules of the Game
The failure in Vitrolles of this struggle, shows a fact many find hard to accept. It's a matter of democratic principle to delegate power. At the time of the FN successes at Toulon, Marignane and Orange, the revulsion of all those shocked or well meaning was focussed on the minority aspect of the victor. That a party could, with one third of the votes and even less of those registered to vote, win a municipal election and manage the life of all was unacceptable. But they forget that all elections function this way. And that most of those who run Town halls are a "minority". Their logic implies that all parties are equal except the FN. The latter have the right to play with the others only if they stay in the role of asserting or being a scarecrow, for the 'democratic spectacle'. But if they participate fully and win, like the others, then "democracy is in danger". It's completely true.

It is doubly true when the later election of Vitrolles isn't the result of a minority vote but that of a majority vote without a saucer of irregularity or fault of the electoral code. An anti-democratic party has the right to accede democratically to power to apply their programme. It has the right because all the parties have it and, as is thought, the FN is a party like all the others (This is not a compliment!). In the same way it can take the right to interfere in the purchases of the municipal libraries because everyone else, socialists included, have done this for a long time - in all democracy!

The democratic contradiction
Is the power of the people in danger? This depends on your definition of the people. If the citizen is spoken of, it must be admitted that they only exist as a brave few and are diminishing even now, except for the privileged citizens. If it's a matter of the nation, we are already in a totalitarian world yet risk knowing other totalitarianisms more restricting. The root of the problem is the principle of delegation of power to the dictatorship of a majority - or a minority - over all.

The principle of giving, and also of losing, one's voice in elections is the basis of the democratic illusion. Article 27 of the constitution, title IV on the Parliament, which says "all imperative mandate is null" shows well the role of politics. If the MP cannot impose a vote by his group, it is one part to safeguard his role as a free arbiter and the other part to divide parliament, but it is also to recall that the nomination doesn't give any control over him by his electors. He represents then those who voted (for or against) and those who didn't or couldn't vote. An elected MP represents the whole world, not the mandates of the population, nor even of his party. This infers that in Toulon, for example, the council represents all Toulonnais, the foreigners there included.

It is the system which is at fault, not the beneficiaries in the FN. To want to deny them yet appeal to the "democratic ideal" is to admit defeat. It is to continue to deny the freedom for all to take their destiny in their own hands.

We prefer the direct action and self organisation.

Claude Delattre - group Humeurs Noires, Lille

We the Anarchists! (Review)

A review by Black Flag of Stuart Christie's book on the Spanish FAI - Iberian Anarchist Federation from the time of the Spanish Civil War.

The article below is an edited version of that which appeared in Black Flag 211, 1997. It refers to the original spiral-bound version of his book.

We, The Anarchists!
A Study of the Iberian Anarchist federation (FAI) 1927-1937
by Stuart Christie
Published by The Meltzer press; £12.50 spiral bound

This book contains some very important lessons for anarchists that deserve a wider circulation. The Spanish revolution and the events leading up to it are the most important events this century from an anarchist perspective (so far at least!). This issue of Black Flag marks 60 years since the May Day events in Barcelona marked the triumph of the Stalinist reaction and the defeat of the revolution.
The role of militants of the FAI and the CNT (Spain's anarcho-syndicalist union) in the revolution has been subject to much interpretation, particularly by those hostile to anarcho-syndicalism. Christie's book deals with most of what bourgeois commentators have said about Spain. But the real value in this work is that it places the betrayal of anarchist principles by the FAI and CNT in the context of the evolution of those organisations, and addresses the question of leadership, but more importantly, the question of "followership".

Christie starts by explaining how three factors need to be considered to understand recent Spanish history. Firstly, that anarchism was embedded deeply in the working class, at least partly because it reflected their relationships and values. Secondly, that anarchism was the predominant ideological influence within the labour movement. And thirdly, that the anarchist militants who defended and built up their organisations through decades of repression were motivated by a desire to bring about a libertarian communist society, objectives which brought them into conflict both with the state and the bosses, and the leaders of their own union confederation.

The book outlines the historical development of anarchism in Spain, and how it developed and influenced the labour movement, particularly in Catalonia, the industrial heartland. It also takes an analytical view and tries to address, in the author's words, "how can ideals survive the process of institutionalisation? If this is not feasible, at least to be able to identify the turning points so that we can counter the process".

From about 1927 onward, a struggle broke out within the CNT between the leadership of the CNT and conscious anarchist militants of the rank and file over the heart and soul of the union. This struggle was to culminate in the split of the CNT in 1931 when the treintistas, leadership figures who had signed the "manifesto of the Thirty", left the Confederation taking a small number of unions with them. Outside commentators have claimed the reformists were pushed out by a rigidly disciplined party-type organisation -the FAI. The truth is somewhat different.

Christie takes us through how the reformists, many of whom were national or regional secretaries, believed that they had to concentrate on trade union type issues and compete for members with the socialist UGT. However, the UGT's co-operation with the Primo de Rivera dictatorship, which passed labour laws favouring them and attacking the CNT, had lost them credibility and the CNT was growing with its message of open class warfare and direct action. The CNT leadership, though popular as individuals, were out of touch. One of the reasons that individuals like Angel Pestaña were in these positions was that anarchist militants refused to take them because of their corrupting nature.

The reformists tried to change the CNT's constitution, moving it away from federalism and anti-capitalism to being a mere mediator between workers and capital. At the same time the UGT was working with the structures of the dictatorship of Primo de Rivera, and using this position to attack the CNT. The reformists wanted the CNT "in from the cold", so to speak, and able to operate free from the socialists' attacks. Against this background, a small number of militants met in Valencia in 1927, founding the Federacion Anarquista Iberica, the FAI, which also included Portuguese militants. The FAI addressed how it would relate to the CNT, a relationship described as the trabazon, an organic bond at local level between the CNT and FAI through Defence Committees and Pro-Prisoner Committees.

AT this time, the FAI was an ad hoc association of affinity groups. It never even grouped a majority of anarchists in the CNT into its ranks, despite the allegations of bourgeois and Marxist historians like Woodcock, Carr and Morrow that it was a centralised party-like apparatus. It consisted of anarchists who refused to go along with their union's leadership and asserted the historic anarchist role of fighting authoritarian ideas and defending the libertarian spirit of the CNT. Indeed, many of the more famous names associated with it were not even members, and there seems to be doubt whether Durruti was ever a fully fledged member.

The roots of the collaboration proposed by the reformists were in the tactical co-operation they had had with military and political oppositionists of all shades under the dictatorship. . Though the anarchists were a minority, they did exercise a powerful moral authority within the membership of the union. Many FAIstas had graduated from the open class war of pistolerismo, where employers hired gunmen to murder CNT members. When the dictatorship collapsed, there was a surge in strike activity and the FAI were blamed, even though in this period their very existence was nominal.

By now, Pestaña and his allies held the upper hand. They published a paper, Acción and controlled the National Committee. They were pressing for closer contacts with the republicans as a strategy, not just as a tactic. One of them, Juan Peiró, had to resign after signing a particularly dubious manifesto, Inteligencia Republicana. That April, after the CNT National Plenum advised a tactical vote for the left, a Socialist- Republican coalition won the elections overwhelmingly.

The Second Republic enacted a number of measures against the CNT, some deliberate to favour the UGT, others, such as the mixed juries, as a by product. On May Day, civil guards fired on the CNT demonstration, killing one and wounding 15. The FAI now began to emerge as a pole of dissent within CNT against the reformists. The arguments came out at the III Congress in June, but were not resolved.
During the summer, heightened social conflict with the government polarised these differences. The reformists gambled with the "manifesto of the 30", to isolate the revolutionaries. They failed. The rank and file, subject daily to the brutality of open class war from the bosses and the state, sided with the FAI. The Treintistas left the CNT and Pestaña went on to form the Syndicalist party.

Christie now argues that the FAI had done its job but was taken over by "rootless intellectuals" like Diego Abad de Santillan. It is certain that most of its militants went back to their day to day activity as members of the CNT. Many others were taken out of activity after the abortive uprising which led to the massacre at Casas Viejas and a wave of arrests and repression. De Santillan had joined the FAI in 1933. He had an obsession with economic planning and saw the FAI as providing anarchism with the discipline and organisation to fulfil its historic mission. Groups around De Santillan argued for "greater democracy" within the FAI and moves were made to expel the Nosotros group (which included Durruti, Ascaso etc) though nothing came of the latter. Quite definitely the culture changed and many of the working class militants no longer felt at home in the FAI, to quote Progreso Fernández, "Lots of people dropped out then, but we remained anarchists, because anarchism is an attitude to life".

Christie's analysis points out one of the failings of the most common criticism made of the Spanish anarchists by English speaking anarchists: that they did not take organisation seriously enough. If only, bemoaned the Platformist (later Leninist) Anarchist Workers Group, if only the Spanish translation of the "Platform" had reached them, they might have been equipped with better ideas to win. The fallacy of this argument is obvious - it was not a correct political line which could win the revolution, but the deeds and actions of the militants involved. Those who advocated greater organisation within the FAI were not those who were the first to rise and defeat the fascists in Barcelona and elsewhere.

The success of the revolution on July 19th 1936 is well documented. There is no need to go over it again here. But what is interesting is the way the FAI and CNT ended up collaborating with the State and even joining the government. Christie's view is that this happened because, just because of their history, these organisations substituted themselves for the organs of the revolution - the factory and neighbourhood committees. It was in this way that Federica Montseny became co-opted into the government. Her neighbourhood committee sent her along to the CNT-FAI headquarters to find out what was going on. Instead she got co-opted onto the committee. Christie's account of the defeat of the revolution does not make light reading. His conclusions are that we must not and cannot separate ends from means. By adapting to circumstances, the FAI found itself on the wrong side of the struggle for social justice and equality. It would be purely speculative to suggest other things that could have been done at the time. The anarchists of Spain faced a difficult dilemma, and we should not judge their failings too harshly, rather we should learn from them and try not to make the same mistakes ourselves. And he poses the question of why the anarchist rank and file went along with a lot of the actions of the CNT-FAI at the time which betrayed anarchist principles by ignoring the relationship between ends and means.

MH

What is anarcho-syndicalism? - libertarian reformism, vanguardism or revolutionary unionism?

This controversial article was a reflection of how the author saw things at the time. It was published in Black Flag in 1997. It's fair to say that his views have changed since then and events have moved on.

What is anarcho-syndicalism? - libertarian reformism, vanguardism or revolutionary unionism?

About a dozen years ago a pamphlet published by the Direct Action Movement asserted that the (anarcho-syndicalist) International Workers' Association contained three main currents - Anarcho-Syndicalists, Revolutionary Syndicalists and Syndicalists. In reality there is no such thing as just "syndicalism", and anarcho-syndicalism and revolutionary syndicalism are one and the same thing.

However, the pamphlet's author, Col Longmore, was describing debates within the International between poles described in these terms. The debate is really between a kind of anarchist vanguardism (styling itself anarcho-syndicalism) and a libertarian reformism (styling itself revolutionary syndicalism). Both poles of the debate contain elements of anarcho-syndicalism, but each is being selective in its interpretation.

The vanguardists emphasise the anarchist principles, particularly opposition to class collaboration exemplified by the longstanding IWA hostility to participation in Works Councils [1] and collaboration with the state, and are keen that all actions of affiliated unions pass stringent standards of political soundness. The libertarian reformists are just as disingenuous in their emphasis on other principles, particularly apolitical membership, mass recruitment and union autonomy. For the principled anarcho-syndicalist there are merits to both viewpoints, but we fall between self-righteous stagnation on the one hand, and a drift towards class collaboration on the other.

This debate remains stillborn within the confines of the IWA today. The existence of libertarian reformist organisations is not seen as evidence of a problem facing anarcho-syndicalism as it breaks out of its sects and ghettos, to be analysed and avoided as we seek to establish a revolutionary practice in the here and now. The discourse is one of contagious treachery, exposure to which must be avoided in order to remain revolutionary. The penalty for exposure is demonisation and expulsion, and deep suspicion of any comrades with whom there is contact.

To do this debate justice it needs to take place both among and beyond the (disputed) membership of the International, because the majority of those who need to speak and to hear are those whose participation is currently taboo. For many of us revolutionary organisation poses a challenge. To meet it we need to recognise, understand and overcome the flaws in our theories, organisations and strategies that can lead to libertarian reformism. We find it bizarre that we can work with authoritarian reformists, whose organisations can teach us little about our own, but must shun libertarians from whose reformism we can learn and strengthen our own revolutionary organisation and resolve.

Revolutionary Unionism
Syndicalisme Revolutionnaire is the French term coined to describe the theory and practice of the Confederation Generale du Travail (CGT), set up by anarchists such as Emile Pouget in post-Commune France in response to the party-affiliated fragmentation and impotence of the labour movement. It stressed workers' unity and militancy and an anti-parliamentary practice based on direct action and revolution precipitated by the Social General Strike. Apoliticism (as an antidote to party-affiliated unions) and union autonomy, a result of the anarchists' federalism, were always part of its make-up.

It is worth remembering that it was French anarchists who first coined the term "libertarian" to describe themselves as a means of avoiding the post-Commune censorship, and who found that the content of their ideas and actitivities was more important than a label that carried the certainty of repression. (It would be many years before "anarchist" became a term safe for bourgeois liberals and individualists to cloak themselves in spurious radicalism with.)

The history of revolutionary labour movements is dominated by Spain, however. The lack of scope for reformist trades unionism meant that, aside from the Asturian mineworkers, the Socialist Party-affiliated Union General de Trabajo (UGT) was composed predominantly of craft unions before the industrial boom provided by Spanish neutrality in the 1914-18 War.

This left the organisation of semi-skilled and often internal migrant workers to the anarchists. Cycles of organisation and repression linked to political upheavals eventually gave birth to the Confederacion Nacional del Trabajo (CNT) in 1910-11. The close identity of anarchism and mass labour organisation in Spain and its former colonies meant that in the Spanish-speaking world the same phenomenon as the practice of the French CGT was termed more explicitly anarcosindicalismo.

The two terms describe the same phenomenon, although in the English-speaking world Syndicalisme Revolutionnaire became "syndicalism". This is also the direct political descendent of the federalist workers' organisations affiliated to the original International Working Men's Association, for whom Michael Bakunin served as a spokesman. Indeed, the modern IWA was formed in 1922 as a reformation of that organisation. Federalist and economic, not centralist and political.

We also got the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), whose English language publications are more readily available than translations of our French and Spanish antecedents' propaganda and ideas. Technically-speaking the IWW espouse a theory called Industrial Unionism (the One Big Union), derived from the ideas of American marxist and Socialist Labour Party leader Daniel De Leon.

This is also the form of socialism espoused by Irish Republican hero James Connolly, incidentally, although you'd be hard pressed to get any "socialist republicans" to admit he was a syndicalist, and you won't find Socialism made easy, his fullest exposition of his syndicalist ideas, in the most recent edition of his complete works, either.

The only people I can think of who call themselves just Syndicalists as if it was some kind of distinct theory are Hull Syndicalists/Syndicalist Bulletin. They draw heavily on the 1930's IWW ideas expressed in Ralph Chaplin's The General Strike, which is pacifist and hostile to any activity not focussed on the workplace. It was pushing this agenda alongside an ill-concealed hostility to anarchism in the pages of Direct Action which led to their acrimonious departure from DAM in 1986.

Partly as a result of the spurious anarcho/revolutionary syndicalism split, partly to give our ideas a label in plain English and complete the translation of Syndicalisme Revolutionnaire, I prefer to use the term "revolutionary unionism". What I mean by this is anarcho-syndicalism, undiluted and without distortions.

Vanguard, what vanguard?
One problem with the use of the term anarcho-syndicalism in Britain is the fact that in the early 1980's genuine anarchists adopted the term in order to distinguish ourselves from the pacifists, hippies, liberals, individualists and eco-fascists who were able to call themselves anarchists without either understanding the term or having its meaning rammed down their throats after their teeth by aggrieved proles. Unfortunately, many of the anarchists (real ones) had as sketchy an idea of anarcho-syndicalism as the unwashed had of anarchism.

While this is partly due to the lack of concrete anarcho-syndicalist organisation and practice and of English language propaganda, the existence of both in Spain, for example, has not prevented similar problems from arising there. The real problem has to do with the legacy of (fascist) repression in the 1930's and post-war labour policies in Western Europe. The living culture of anarchism and anarcho-syndicalism has been interrupted by these events, and it has been possible to dress cobblers up as anarchism without being shown up by the real thing.

A widely-held view of anarcho-syndicalism involves a misreading of history and of the role of anarchist organisations. This view can be summed up as "if you have your CNT, you need your FAI". The FAI was the Federacion Anarquista Iberica, in reality a loose federation of diverse anarchist groups embracing everyone from those who would today be termed lifestylists to those active in CNT Defence Committees.

Many anarchists misread the FAI as a vanguard organisation essential to keeping the CNT on its revolutionary course, without which it would have succumbed to the reformist tendencies fools believe to be inherent in the working class and our organisations (some "anarchists" show a remarkable consistency with leninism at times).

While the above characterisation may be over-simplified it accurately sums up the basis on which some comrades, who currently dominate the IWA, act. The role of the contemporary FAI in both the (Spanish) CNT-E and the IWA is questionable, but it continues to haunt us. Historically, it would have been both impossible and unprincipled for the FAI, or any faction, to control the CNT, or any mass anarcho-syndicalist organisation.

Although anarchists did fight reformists within the CNT in the 1930's, notably the bureaucrat Angel Pestana, they did so as anarcho-syndicalist workers preserving federalist, autonomist and democratic principles which were basic to the union's principles and culture, not as a rival leadership. There was no role for a vanguard to play because a healthy anarcho-syndicalist organisation established through class struggles dating back to the 1860's embodied a tradition and culture of libertarian organisation which belonged to the working class as a whole, not to some "revolutionary" priesthood.

The destruction of such mass organisations by fascism and the Allied victory in the 1940's has robbed us of our culture and left us nursing a shadow of it. It is unfortunate that the guardians of the shadow seem to prefer it, which they own, to the real thing, which belongs to the working class as a whole.

Post-War stagnation
The IWA suffered post-war stagnation - the CNT was in exile; the Swedish SAC was sucked into collaboration with the state in order to survive in a society dominated by social democracy, robbing the international of its last mass organisation; prominent anarcho-syndicalists like Rudolf Rocker and Augustin Souchy came out in favour of bourgeois democracy. Resistance continued in Spain, however, and provided a focus for networks of anarchists in Western Europe.

When younger revolutionaries attracted to armed resistance became active in the late '60's and the '70's as part of the re-emergence of revolutionary activity characterised by workers' militancy in Britain and the "events" of 1968, a link with our history was there. Our comrade Albert Meltzer played a key role in this process, and Black Flag is part of its legacy.

With the death of Franco in 1975, underground networks who had maintained the traditions of anarcho-syndicalism, as well as participating in armed resistance actions (both branded "terrorism" by the state), re-formed the CNT. The reaction of the exiled organisation is instructive - they denounced the militants for using the name CNT, as it was the property of the exile organisation!

Reality won through eventually, and led to a revival of the IWA in the late '70's, among the other sections were the CNT-F in France and the revived Unione Sindicale Italiano (USI). The (allegedly three) members of the Syndicalist Workers' Federation in Britain formed the Direct Action Movement in 1979 with a disparate membership of anarcho-punks, squatters, ex-Wobblies, stray Australians, etc. Since the reformation of the CNT-E was the catalyst for this revival, it took some years for the British Section - DAM - to get over a hero-worship phase towards the Spanish Section.

A long-running controversy in the IWA was the participation of the CNT-F in elections for Works Councils, for propaganda purposes on an abstentionist basis (or so we have always been told). This section was also traditionally the "revolutionary syndicalist" source of opposition to the affiliation of anarchist-dominated anarcho-syndicalist "propaganda groups", as opposed to revolutionary/anarcho- syndicalist unions only. The former issue was a matter of debate within the French CNT, but the majority position remained that unions might participate in elections on an abstentionist basis, and that this fell into the sphere of union autonomy.

Another was relations with the ex-Section in Sweden, SAC, now firmly established as a reformist union dispensing welfare to workers on behalf of the state in the Swedish mould, but with a strong pride in its libertarian traditions and a degree of militancy at odds with social democracy. SAC's pluralist political culture leads it to seek international relations with any union or political group who will deal with it, and to plead innocence when it causes offence.

Patrimony
Ultimately, the most damaging process has been the dispute over the CNT-E's "historic patrimony". In 1939 the victorious nationalists seized the assets of both the CNT and the UGT. Part of the process of "restoring democracy" was the return of these assets to those unions, the greater share of which belonged to the majority union in Spain at the time - the CNT. The attraction of the money caused two splits from the CNT to unite and claim that they were the real, "Renovated" CNT, and that the anarcho-syndicalist organisation recognised by the IWA was merely a rump living in the past.

Since the patrimony was held by the state, the CNT went to court to settle the dispute, causing varying degrees of disquiet among anarcho-syndicalists worldwide. While officially maintaining loyalty to the CNT-AIT and denying the lie that there were two CNT's in Spain, other IWA Sections sought clarification of the CNT-E's position and to express concern over an anarcho-syndicalist union asking the state to establish its credentials.

Muddying the waters was the SAC, who offered assistance (financial) to "both CNT's", which the phoney, reformist organisation accepted, and the CNT-AIT refused - partly due to SAC's dealings with the rival claimants, and partly due to official IWA hostility to SAC dating back to the dispute over which SAC disaffiliated in the '50's.

SAC has always claimed innocent neutrality in its defence, but this is the neutrality of the arms dealer, prolonging the dispute and increasing the bitterness both in Spain and towards itself. I strongly suspect that had SAC offered assistance only to the CNT-AIT the original dispute would have been regarded as an irrelevance.

Bizarrely, among those championing the "two CNT's" theory were the anti-syndicalist anarchists who endorse the Organisational Platform of the Libertarian Communists, among them the newly-formed Anarchist-Communist Federation in Britain. Strangely, those who are convinced that anarcho-syndicalism is reformist, and who have adopted a neo-council communist line on unions [2], are the first to endorse libertarian reformists who claim to be anarcho-syndicalist (particularly in France where there is a proliferation of both groups) even as they make denunciation of the real thing their distinguishing characteristic in the "revolutionary" marketplace.

The root cause of the splits in Spain had been participation in Works Councils, which although associated with the European Union and the Maastricht Treaty's Social Chapter are the direct descendants of the fascist corporatism of the Franco regime in Spain. The CNT-AIT promoted the idea of the Union Section - shopfloor organisation represented by directly-elected, recallable delegates - in opposition to the Works Councils, which are a form of industrial parliamentarism.

Eventually, the courts ruled in favour of the CNT-AIT, and the "CNT-R" was forced to change its name to CGT. At the XVIII Congress of the IWA held in Bordeaux at Easter 1988 the dispute was still in the hands of the judges, and a source of friction between the CNT-E and other sections. The attitude of some Spanish delegates, and of their General Secretary, Garcia Rua, to any query about the CNT-E's attitude towards other sections and the use of courts (ie collaboration with the state) was openly hostile. It was also obvious that some of our "comrades" in Spain regard the IWA as their overseas auxiliaries, not fellow anarcho-syndicalists working under different conditions.

The problems this caused led the members of the CNT-E National Committee present to soften the organisation's attitude, and to decide that the IWA Secretariat should not be drawn from members of the Spanish Section. It was eventually forced on a member of the German Section, the Freie Arbeiterinnen und Arbeiter Union (FAU).

While the move of the Secretariat led to greater openness in the International, and vastly improved communication, particularly for non-Spanish speaking sections, the personality of the General Secretary and his relationship with the Section from which he had been chosen [3] caused a lot of problems. This led to the Secretariat returning to Spain in 1992 - two steps forward, one step back as it turned out.

The French dispute
Having settled the patrimony dispute to the satisfaction of the CNT-E, the attention of the IWA turned to expansion, particularly in Eastern Europe in the wake of the collapse of the Soviet system, and also in Asia, Africa and Latin America. This is still a source of strength and hope for the international, but sectarianism [4] continues to dominate.

Among those lending support to the CNT-E in the patrimony dispute was a Swiss groupuscule calling itself Les Amis de l'AIT (Friends of the IWA), which specialised in exposing the dubious associations of those supporting the future CGT in Spain. As a reward for this they were awarded the status of "Friends of the IWA", which is neither a Section nor a Candidate seeking affiliation, but has a de facto privileged status nevertheless.

Having reached an impasse through the proper channels, the minority within the CNT-F who were implacably opposed to any involvement with Works Councils or elections to them decided to internationalise the dispute. This they did by engineering a split (although outwardly conciliatory, the majority appeared quite happy to let this happen), and demanding the IWA Secretariat recognise them, not the majority, as the true IWA Section in France.

Quite rightly the General Secretary declined to interfere in the internal business of a Section, and for this he was vilified by the Swiss, who then offered themselves as "impartial mediator" in the dispute! Matters spilled over at a Plenary of the IWA held in London in 1994, which involved provocative dossier flicking by the minority faction, known as "Bordeaux" who claimed that some of the unions in France had only one member, and were a paper majority. It culminated in a walkout by the minority faction from the next Plenary in Cologne when they weren't endorsed as the sole representatives of the French Section.

This coincided with the build-up of an increasingly poisonous atmosphere in Spain, sparked by the receipt of the patrimony from the state, and disputes about its distribution. Certainly the then General Secretary of the IWA was under pressure from his Section, in breach of the rules, to take sides in the French dispute. Eventually he resigned under the pressure.

The legacy of the patrimony dispute, and the corrupting influence of the money, has had an impact on the nature of the CNT-E. Small, unpopular unions run by those whose families have traditionally been associated with the CNT have received money, and are now no longer dependent on the support of the larger unions.

Those who see the CNT and anarcho-syndicalism as their property, forced to compromise in 1975, have taken revenge on the modern CNT. The majority of the CNT in Catalunya has been expelled. In international terms the clock has turned back to 1988, and the Spanish Section is now dominated by those who see the IWA as merely its auxiliary.

This process has been confirmed at the XX Congress of the IWA, held at Madrid in December 1996. The CNT-E tried to exclude one of the parties to each dispute - in France and Italy - at the stage of confirmation of credentials, before any debate had taken place. Attempts to investigate the disputes fully, in order to have sufficient information to make the right decision, were rejected. This led to only two Sections voting to expel the majority in France and the Rome-based split of USI - CNT-E and Norway's NSF.

The rest abstained due to insufficient information, and the British Section were told by the hosts that they were not following their mandate in an attempt to get another vote for expulsion. In fact the Solidarity Federation's mandate was based on full investigation and reconciliation where possible, and it is a measure of the proprietorial attitude of the host Section that they should regard another Section's delegates as accountable to them.

The decision to expel the majority in France was greeted by cheering from many Spanish observers and the bus-load of "Bordeaux" CNT-F who had turned up. An atmosphere of intimidation and confusion was encouraged by the hosts, and exploited to slip through changes to the Principles of Revolutionary Unionism and the Statutes of the IWA without proper discussion or consideration of their implications. A comrade from the British Section was abused by another from Spain when trying to establish some order and clarity from the chair.

Principled anarcho-syndicalists now face the prospect of spending the next four years trying to repair the damage, and in all likelihood such a course will attract the attentions of the smear-machine which runs the Swiss franchise - sold to Les Amis de L'AIT in return for political support for the sectarians.

Laying down the line
The majority CNT-F has retained its name - it was affiliated to the IWA, but existed in its own right - and is consistent with its own traditions, warts and all. By not investigating the French and Italian disputes thoroughly, the IWA has wasted an opportunity to get at the truth (we think we've been misled or lied to by both sides), and to examine the relevance of anarcho-syndicalism in the real world. It has also missed an opportunity to identify how an anarcho-syndicalist union can drift towards libertarian reformism.

Worse, the Statutes of the International have been amended to create "conditions for disaffiliation" (expulsion), which include:

"A: Failure to comply with the Principles, Tactics and Aims of the IWA."

The word "Tactics" also now appears in the Conditions of Affiliation. There are no "IWA Tactics". This is saying that no section has the right to tactical freedom, or to allow union autonomy. We await the party line, based on the assumption that Spanish conditions are universal. Opposition to Works Councils, in the guise of opposition to class collaboration, has now been elevated to a universal principle, rather than being a matter for sections. We were supposed to be becoming less eurocentric.

Similarly, an attempt to update the Principles of Revolutionary Unionism by adding two points, on Environmentalism and on forms of oppression not economic in origin (race, gender, sexuality, etc), has had a negative outcome. Both points were proposed by the Solidarity Federation. The point about environmentalism was accepted. On the other point we suddenly found ourselves in Militant...

The Solidarity Federation proposed:

"Revolutionary unionism is opposed to all hierarchies, privileges and oppressions, not simply those which are economic in origin. It recognises that oppression can be based on race, gender, sexuality or any other perceived or actual difference, and that these oppressions both must be fought for their own sake, and because they are fundamental to the maintenance of capitalism. However, all oppression, whatever its origin, has an economic aspect and is based on a power relationship. Concepts of "equality" which fail to recognise this fact, and any attempt to fight discrimination without also attacking hierarchy and privilege based on class will chiefly benefit hitherto excluded sections of privileged classes, and will not end discrimination against those without class privileges, even where they achieve some short term gains."

What was drawn up by a Congress Commission and passed without proper discussion was:

"6: Revolutionary unionism rejects all parliamentary activity and all collaboration with legislative bodies. It holds that even the freest voting system cannot bring about the disappearance of the clear contradictions at the centre of present day society. The parliamentary system has only one goal: to lend a pretence of legitimacy to the reign of falsehood and social injustice. Revolutionary unionism does not recognise differences other than those of the economic order, national or regional, the result of these being the emergence of hierarchies, privileges and oppressions of every type (for race, sex, sexuality, or whatever difference, perceived or real)."

Try arguing with black workers that racism merely divides the working class, and is a diversion from the real struggle, rather than it is oppressive and must be fought in its own right, but is not independent of capitalism and class. I know what they think of that position, because I've seen the left, with their commitment to a 19th century universalism derived from the pseudo-science of marxism, try it. It's patronising. This is nearly the 21st century, the IWA has responded to the lessons of black, women's and gay liberation by diving back into the 19th.

Federalism, which includes such principles as regional and union autonomy, encourages diversity. At its XX Congress the IWA has subtly, possibly unintentionally, moved away from federalism and betrayed its anarcho-syndicalist heritage because of a preoccupation with sectarian disputes and the proprietorial attitude of the CNT-E towards both the IWA and anarcho-syndicalism. The challenge facing revolutionary unionists is to be true to our heritage, and to apply our principles to the world we live in, rather than retreating into what is familiar.

Principles in practice

Article 4, Part D of the Statutes of the International Workers' Association now reads:

"Revolutionary unionism rejects class collaboration, which is characterised by the participation in committees organised under corporate state schemes, (for example in union elections for company committees) and the acceptance of state subsidies which maintain union officials and other practices that can distort anarcho-syndicalism."

This is all very well but it assumes the Spanish model of industrial relations is universal, which it clearly isn't. Any potential anarcho-syndicalist union in Britain seeking recognition under Labour's proposed law to grant it to any union gaining a vote of 50% of the workforce in a (state sponsored) ballot would find itself in a tricky situation. If you can't deliver to your members, and you can't strike over everything, they will go elsewhere. OK, you strike for recognition, but your members will be lured to a reformist outfit who will use the law.

This new Article also puts question marks over such things as facility time for union representatives, and any participation in collective bargaining machinery. While ideally anyone would rather all management initiatives were rejected out of hand, sometimes they can be neutralised, or problesm avoided through talking.

We can play a double game in reformist unions, but impossible conditions are expected of a revolutionary union. There has to be room for union autonomy, and for people to make mistakes so that they can learn. As one French comrade once put it: "anarcho-syndicalism is like free speech, useless if you don't practise it."

This is the kind of dilemma that has faced anarcho-syndicalists on the continent. You recruit workers to your union on the basis of direct democracy, recallable delegates, control by the rank and file and direct action. Inevitably, they are not all anarchists, and are not committed to every dot and comma of the IWA Statutes, but there's nothing wrong with that because it's an anarcho-syndicalist union, not a disciplined party. You make some progress in getting revolutionary ideas across, and build up a libertarian culture of self-organisation.

Then you run up against a conflict between your apolitical membership (described above) and federalist union autonomy on the one hand, and too rigid an interpretation of anarchist principles on the other. Now, it's a mistake to base commitment to a union on a ballot, rather than on solidarity built up through a strike, but recognition on more than paper is going to lead to the latter after you've won the former. You learn (collectively) from the mistake. However, you are not allowed to make mistakes, and you've all been disaffiliated for breaching IWA Statutes.

In an anarchist journal like this it is easy to understand the thinking behind the IWA Statutes, but in the real world choices are harder. In France, in the private sector, CNT-F claims that Works Councils are the only means of gaining recognition. CNT-F unions have sought election to them, a grave error, but one you don't get to make twice. The natural consequence of union autonomy, an anarcho-syndicalist principle, is tactical flexibility. In Spain too, anarchists whose ex-CNT-E unions were expelled have ended up in the CGT.

To demonise these unions and their members is a grave error, because there are anarcho-syndicalists in them too. What is needed is communication, honesty and full information. The reason anarcho-syndicalism is advocated by this journal instead of disciplined political groups is because it establishes a libertarian, revolutionary culture within the wider working class. Without such a culture there can not be a successful social revolution, because that can only be made by the working class as a whole.

To put on a tactical straitjacket will prevent us gaining a mass audience for anarcho-syndicalism, without which it is pointless. We need to accept this, and to strike a working balance. Reformism is a real danger, we need to learn from other's mistakes, but we will learn nothing from retreating into sectarianism.

Where the Solidarity Federation stands at present we have an opportunity to avoid both errors, which are the product of a split, which has been manipulated by libertarian reformists and opportunists on the one hand, and vanguardists on the other. We must stick to our principles, but appreciate that the relevance of a hardline stance is going to be directly proportional to the level of hostility of the boss. Most fruitful will be areas where there is discontent and potential militancy, but no established union and negotiating structures.

If workers learn to organise the anarcho-syndicalist way, they will be sceptical of the reformist way. The top-down approach of the TUC affiliates scared of their members opens the way for us. Revolutionary unionists need to fill the vacuum they leave, by organising to win small victories around health and safety and other basic conditions, to organise education and briefing sessions on real issues, and to promote libertarian organisation, direct action methods and revolutionary goals as a practical package for establishing rights for workers.

Peter Principle

Notes:

[1] Works Councils are advocated by the European Union as part of its Social dimension. They are consultative bodies composed of annually-elected representatives. They have no power to negotiate and are a means of bypassing unions, and introducing individualised relationships between the workers and the company. They are consistent with the fascist idea of corporatism, denying differences of class interest and promoting social harmony. The Solidarity Federation is opposed to them, the TUC is sceptical, being in favour of collective bargaining. Labour....

[2] Many left or council communists believe that all unions are inherently reformist, and are barriers to workers' militancy, let alone revolution. Workers' experience of unions as their own organisations, and shopfloor organisations self-organised character are dismissed out of hand. The contradiction between the shopfloor union which belongs to the workers and the corporate body which has a stake in capitalism, hence the behaviour of its bureacracy, is not recognised, and cannot, therefore, be exploited. But if you are against workers' organisation except under revolutionary conditions you can slag off everyone under the guise of being more revolutionary than they are.

[3] While in office, the General Secretary and the other members of the IWA Secretariat cease to be members of their Section. This is intended to remove them from any pressure, and to ensure their neutrality. Unfortunately, it has not worked like that when the General Secretary has come from either Germany or Spain in recent years. In the case of the 1988-1992 period of office, a dispute between the General Secretary and FAU over its direction overshadowed the work of the Secretariat. When the Secretariat has been in Spain it has not always looked beyond the Spanish-speaking world.

[4] By sectarian I mean requiring the working class to share your own political perspective, rather than applying revolutionary principles to the reality experienced by the working class. Revolutionary ideas come from the working class and its traditions of self-organisation. As well as federalism, anarchism and by extension anarcho-syndicalism draw on the practice of the sans culottes in the French Revolution of 1789-1792. Kropotkin's history of those events is a good grounding in anarchist theory. The left often use sectarianism to mean attacking other political groups, but it is the sense of insularity which is damaging, and which I refer to here.

What is anarcho-syndicalism?: libertarian reformism, vanguardism or revolutionary unionism?

A 1997 article from Black Flag, critical of (then) recent events in the International Workers Association.

About a dozen years ago a pamphlet published by the Direct Action Movement asserted that the (anarcho-syndicalist) International Workers' Association contained three main currents - Anarcho-Syndicalists, Revolutionary Syndicalists and Syndicalists. In reality there is no such thing as just "syndicalism", and anarcho-syndicalism and revolutionary syndicalism are one and the same thing.

However, the pamphlet's author, Col Longmore, was describing debates within the International between poles described in these terms. The debate is really between a kind of anarchist vanguardism (styling itself anarcho-syndicalism) and a libertarian reformism (styling itself revolutionary syndicalism). Both poles of the debate contain elements of anarcho-syndicalism, but each is being selective in its interpretation.

The vanguardists emphasise the anarchist principles, particularly opposition to class collaboration exemplified by the longstanding IWA hostility to participation in Works Councils 1 and collaboration with the state, and are keen that all actions of affiliated unions pass stringent standards of political soundness. The libertarian reformists are just as disingenuous in their emphasis on other principles, particularly apolitical membership, mass recruitment and union autonomy. For the principled anarcho-syndicalist there are merits to both viewpoints, but we fall between self-righteous stagnation on the one hand, and a drift towards class collaboration on the other.

This debate remains stillborn within the confines of the IWA today. The existence of libertarian reformist organisations is not seen as evidence of a problem facing anarcho-syndicalism as it breaks out of its sects and ghettos, to be analysed and avoided as we seek to establish a revolutionary practice in the here and now. The discourse is one of contagious treachery, exposure to which must be avoided in order to remain revolutionary. The penalty for exposure is demonisation and expulsion, and deep suspicion of any comrades with whom there is contact.

To do this debate justice it needs to take place both among and beyond the (disputed) membership of the International, because the majority of those who need to speak and to hear are those whose participation is currently taboo. For many of us revolutionary organisation poses a challenge. To meet it we need to recognise, understand and overcome the flaws in our theories, organisations and strategies that can lead to libertarian reformism. We find it bizarre that we can work with authoritarian reformists, whose organisations can teach us little about our own, but must shun libertarians from whose reformism we can learn and strengthen our own revolutionary organisation and resolve.

Revolutionary Unionism

Syndicalisme Revolutionnaire is the French term coined to describe the theory and practice of the Confederation Generale du Travail (CGT), set up by anarchists such as Emile Pouget in post-Commune France in response to the party-affiliated fragmentation and impotence of the labour movement. It stressed workers' unity and militancy and an anti-parliamentary practice based on direct action and revolution precipitated by the Social General Strike. Apoliticism (as an antidote to party-affiliated unions) and union autonomy, a result of the anarchists' federalism, were always part of its make-up.

It is worth remembering that it was French anarchists who first coined the term "libertarian" to describe themselves as a means of avoiding the post-Commune censorship, and who found that the content of their ideas and actitivities was more important then a label that carried the certainty of repression. (It would be many years before "anarchist" became a term safe for bourgeois liberals and individualists to cloak themselves in spurious radicalism with.)

The history of revolutionary labour movements is dominated by Spain, however. The lack of scope for reformist trades unionism meant that, aside from the Asturian mineworkers, the Socialist Party-affiliated Union General de Trabajo (UGT) was composed predominantly of craft unions before the industrial boom provided by Spanish neutrality in the 1914-18 War.

This left the organisation of semi-skilled and often internal migrant workers to the anarchists. Cycles of organisation and repression linked to political upheavals eventually gave birth to the Confederacion Nacional del Trabajo (CNT) in 1910-11. The close identity of anarchism and mass labour organisation in Spain and its former colonies meant that in the Spanish-speaking world the same phenomenon as the practice of the French CGT was termed more explicitly anarcosindicalismo.

The two terms describe the same phenomenon, although in the English-speaking world Syndicalisme Revolutionnaire became "syndicalism". This is also the direct political descendent of the federalist workers' organisations affiliated to the original International Working Men's Association, for whom Michael Bakunin served as a spokesman. Indeed, the modern IWA was formed in 1922 as a reformation of that organisation. Federalist and economic, not centralist and political.

We also got the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), whose English language publications are more readily available than translations of our French and Spanish antecedents' propaganda and ideas. Technically-speaking the IWW espouse a theory called Industrial Unionism (the One Big Union), derived from the ideas of American marxist and Socialist Labour Party leader Daniel De Leon.

This is also the form of socialism espoused by Irish Republican hero James Connolly, incidentally, although you'd be hard pressed to get any "socialist republicans" to admit he was a syndicalist, and you won't find Socialism made easy, his fullest exposition of his syndicalist ideas, in the most recent edition of his complete works, either.

The only people I can think of who call themselves just Syndicalists as if it was some kind of distinct theory are Hull Syndicalists/Syndicalist Bulletin. They draw heavily on the 1930's IWW ideas expressed in Ralph Chaplin's The General Strike, which is pacifist and hostile to any activity not focussed on the workplace. It was pushing this agenda alongside an ill-concealed hostility to anarchism in the pages of Direct Action which led to their acrimonious departure from DAM in 1986.

Partly as a result of the spurious anarcho/revolutionary syndicalism split, partly to give our ideas a label in plain English and complete the translation of Syndicalisme Revolutionnaire, I prefer to use the term "revolutionary unionism". What I mean by this is anarcho-syndicalism, undiluted and without distortions.

Vanguard, what vanguard?

One problem with the use of the term anarcho-syndicalism in Britain is the fact that in the early 1980's genuine anarchists adopted the term in order to distinguish ourselves from the pacifists, hippies, liberals, individualists and eco-fascists who were able to call themselves anarchists without either understanding the term or having its meaning rammed down their throats after their teeth by aggrieved proles. Unfortunately, many of the anarchists (real ones) had as sketchy an idea of anarcho-syndicalism as the unwashed had of anarchism.

While this is partly due to the lack of concrete anarcho-syndicalist organisation and practice and of English language propaganda, the existence of both in Spain, for example, has not prevented similar problems from arising there. The real problem has to do with the legacy of (fascist) repression in the 1930's and post-war labour policies in Western Europe. The living culture of anarchism and anarcho-syndicalism has been interrupted by these events, and it has been possible to dress cobblers up as anarchism without being shown up by the real thing.

A widely-held view of anarcho-syndicalism involves a misreading of history and of the role of anarchist organisations. This view can be summed up as "if you have your CNT, you need your FAI". The FAI was the Federacion Anarquista Iberica, in reality a loose federation of diverse anarchist groups embracing everyone from those who would today be termed lifestylists to those active in CNT Defence Committees.

Many anarchists misread the FAI as a vanguard organisation essential to keeping the CNT on its revolutionary course, without which it would have succumbed to the reformist tendencies fools believe to be inherent in the working class and our organisation (some "anarchists" show a remarkable consistency with leninism at times).

While the above characterisation may be over-simplified it accurately sums up the basis on which some comrades, who currently dominate the IWA, act. The role of the contemporary FAI in both the (Spanish) CNT-E and the IWA is questionable, but it continues to haunt us. Historically, it would have been both impossible and unprincipled for the FAI, or any faction, to control the CNT, or any mass anarcho-syndicalist organisation.

Although anarchists did fight reformists within the CNT in the 1930's, notably the bureaucrat Angel Pestana, they did so as anarcho-syndicalist workers preserving federalist, autonomist and democratic principles which were basic to the union's principles and culture, not as a rival leadership. There was no role for a vanguard to play because a healthy anarcho-syndicalist organisation established through class struggles dating back to the 1860's embodied a tradition and culture of libertarian organisation which belonged to the working class as a whole, not to some "revolutionary" priesthood.

The destruction of such mass organisations by fascism and the Allied victory in the 1940's has robbed us of our culture and left us nursing a shadow of it. It is unfortunate that the guardians of the shadow seem to prefer it, which they own, to the real thing, which belongs to the working class as a whole.

Post-War stagnation

The IWA suffered post-war stagnation - the CNT was in exile; the Swedish SAC was sucked into collaboration with the state in order to survive in a society dominated by social democracy, robbing the international of its last mass organisation; prominent anarcho-syndicalists like Rudolf Rocker and Augustin Souchy came out in favour of bourgeois democracy. Resistance continued in Spain, however, and provided a focus for networks of anarchists in Western Europe.

When younger revolutionaries attracted to armed resistance became active in the late '60's and the '70's as part of the re-emergence of revolutionary activity characterised by workers' militancy in Britain and the "events" of 1968, a link with our history was there. Our comrade Albert Meltzer played a key role in this process, and Black Flag is part of its legacy.

With the death of Franco in 1975, underground networks who had maintained the traditions of anarcho-syndicalism, as well as participating in armed resistance actions (both branded "terrorism" by the state), re-formed the CNT. The reaction of the exiled organisation is instructive - they denounced the militants for using the name CNT, as it was the property of the exile organisation!

Reality won through eventually, and led to a revival of the IWA in the late '70's, among the other sections were the CNT-F in France and the revived Unione Sindicale Italiano (USI). The (allegedly three) members of the Syndicalist Workers' Federation in Britain formed the Direct Action Movement in 1979 with a disparate membership of anarcho-punks, squatters, ex-Wobblies, stray Australians, etc. Since the reformation of the CNT-E was the catalyst for this revival, it took some years for the British Section - DAM - to get over a hero-worship phase towards the Spanish Section.

A long-running controversy in the IWA was the participation of the CNT-F in elections for Works Councils, for propaganda purposes on an abstentionist basis (or so we have always been told). This section was also traditionally the "revolutionary syndicalist" source of opposition to the affiliation of anarchist-dominated anarcho-syndicalist "propaganda groups", as opposed to revolutionary/anarcho- syndicalist unions only. The former issue was a matter of debate within the French CNT, but the majority position remained that unions might participate in elections on an abstentionist basis, and that this fell into the sphere of union autonomy.

Another was relations with the ex-Section in Sweden, SAC, now firmly established as a reformist union dispensing welfare to workers on behalf of the state in the Swedish mould, but with a strong pride in its libertarian traditions and a degree of militancy at odds with social democracy. SAC's pluralist political culture leads it to seek international relations with any union or political group who will deal with it, and to plead innocence when it causes offence.

Patrimony

Ultimately, the most damaging process has been the dispute over the CNT-E's "historic patrimony". In 1939 the victorious nationalists seized the assets of both the CNT and the UGT. Part of the process of "restoring democracy" was the return of these assets to those unions, the greater share of which belonged to the majority union in Spain at the time - the CNT. The attraction of the money caused two splits from the CNT to unite and claim that they were the real, "Renovated" CNT, and that the anarcho-syndicalist organisation recognised by the IWA was merely a rump living in the past.

Since the patrimony was held by the state, the CNT went to court to settle the dispute, causing varying degrees of disquiet among anarcho-syndicalists worldwide. While officially maintaining loyalty to the CNT-AIT and denying the lie that there were two CNT's in Spain, other IWA Sections sought clarification of the CNT-E's position and to express concern over an anarcho-syndicalist union asking the state to establish its credentials.

Muddying the waters was the SAC, who offered assistance (financial) to "both CNT's", which the phoney, reformist organisation accepted, and the CNT-AIT refused - partly due to SAC's dealings with the rival claimants, and partly due to official IWA hostility to SAC dating back to the dispute over which SAC disaffiliated in the '50's.

SAC has always claimed innocent neutrality in its defence, but this is the neutrality of the arms dealer, prolonging the dispute and increasing the bitterness both in Spain and towards itself. I strongly suspect that had SAC offered assistance only to the CNT-AIT the original dispute would have been regarded as an irrelevance.

Bizarrely, among those championing the "two CNT's" theory were the anti-syndicalist anarchists who endorse the Organisational Platform of the Libertarian Communists, among them the newly-formed Anarchist-Communist Federation in Britain. Strangely, those who are convinced that anarcho-syndicalism is reformist, and who have adopted a neo-council communist line on unions 2, are the first to endorse libertarian reformists who claim to be anarcho-syndicalist (particularly in France where there is a proliferation of both groups) even as they make denunciation of the real thing their distinguishing characteristic in the "revolutionary" marketplace.

The root cause of the splits in Spain had been participation in Works Councils, which although associated with the European Union and the Maastricht Treaty's Social Chapter are the direct descendants of the fascist corporatism of the Franco regime in Spain. The CNT-AIT promoted the idea of the Union Section - shopfloor organisation represented by directly-elected, recallable delegates - in opposition to the Works Councils, which are a form of industrial parliamentarism.

Eventually, the courts ruled in favour of the CNT-AIT, and the "CNT-R" was forced to change its name to CGT. At the XVIII Congress of the IWA held in Bordeaux at Easter 1988 the dispute was still in the hands of the judges, and a source of friction between the CNT-E and other sections. The attitude of some Spanish delegates, and of their General Secretary, Garcia Rua, to any query about the CNT-E's attitude towards other sections and the use of courts (ie collaboration with the state) was openly hostile. It was also obvious that some of our "comrades" in Spain regard the IWA as their overseas auxiliaries, not fellow anarcho-syndicalists working under different conditions.

The problems this caused led the members of the CNT-E National Committee present to soften the organisation's attitude, and to decide that the IWA Secretariat should not be drawn from members of the Spanish Section. It was eventually forced on a member of the German Section, the Freie Arbeiterinnen und Arbeiter Union (FAU).

While the move of the Secretariat led to greater openness in the International, and vastly improved communication, particularly for non-Spanish speaking sections, the personality of the General Secretary and his relationship with the Section from which he had been chosen 3 caused a lot of problems. This led to the Secretariat returning to Spain in 1992 - two steps forward, one step back as it turned out.

The French dispute

Having settled the patrimony dispute to the satisfaction of the CNT-E, the attention of the IWA turned to expansion, particularly in Eastern Europe in the wake of the collapse of the Soviet system, and also in Asia, Africa and Latin America. This is still a source of strength and hope for the international, but sectarianism 4 continues to dominate.

Among those lending support to the CNT-E in the patrimony dispute was a Swiss groupuscule calling itself Les Amis de l'AIT (Friends of the IWA), which specialised in exposing the dubious associations of those supporting the future CGT in Spain. As a reward for this they were awarded the status of "Friends of the IWA", which is neither a Section nor a Candidate seeking affiliation, but has a de facto privileged status nevertheless.

Having reached an impasse through the proper channels, the minority within the CNT-F who were implacably opposed to any involvement with Works Councils or elections to them decided to internationalise the dispute. This they did by engineering a split (although outwardly conciliatory, the majority appeared quite happy to let this happen), and demanding the IWA Secretariat recognise them, not the majority, as the true IWA Section in France.

Quite rightly the General Secretary declined to interfere in the internal business of a Section, and for this he was vilified by the Swiss, who then offered themselves as "impartial mediator" in the dispute! Matters spilled over at a Plenary of the IWA held in London in 1994, which involved provocative dossier flicking by the minority faction, known as "Bordeaux" who claimed that some of the unions in France had only one member, and were a paper majority. It culminated in a walkout by the minority faction from the next Plenary in Cologne when they weren't endorsed as the sole representatives of the French Section.

This coincided with the build-up of an increasingly poisonous atmosphere in Spain, sparked by the receipt of the patrimony from the state, and disputes about its distribution. Certainly the then General Secretary of the IWA was under pressure from his Section, in breach of the rules, to take sides in the French dispute. Eventually he resigned under the pressure.

The legacy of the patrimony dispute, and the corrupting influence of the money, has had an impact on the nature of the CNT-E. Small, unpopular unions run by those whose families have traditionally been associated with the CNT have received money, and are now no longer dependent on the support of the larger unions.

Those who see the CNT and anarcho-syndicalism as their property, forced to compromise in 1975, have taken revenge on the modern CNT. The majority of the CNT in Catalunya has been expelled. In international terms the clock has turned back to 1988, and the Spanish Section is now dominated by those who see the IWA as merely its auxiliary.

This process has been confirmed at the XX Congress of the IWA, held at Madrid in December 1996. The CNT-E tried to exclude one of the parties to each dispute - in France and Italy - at the stage of confirmation of credentials, before any debate had taken place. Attempts to investigate the disputes fully, in order to have sufficient information to make the right decision, were rejected. This led to only two Sections voting to expel the majority in France and the Rome-based split of USI - CNT-E and Norway's NSF.

The rest abstained due to insufficient information, and the British Section were told by the hosts that they were not following their mandate in an attempt to get another vote for expulsion. In fact the Solidarity Federation's mandate was based on full investigation and reconciliation where possible, and it is a measure of the proprietorial attitude of the host Section that they should regard another Section's delegates as accountable to them.

The decision to expel the majority in France was greeted by cheering from many Spanish observers and the bus-load of "Bordeaux" CNT-F who had turned up. An atmosphere of intimidation and confusion was encouraged by the hosts, and exploited to slip through changes to the Principles of Revolutionary Unionism and the Statutes of the IWA without proper discussion or consideration of their implications. A comrade from the British Section was abused by another from Spain when trying to establish some order and clarity from the chair.

Principled anarcho-syndicalists now face the prospect of spending the next four years trying to repair the damage, and in all likelihood such a course will attract the attentions of the smear-machine which runs the Swiss franchise - sold to Les Amis de 'AIT in return for political support for the sectarians.

Laying down the line

The majority CNT-F has retained its name - it was affiliated to the IWA, but existed in its own right - and is consistent with its own traditions, warts and all. By not investigating the French and Italian disputes thoroughly, the IWA has wasted an oppotunity to get at the truth (we think we've been misled or lied to by both sides), and to examine the relevance of anarcho-syndicalism in the real world. It has also missed an opportunity to identify how an anarcho-syndicalist union can drift towards libertarian reformism.

Worse, the Statutes of the International have been amended to create "conditions for disaffiliation" (expulsion), which include:

"A) Failure to comply with the Principles, Tactics and Aims of the IWA."

The word "Tactics" also now appears in the Conditions of Affiliation. There are no "IWA Tactics". This is saying that no section has the right to tactical freedom, or to allow union autonomy. We await the party line, based on the assumption that Spanish conditions are universal. Opposition to Works Councils, in the guise of opposition to class collaboration, has now been elevated to a universal principle, rather than being a matter for sections. We were supposed to be becoming less eurocentric.

Similarly, an attempt to update the Principles of Revolutionary Unionism by adding two points, on Environmentalism and on forms of oppression not economic in origin (race, gender, sexuality, etc), has had a negative outcome. Both points were proposed by the Solidarity Federation. The point about environmentalism was accepted. On the other point we suddenly found ourselves in Militant....

The Solidarity Federation proposed:

"Revolutionary unionism is opposed to all hierarchies, privileges and oppressions, not simply those which are economic in origin. It recognises that oppression can be based on race, gender, sexuality or any other perceived or actual difference, and that these oppressions both must be fought for their own sake, and because they are fundamental to the maintenance of capitalism. However, all oppression, whatever its origin, has an economic aspect and is based on a power relationship. Concepts of "equality" which fail to recognise this fact, and any attempt to fight discrimination without also attacking hierarchy and privilege based on class will chiefly benefit hitherto excluded sections of privileged classes, and will not end discrimination against those without class privileges, even where they achieve some short term gains."

What was drawn up by a Congress Commission and passed without proper discussion was (amendment in italics):

"6 Revolutionary unionism rejects all parliamentary activity and all collaboration with legislative bodies. It holds that even the freest voting system cannot bring about the disappearance of the clear contradictions at the centre of present day society

The parliamentary system has only one goal: to lend a pretence of legitimacy to the reign of falsehood and social injustice. Revolutionary unionism does not recognise differences other than those of the economic order, national or regional, the result of these being the emergence of hierarchies, privileges and oppressions of every type (for race, sex, sexuality, or whatever difference, perceived or real)."

Try arguing with black workers that racism merely divides the working class, and is a diversion from the real struggle, rather than it is oppressive and must be fought in its own right, but is not independent of capitalism and class. I know what they think of that position, because I've seen the left, with their commitment to a 19th century universalism derived from the pseudo-science of marxism, try it. It's patronising. This is nearly the 21st century, the IWA has responded to the lessons of black, women' and gay liberation by diving back into the 19th.

Federalism, which includes such principles as regional and union autonomy, encourages diversity. At its XX Congress the IWA has subtly, possibly unintentionally, moved away from federalism and betrayed its anarcho-syndicalist heritage because of a preoccupation with sectarian disputes and the proprietorial attitude of the CNT-E towards both the IWA and anarcho-syndicalism. The challenge facing revolutionary unionists is to be true to our heritage, and to apply our principles to the world we live in, rather than retreating into what is familiar.

Principles in practice

Article 4, Part D of the Statutes of the International Workers' Association now reads:

"Revolutionary unionism rejects class collaboration, which is characterised by the participation in committees organised under corporate state schemes, (for example in union elections for company committees) and the acceptance of state subsidies which maintain union officials and other practices that can distort anarcho-syndicalism."

This is all very well but it assumes the Spanish model of industrial relations is universal, which it clearly isn't. Any potential anarcho-syndicalist union in Britain seeking recognition under Labour's proposed law to grant it to any union gaining a vote of 50% of the workforce in a (state sponsored) ballot would find itself in a tricky situation. If you can't deliver to your members, and you can't strike over everything, they will go elsewhere. OK, you strike for recognition, but your members will be lured to a reformist outfit who will use the law.

This new Article also puts question marks over such things as facility time for union representatives, and any participation in collective bargaining machinery. While ideally anyone would rather all management initiatives were rejected out of hand, sometimes they can be neutralised, or problesm avoided through talking.

We can play a double game in reformist unions, but impossible conditions are expected of a revolutionary union. There has to be room for union autonomy, and for people to make mistakes so that they can learn. As one French comrade once put it: "anarcho-syndicalism is like free speech, useless if you don't practise it."

This is the kind of dilemma that has faced anarcho-syndicalists on the continent. You recruit workers to your union on the basis of direct democracy, recallable delegates, control by the rank and file and direct action. Inevitably, they are not all anarchists, and are not committed to every dot and comma of the IWA Statutes, but there's nothing wrong with that because it's an anarcho-syndicalist union, not a disciplined party. You make some progress in getting revolutionary ideas across, and build up a libertarian culture of self-organisation.

Then you run up against a conflict between your apolitical membership (described above) and federalist union autonomy on the one hand, and too rigid an interpretation of anarchist principles on the other. Now, it's a mistake to base commitment to a union on a ballot, rather than on solidarity built up through a strike, but recognition on more than paper is going to lead to the latter after you've won the former. You learn (collectively) from the mistake. However, you are not allowed to make mistakes, and you've all been disaffiliated for breaching IWA Statutes.

In an anarchist journal like this it is easy to understand the thinking behind the IWA Statutes, but in the real world choices are harder. In France, in the private sector, CNT-F claims that Works Councils are the only means of gaining recognition. CNT-F unions have sought election to them, a grave error, but one you don't get to make twice. The natural consequence of union autonomy, an anarcho-syndicalist principle, is tactical flexibility. In Spain too, anarchists whose ex-CNT-E unions were expelled have ended up in the CGT.

To demonise these unions and their members is a grave error, because there are anarcho-syndicalists in them too. What is needed is communication, honesty and full information. The reason anarcho-syndicalism is advocated by this journal instead of disciplined political groups is because it establishes a libertarian, revolutionary culture within the wider working class. Without such a culture there can not be a successful social revolution, because that can only be made by the working class as a whole.

To put on a tactical straitjacket will prevent us gaining a mass audience for anarcho-syndicalism, without which it is pointless. We need to accept this, and to strike a working balance. Reformism is a real danger, we need to learn from other's mistakes but we will learn nothing from retreating into sectarianism.

Where the Solidarity Federation stands at present we have an opportunity to avoid both errors, which are the product of a split, which has been manipulated by libertarian reformists and opportunists on the one hand, and vanguardists on the other. We must stick to our principles, but appreciate that the relevance of a hardline stance is going to be directly proportional to the level of hostility of the boss. Most fruitful will be areas where there is discontent and potential militancy, but no established union and negotiating structures.

If workers learn to organise the anarcho-syndicalist way, they will be sceptical of the reformist way. The top-down approach of the TUC affiliates scared of their members opens the way for us. Revolutionary unionists need to fill the vacuum they leave, by organising to win small victories around health and safety and other basic conditions, to organise education and briefing sessions on real issues, and to promote libertarian organisation, direct action methods and revolutionary goals as a practical package for establishing rights for workers.

Peter Principle

Originally appeared in Black Flag (Spring 1997).Taken from spunk.org

  • 1. Works Councils are advocated by the European Union as part of its Social dimension. They are consultative bodies composed of annually-elected representatives. They have no power to negotiate and are a means of bypassing unions, and introducing indivdualised relationships between the workers and the company. They are consistent with the fascist idea of corporatism, denying differences of class interest and promoting social harmony. The Solidarity Federation is opposed to them, the TUC is sceptical, being in favour of collective bargaining. Labour....
  • 2. Many left or council communists believe that all unions are inherently reformist, and are barriers to workers' militancy, let alone revolution. Workers' experience of unions as their own organisations, and shopfloor organisations self-organised character are dismissed out of hand. The contradiction between the shopfloor union which belongs to the workers and the corporate body which has a stake in capitalism, hence the behaviour of its bureacracy, is not recognised, and cannot, therefore, be exploited. But if you are against workers' organisation except under revolutionary conditions you can slag off everyone under the guise of being more revolutionary than they are.
  • 3. While in office, the General Secretary and the other members of the IWA Secretariat cease to be members of their Section. This is intended to remove them from any pressure, and to ensure their neutrality. Unfortunately, it has not worked like that when the General Secretary has come from either Germany or Spain in recent years. In the case of the 1988-1992 period of office, a dispute between the General Secretary and FAU over its direction overshadowed the work of the Secretariat. When the Secretariat has been in Spain it has not always looked beyond the Spanish-speaking world.
  • 4. By sectarian I mean requiring the working class to share your own political perspective, rather than applying revolutionary principles to the reality experienced by the working class. Revolutionary ideas come from the working class and its tradition of self-organisation. As well as federalism, anarchism and by extension anarcho-syndicalism draw on the practice of the sans culottes in the French Revolution of 1789-1792. Kropotkin's history of those events is a good grounding in anarchist theory. The left often use sectarianism to mean attacking other political groups, but it is the sense of insularity which is damaging, and which I refer to here.

Black Flag 212 (1997)

Issue of the London-based anarchist magazine Black Flag from the 1990s.

Contents

Editorial

There is increasing interest in anarchist ideas throughout the world. To capitalise on this we need to be organised. But the purpose of this organisation is not to be an end in itself, but to spread our ideas to the wider working class, to encourage working class self organisation, and to fight for libertarian and revolutionary ideas within that self organisation.

So, following on from last issue, we return again to the themes of organising, this time with a lengthy contribution from a comrade from the South African Workers Solidarity Federation, dealing with separate organisation. The article on anarcho-syndicalism in our last issue attracted a fair amount of letters, which shows that this is a matter of importance to our readers. What's happening with Class War is further evidence that some of the old assumptions about organisation are being challenged.

As Blair and co break the handful of promises they made, and the Socialist Workers Party push for big lobbies of a Labour conference they know is the enemy, the task of long term work among working class communities is more and more being left to anarchists alone. The next few years will see serious fights over the destruction of welfare and benefits, and the removal of resources from working class communities. We need to be there, and so do you........…

Update on the Trial of Anarchists in Italy

The trial has now entered a phase of technical testimonies made by convicts and police officers. At this stage, what's being analysed is the episode of the so-called "Prenestino Car-bomb", which exploded in 1989 killing comrade Luigi De Blasi. There have been many police investigations and technical evaluations made in order to determine the quality, quantity and destructive potential of the explosive used, and also the motives and identities of those involved in this incident. Both top forensic scientists and professors from the university came to testify on the investigation into who the man devastated by the car-bomb was (for the prosecution, the assassin De Blasi). The prosecution's final theory was that this car-bomb must have been a reprisal to avenge some kidnappers killed by police on the hard shoulder a few days previously in Rome. So, according to the prosecution, this was the motive and De Blasi must have carried out this attack. Moreover, the professors specifically stated their certainty regarding the identity of the bomber.

The next hearing is set for the 7th and 8th of July, practically a month and a half away from the last one. There's an interest in spinning out this trial, to make sure it goes by unobserved, and in dampening the atmosphere of confict that developed in the first few hearings.

One last piece of news is that Lovecchio, who arrived in Rome a few weeks ago after being extradited from the Netherlands, found herself jailed in Rebibbia and is now under house arrest.

For more info http://www.nexus.it/tmcrew

Close Campsfield!

The inspection report of Campsfield was finally published in April and was highly critical of the Home Office. Among the main points of the report were that detainees don't know why they are there, they have nothing to do, and Group 4, the private security company who run the centre, don't have a clue. Minister for Racist Immigration Practices Mike O'Brien and the dreaded spin doctors managed to convey to the media that the main recommendations were that more asylum seekers should be locked up! O'Brien went on to renew Group 4's contract for 3 years.

Despite the confirmation of the report's author Sir David Ramsbotham that the regime at Campsfield is probably illegal, no move has been made to drop the charges against the Campsfield 9, whose trial started in June. Already, an official has admitted that he couldn't recognise one of the detainees he named as participating.

Anarchists were among those who picketed the Crown Prosecution Service over the Campsfield 9 in April.

Source: CARF, BM Box 8784, London WC1N 3XX

Class War no. 73

If they are to be believed, this is the last issue of CW, though no doubt someone will republish it, just as all the ageing punk bands who still provide the inspiration for one half of CW always stage comebacks - welcome to the old timers, but offering nothing new.

That said, there are positive things to say about this paper. To quote, "We need to find new ways of organising ourselves that can appeal to all the working class, male and female, young and old, black and white." We wholeheartedly agree. While we could nitpick that this is not the first time this has been said, what matters is what we have in common, and what we can achieve together. So we recommend people do go along to CW's meetings, with an open mind and clear from preconceptions, just to see if there are worthwhile common projects.

There are three areas where we can work together, in the locality, in the workplace, and around issues. Here are some of our thoughts.

Working locally is the most important and most neglected. It is in the local area where you can have the greatest impact and greatest visibility. And visibility is important, it's the only reason anyone ever joins the SWP. However, local activities do have their problems. The reason many anarchists don't prioritise local activity is often, we suspect, because they don't feel connected with the locality, especially in cities like London, where many anarchists tend to ghettoise themselves in areas like Hackney and Brixton. Allied to this, it can be dull, and will take a long time. It is fair to say that concerted local work will pay back in terms of members, success and influence after 5 to ten years, depending on conditions. For young activists that is very daunting. It is also difficult at times for people to work out what to do. Fighting for a zebra crossing isn't very glamorous, is it?

A good example of what can be done locally is the Bradford 1 in 12 Club, who have the confidence in their politics and the influence (and know a lot of the local politicians and bureaucrats because they've been around as long) that they can call meetings, demand that the council sends someone to answer questions, and the Council does! This isn't to buy them off, it's because the Council has learnt the hard way the price of ignoring them. Bad examples of local activity are legion, unfortunately.

Local groups do not have to be based around a social centre, though it obviously helps. They do need to have an understanding of what's going on in their locality, and this is one of anarchism's advantages over the 57 varieties, so why don't we make more use of it? Perhaps we're afraid of people breaking up our cosy little world, or perhaps we scare people off with jargon or the promise of loads of work as the victims of burnout see new members as an opportunity to rediscover a life.

Workplace organisation is just as essential, though obviously not everyone is in a position to do it. That many who are in such a position don't is a result of confusion about unions and their role. Put simply, there is a difference between defending your rights at work and becoming general secretary of the TUC. There is not the same opportunity here as there is in local organising, but the two are complementary. If someone is victimised at work the local group can support and help out in terms of pickets, solidarity, doing stuff for organising campaigns where the workers want to remain anonymous. With the JSA and the quick succession of temporary dead end jobs many are now faced with, having a local is vital. It is worth being a shop steward or union rep, both for the knowledge and skills you will learn as well as the satisfaction of fighting the bosses at a small but meaningful level. In our opinion union positions outside the workplace, such as branch secretary and so on, while someone needs to do them, are not the best places for anarchist militants to put their effort into.

Successful workplace organisation needs two things - local support in terms of numbers and solidarity, and solidarity and advice from others in the same industry. These require both a local organisation (see above) and an industrial network of like-minded militants.

Issue based campaigns are perhaps the most problematic. We'll start with a good example, the Anarchist Black Cross (ABC). The ABC has no problems in terms of members / supporters agreeing on political principle and on what they want to do collectively (it is a voluntary organisation after all). It is also not bound by constraints of geography or circumstances, even if you are the only anarchist on Rockall you can still write to prisoners.

What get called single issues are usually not single issues. The problems associated with them include working with other people who not only do not share your politics, but are openly hostile to them, such as Trots and Stalinists.

We are clear that we are not talking about a new organisation, there is no need for one. Should one arise it must come from the bottom up, from local groups networking. Our energy is better spent in organising than in another organisation. These meetings are to be welcomed.

CW73 available from BM 5538 London WC1N 3XX for 50p

Solidarity urgently needed!!!

On July 7th anarchist militant Vaclav Jez was arrested in the Moravian town of Blansko for attempted double murder charges and "keeping illegal arms". On July 6, Vaclav had been attacked by two Nazi-skinheads while destroying some anti-anarchist slogans, sprayed by local fascists. The two Nazis attacked him brutally with the intention of heavily injuring or even killing him. In desperation, Vaclav drew the illegaly owned gun and fired in self-defense. One bonehead was hit in the shoulder and the second escaped.

Police immediately accused Vaclav of a "double murder attempt", claiming that well known Blansko nazi skinheads were just "ordinary youngsters" accidentaly passing by and that the streetfight was incited by Vaclav himself.. The district judge sentenced him to preliminary custody awaiting trial. Vaclav faces a 15 year sentence for both "murder attempts" and 5 years for his illegally-owned gun. The whole situation is complicated because Vaclav was sentenced previously to 2 years conditionally for refusing to serve "civil service" (instead of "normal" military service).

Vaclav is one of the most active militant anarchists in all Czechoslovakia and a well known antifascist activist. He has already been framed by the Special Antiextremist Secret Police, which arrested him on the May Day demonstration 1995 and accused him of "verbal assault on a Police officer". Vaclav spent 5 months in jail and was freed only due to anarchist public protest campaign. He was investigated by the policemen, who were beating him during interrogation and demanding contacts and names of Czech anarchist militant scene. The false Police interpretation of his self-defense against two armed skinheads is another attempt to silence him.

Because legal assistance is extremely expensive in the Czech Republic, we urgently ask all anarchists all over the world to help us to provide a good lawyer for Vaclav. Because he is a "recidivist" according to the law, he can be also sentenced to "extraordinary punishment", which means 25 years or more. If you want to help, please, contact the International secreatriat of CSAF caf-inter@usa.net.

Send protest letters to your local Czech embassy demanding the dropping of the charges against Vaclav, because he acted in self-defense and expressing solidarity with this Czech revolutionary anarchist !!!

FREEDOM FOR VACLAV JEZ !!!

Euromarch

From: Kevin Brandstatter -----A report on the UK leg of the march.

Saturday 4 June about 300-400 max marchers got together in Hyde Park. I put the term loosely. The venue had been variously billed as Marble Arch, Speakers Corner, Hyde Park, and lastly Reformers Tree in Hyde Park.

I was the first to arrive, met a couple of other IWW members and waited. Members of the SPGB turned up followed by few people from Socialist Organiser and then some Spartacists who tried to "teach" me that what we needed was a Bolshevik Revolutiona along the lines of 1917!!

Two people arrived with a banner procaiming themselves the Euromarch, walked straight to the centre of the Park, set up a megaphone and started making speeches. At the time they turned the megaphones on there was no-one around to listen to them. They had gone to a completely different place to the supporters of the march. Eventually we filtered over to where they were, listened to a number of boring contributions, laced with such homilies as "fight social exclusion" [a sociologists dream slogan I think] and waited for the mass march from Hillingdon Hospital to arrive. It did - there were no more than 30 on it! We then spent another while listening to more speeches and the march assembled and set off. [It was the smallest London march I had ever been in] At Downing Street a petition or something was handed in and a delegation of 6 returned cheering as if the revolution had started!

The march then wound its way to Westminster hall and there was a small rally.

In retrospect the day was a complete waste of time although as the IWW we made a few contqacts and sold some literature. I spoke with quite a few people who came along and it seems apparent that the attempts to totally depoliticise the march itself and the Euromarch in general had been so successful that no-one actually knew what the whole event was for!!! That in itself probabaly knocked participation totally on the head.

Kevin Brandstatter
IWW
Swindon

The Dawning of a New Era: Responses to Labour Election Victory

How many times since 1st May and the landslide election of Tony Blairs Labour Government have you had conversations with punch drunk lefties that begin What was your favourite memory of election night 97?. Maybe its a sign of political illiteracy that party manifestoes are so dull that no one bothers to read them anymore, but it seems that the media euphoria and the popping of champagne corks at Walworth Road have served to obscure the fact that New Labour was supported by The Sun, The Times, The Financial Times and The Economist and the New Labour Manifesto set out its aims as follows: In industrial relations we make it clear that there will be no return to flying pickets, secondary action, strikes with no ballot or the trade union laws of the 1970s.

In their book The Blair Revolution Peter Mandelson and Roger Liddle set down in detail what Labours pledges to crackdown on petty crime and neighbourhood disorder and stop the growth of an underclass in Britain will actually mean.

On crime; To improve the effectiveness of the police, so they catch more criminals....The issue is not just more bobbies on the beat but how the police best organise themselves to exploit technological advance - from genetic identification techniques to the use of video recorders, to data matching systems.

...To increase the likelihood of convictions in the courts and through reform of our criminal justice procedures, reduce the number of technical acquittals.

On the underclass; It is not right that some people should collect the dole, live on the black economy and then refuse to co-operate with societys efforts to reintegrate them into the labour market. It is dishonest and corrosive of our attempt to build a sense of mutual obligations in the community. In the circumstances where new opportunity is being offered and refused there should be no absolute entitlement to comtinued receipt of full social security benefits.

The Economist and The Sun both backed Labour because they read between the lines and anticipated what lay behind all the cheery grins and photo opportunities.

European capital cannot afford the cost of the maintenance of the welfare state. Germanys unemployment stands at 4.5 million, French unemployment is over 3 million, Britains around 3.5 million. The cost of unemployment is borne through the provision of welfare benefits. The welfare state is a drag anchor on economic growth. If European capital is to compete with the Asian economies and the US economy, it requires labour market flexibility to hold down wages so intervention by the state to msustain the labour market as a way of reducing unemployment is out. The only remaining solution is to dismantle the welfare state itself. The Financial Times, in calling for support for Blair, recognised that the party best placed politically to dismantle the welfare state is the party which gave birth to it. Blairs vision, which he has sold to the CBI, The Economist and a host of other business forums, is of a hi-tech, low wage economy. As Mandelson describes it John Major presided over a massive boost to government spending in the run up to the 1992 election. Public spending rose by 5.7% in the election year alone.... Public borrowing has too often absorbed too high a share of the countrys savings. Government policy must ensure that the ntaions savings are put to productive purposes, rather than immediate public or personal consumption.

The vote cast for Labour on 1st May was objectively a vote for the dismantling of the welfare state, slashing of public sector pay, workfare and a high tech police force to save the middle classes from the disorder likely to result. Does anyone still need to ask why Labour didnt oppose the Criminal Justice Act?

Whatever subjective intentions Labour voters had, the end result was the replacement of a weak, divided anti-working class government with a right wing anti-working class government with a massive majority!

Over the next 5 years Labour will seek to drain resources form working class communities. The closure of schools, youth clubs, libraries and playgroups, and the selling off of housing stock and chronic disrepair which are the trademark of Labour in local office will be attempted on a national scale. Unless the resistance to this responds on the basis that Labour is the class enemy in office, and opposes it as such and fights from the basis that every school, every youth club, every council home, belongs to the community in which it is based and is not the property of the grinning Rachmans of Blairism, the Labour project will succeed, and the wholesale abandonment to 3rd world levels of poverty of whole sectrions of the working class which is the legacy of Clinton in the US will be our fate here.

My favourite memory of May 1st? Well, mine was a week or so later, in Socialist Worker, with a headline We Didnt Vote for This. Tough shit, comrades, you voted for it, campaigned for it and the rest of us are now going to pay for it.

Martin

Poles Apart: The Magnet Dispute Drags On

350 workers at Magnet Kitchens' factory in Darlington were sacked 3rd September last year. They had rejected the company's proposal on wages - £35 a week cut on average, after 3 years of a pay freeze!

Last year Magnet made profits of £27 million, and gave fat cat director Marion Anonini a pay rise of £750,000. The workers response was almost unanimous industrial action, to which Magnet responded by sacking 350 workers, nearly the entire workforce. Strikers have been threatened and scabs have been hired at even lower wages and on short term contracts. As the dispute drags on, and it is obviously hurting Magnet, it is clear that it is mainly anarchists who are actively supporting the workers there, much to the shame of the left. Aside from anarchist publications covering the dispute, there were various snide comments in the stalinist Trade Union Review about a "loose collective" of supporters occupying a Magnet branch in the North East.

There are four unions involved, and their only response so far has been to call for a boycott. This is fair enough, but if, like me, you've spent a few hours picketing Magnet showrooms, you'll notice that not a lot of trade goes on. In fact, it's quite clear that the sort of consumer boycott that hits normal retail outlets won't work here. Instead what's needed is solidarity of the real kind, such as getting construction unions in Magnet's large customers (local authorities, hotel and catering businesses) to refuse to fit Magnet kitchens. This is an awful lot harder, and the biggest step is actually to talk to the workers in these places. It begs the question as to why the locked-out Magnet workers' own unions haven't done it, as it would be much easier for them to impose an industry wide boycott.

Black Autonomy

Recently, we met a member of Black Autonomy visiting London. Sister Nora is a student in Atlanta. We began by asking about the lockdown of poor black communities that occurred during the 96 Olympics in Atlanta.

Nora: During the Olympics, thousands of homeless people were evacuated out of the city, and loads more arrested for no good reason, some spending months in jail. The police were everywhere, though people in Atlanta are used to seeing them as Georgia is a police state. Most working class people had jobs, but many in the African American community set up venues in a historic part of town. The police and city council conspired to direct traffic away from them, and many were ruined.

BF: Were there any protests during the Olympics?

Nora: There was no protesting or boycotting - the police stopped it all, using anti-terrorism laws. The city returned to normal after the Olympics, but they beefed up police security, with lots of roadblocks. People in Atlanta think this is normal, they are used to it. The police are very brutal. In 1995 they killed Brother Jerry Jackson, shot him dead in cold blood. The officer who did that hasn't even been prosecuted or brought to trial.

In August 1996, Sister Olabumi Chavious was brutalised by police after someone jumped into her taxi. The police officer involved slammed her face into the pavement and refused to call a doctor despite the pleas of witnesses.

Police harassment is constant. There is little done to counter it, old organisations like the NAACP have a lot of meetings, banquets and so on, but they don't DO anything. The situation for poor people is one of high rents, high gas and electric, high reconnection fees if you're cut off.

BF: What sort of opposition is there to this?

Nora: There's very little, none really. The middle class are very afraid of the poor working class, and the poor are caught up in materialism. Many can't read, do math, and are so called third generation welfare. No one on the campuses is working with the poor, the only community oriented organisations are very middle class.

In many places the police run the communities. One particular squad, the "Red Dogs" run the drugs industry. The projects are very bad, in one a baby choked on a cockroach and died. the ghettos are starved of resources, and this is in a black run city. At my school there was no heating, and I ended up going to a white high school. The Atlanta education system is one of the worst in America.

BF: What about police involvement in the drugs trade?

Nora: They are famous for it, especially the Red Dogs who break into peoples' homes. There are some projects where it has now been proved that the government brought crack into them, because certainly no one there could afford it.

Most police are black, the whites tend to live in the suburbs. The biggest problem is the lack of education, the leftist organisations are afraid of the black working class themselves.

BF: What about the Nation of Islam and their drug programmes?

Nora: The NOI is very strong in Atlanta, and Farrakhan is a demigod to them, though they don't do anything political here. The Million Man March was well organised by the NOI but nothing came from it. Their next plan is the Million Woman March, out of Philly. The Communist Youth Brigade are active on campuses but won't touch the black working class. The NOI fill the vacuum that ought to be filled by leftist organisations with things like the breakfast programmes and drugs work. With the NOI, this tends to be individuals do this work, and the Nation rallies round, though some Ministers have been expelled where they did a lot of work with the working class. It is a good escapist organisation for people without self-discipline.

BF: Is there a way out of it?

Nora: It needs education, the kids feel there's something wrong but don't know what. There are various organisations which do literacy programmes but they don't address where people are coming from. A lot of the kids don't feel they can do anything for themselves, and there are a lot of measures against them, like curfews.

A Short History of Polish Anarchism

An anarchist movement of Narodnik ( Russian anti-capitalist democratic activists of the late 19th century) and Anarchist ideas from Russia and Western Europe came into existence at the turn of the 1th century. The ideas were by no means uniform, from the uncompromising and controversial Nieczajew [nechaev?], gallant Bakunin, anarcho-communist prince Kropotkin or Leo Tolstoy, promoter of a pacifist christian negation of statehood.

The first and most significant anarchistic group in the pre-independence Poland originated in 1903 in Bialystok and consisted in an enormous part of Jewish people. In the next years some similar centres came into being in Nieznow, Warsaw,Lodz, Siedlce, Czestochowa, Kielce and a couple of other towns.What particularly intensified activity in all centres was news from the Russian Revoluution, Bloody Sunday in St Petersburg. These groups took part in terrorist activity as well as propoganda actions such as attempts on police officers' and factory owners' lives. There were also bank robberies to gain funds. Nowadays the majority of us anarchists entirely reject such methods but to understand the motivation to act in this way it is important to realise the level of cruelty and despotism of the tsar's authority. For example in Warsaw, on Governer general Saklow's order, 16 young anarchists, (about 18 years old) were murdered by the authorities and their bodies thrown into the Vistula. Shots at demonstrating workers were not uncommon either.

At the same time material popularising the ideas of anarcho-syndicalism came pouring in. Adherents of this kind of anarchism repudiated terrorism claiming it did not contribute to an increase in society's consciousness, but on the contrary averted it from anarchism and caused disarray in the movement. That is why anarcho-syndicalists encouaraged other anarchists towards propagandistic activity and joining trade unions.

The best known theoreticians of Polish anarchism were Edward Abramowski, Waclaw Machajski and the anarcho-sydicalists Dr Jozef Zielinski and Augustyn Wroblewski. Edward Abramowski claimed to be a non-state socialist . However it should be noted that the word "socialism" at that time did not have such a limited meaning as it has nowadays and a majority of groups of liberation, leftist groups and struggles for independence identified with it. Abramowski presented his views in works such as "Ethics and Revolution", "Republic of Friends " and "A Public Collusion Against Government". As an alternative to the state system were , in his opinion, gratuitous ????? trades set up by rules of common affairs and mutual services associated in bigger co-operatives. Only they are a support of a real freedom, give welfare, order, justice and brother hood to the individual. Furthermore they are organised from the grassroots, spontaenaeously without compulsion.Existing associates should form on a specified territory a free commune without authority and police. However the lack of a supposedly indispensable repression machinery does not mean the eruption of chaos into human life art all. The reverse happens- it releases energy and fervour that were being reduced in a system so far and that make people wanting to create the surrounding reality and to find themselves in it. An example of a big growth of social consciousness in the big solidarity days and then the repression of 13/12 ?????? is the best evidence of an enormous potential in people who have realised that they can change something in their life and surroundings at last. But let's return to Abramowski's theories. An unquestionable authority of those days, Tolstoy, had a considerable influence on his views. Follwoing him he advocatied non-paymnet of taxes and refusing to join the army. At the same time as being against the church as an institution he referred to Jesus' sermons which in his opinion denied statehood and authority. In his book "A public collusion agfainst governemnt" he gave some instructions about how people should struggle with the Tsar for thier own national maintenance. it certainly did not mean promoting another dictatorship which statehood is. Abramowski was also ( as every anarchist) opposed to national socialism. He prophetically warned "The politics of modern socialism is not a politics of strengthening and extending national authority that tends not towards setting people free but towards towards authorising everything which can be authorised only in their life." ????????????

Another popular polish anarchist was Waclaw Machajski, born in 1876, an originator of a new current, so-called machajewszsczism. Originally he was a patriotic activist in the PPS party but gradulaly he came to anti-intelligentsia views. he claimed that all the greatest evil that surrounds people comes form ideas and ideologies of intellectuals. Although the consequence of that attitude was the setting aside not only of democracy and socialism but anarchism as well his ideology was closely related to this movemnt. Foretelling the constraints that follow socialism he augured an arrival of a slavish system in which bureaucratic machinery set up by intelligentsia would constrain an ordinary workman. During the interwar period syndicalist ideas had reercussions in the Union of Trade Unions ( ZZZ in Polish) this was 130000 strong and active from 1931-1939. The association presented itself to join the IWA. It is still active today and assembles anarcho-syndicalist and syndicalist trade unions. During the war the ZZZ and other organsiations formed the Polish Syndicalist Union (in polish ZSP) which actively battled against fascists. However it was not isolated from other formations and coperated with the National Army (AK) and the People's Army (AL). An illegal newsheet, the Syndiclaist, was published and ZSP detachments took part in the Warsaw Uprising.

Anarchistic ideas reappeared after the war at the same time as the Alternative Societies movementand the Sigma club which originated in the early 80s. Other groups like the Autonomous Anarchistic Federation of Lublin, Freedom and Peace, Intercity Anarchistic Federation and Orange Alternative shot up like mushrooms after that. They were all active against the communist system however as distinct from Solidarity they defended themselves with irony and humour and refusing to join the army than more traditional methods. A lot of the radical ecological activists came form these movemnts. Some still exist and there are new ones as well such as Social Activity Membership in Slupsk. Anarchist ideas of the workers movemtn found a lot of support. A group of the Anarchist Federation published a paper "Works" in Nova Huta.

An inspiration to that kind of activity was often the original Solidarity which has a lot of syndicalist features in its programme. "the only possible way to change the actual situation is to set up authentic workers' autonomies which would make the employees the real master of a factory. Our association demands a restoration of the autonomous nature of the co-operative. It is necessary to pass a new bill which will protect from administrative interference." This was passed by the National Deputies conference of NSZZ (Solidarity) in 1981. The real programme of this association is now much less radical and far from the original.

It should be said that Polish anarchist history is not as impressive as the Spanish, Italian or Russian. [ this is according to the Polish authors of this piece ] A strong desire for its own statehood after years of slavery won in Polish society. As always this situation gave independence to only a minority, to the majority only new chains. I hope the future will not bring us a sadomasochistic cult of the headman to Polish society but instead the triumph of freedom and autonomy. Long Live Anarchy.

Race Class and Organisation by SA WSF

(We recently observed a very fruitful discussion on race and class on the internet, particularly around "black" anarchism, special oppressions and the desirability of separate organisation.

One of the best and most comprehensive posts came from a member of the Workers Solidarity Federation of South Africa, an anarchist/syndicalist group with a majority African component, which while personal, reflects their politics and positions on these matters.

Interest in anarchism is growing throughout the world. There are active groups in most parts of the world, with the exception of the Indian subcontinent, Antarctica and as far as we know the Chinese dictatorship. This process will no doubt accelerate and there is a challenge for us to make our ideas accessible.

But as our South African comrades point out below, "it was the ability of anarchism to provide alternatives and to pay special attention to the specific needs of these different sections of the working class in order to unite the whole class that made the success (of the Cuban anarchists and IWW) possible" not "a revision of anarchism to accommodate nationalism".

RACE CLASS and ORGANISATION

It is claimed that Anarchism as currently constituted is unable to attract Black people, and other specially oppressed minorities. It is therefore argued that we should thus endorse separate Black-only anarchist/ community organisations that may in some (vague and unspecified) cases associate with "white" groups - "white" groups should "work among" "their own" people etc.)

These arguments are wrong or lacking in clarity.

Firstly, class struggle anarchism has historically proved quite capable of attracting massive numbers of people of colour. In fact, one could claim that historically most anarchist movements have been based in Third World countries. For example, anarchism dominated the revolutionary movement in China in the 1910s and early 1920s. In the First World, Anarchist movements historically attracted specially oppressed national minorities, for example, the IWW attracted thousands of Black workers in the USA Deep South. Even today, groups such as the WSF (SA) and the Awareness League of Nigeria have almost entirely Black memberships . The key to this success was a consistent class struggle programme that combated all manifestations of oppression. For example, the Cuban Anarchists mobilised both Afro-Cubans, creoles and Spaniards in massive integrated anarcho-syndicalist unions because they opposed racist practices like apprenticeship laws, because they supported the anti-colonial struggle against Spain and because they provided a class struggle answer to the questions facing all sections of the working class. It was not a "revision" of anarchism to accommodate nationalist paradigms that made the breakthrough- it was the ability of anarchism to provide alternatives and to pay special attention to the specific needs of these different sections of the working class in order to unite the whole class that made the success possible. Anarchists did not capitulate to nationalist ideas- they combated them- they did not organise separately, they organised as Anarchists on a class struggle basis.

Even today, the Anarchist groups emerging in Third World countries like Nigeria and South Africa base themselves on a class programme- we have seen the end results of nationalism and we oppose it (although obviously we defend peoples right to choose to believe in it, and even if we recognise grassroots nationalists as progressive fighters against racism etc.). This does not mean that we downplay imperialism or racism- on the contrary we pay specific attention to these key questions, but we subject them to class analysis and advocate class struggle strategies against them.

Black nationalism and/or separatism is not the only thing that can fight racism or attract Black people and workers to organisations. Even in South Africa, the Communist Party was the main mass organisation throughout the 1930s and 1940s and dwarfed the nationalist groups like the ANC; in the 1920s the main mass organisation (aside from the Communist Party) was the quasi-syndicalist Industrial and Commercial Workers Union. In Harlem in the USA in the 1930s, the CPUSA was able to win Black workers away from Garveyism on the basis of a consistent defence of the unity of White and Black workers.

While Anarchists should unconditionally defend the rights of specially oppressed sections of the working class to organise separately, they should not necessarily promote it except in certain conditions (see below). I think that we should separate out the issues of the right to organise separately from the issues of the usefulness of this mode of organisation. Some people have stated uncritically that we should support people's right to organise separately etc., but in a vague sense, not always clarifying or thinking through the implications of this position.

We simply cannot take it for granted that separate organisations are necessarily progressive or travelling the same road as we are. We defend the right of Blacks, women [etc.] to organise separate / special organisations where they feel this is necessary. This is because we defend the democratic right of free association.

Nonetheless, separate organisations are not necessarily progressive - in some cases they are clearly reactionary and a backward step, in others they are poor strategy.

For example, separate organisation in the workplace is not acceptable in any case where industrial unions of all workers exist. The logic of trade union organisation is to unify different categories of workers, who can only find strength in their unity. To set up a separate women's union not only weakens the existing unions, but puts the women themselves in a weak and unsustainable position due to their limited numbers, as well as in direct conflict with the existing union, thus creating a dynamic that can lead to the destruction of union organisation in the plant as a whole. Where the unions exclude categories of workers, these workers should be organised into separate unions as a transitional step, but in all cases United front action between the different union should be promoted because its strengthens struggle, and because it helps lay the basis for merger and unification. Maximum unity on a principled basis is always desirable, supported and fought for. Black!-only unions are a recipe for failure where Black people form a minority in the working class (obviously the situation is different in South Africa where the Black working class is the majority- but more on this later). How can one even launch mild forms of industrial action without the support of most workers?

Furthermore, separate organisation is only admissible in cases where workers face a special oppression. We do not support Zulu-only unions like UWUSA (in South Africa) because Zulus do not face a special oppression as Zulus, they are instead being organised into a ethnic/tribalist reactionary union sponsored by capital, the semi- fascist Inkatha Freedom Party and the previous (apartheid) government to break the non-racial,integrated COSATU unions.

Separate organisation that is not on a class struggle basis is dangerous insofar as it lays the basis for multi-class alliances which are unable to defeat capitalism and the State because they include the class enemy and thus became hitched to the class projects of capitalists, bosses and power-hungry would-be rulers. A case in point is the Nation of Islam in the US.

Separate organisation is not innately progressive. It can be used as a tactic to roll-back worker struggles and undermine the left. For example, the nationalist-minded liberal middle-class Black leaders of the mass Industrial and Commercial Workers Union in SA in the 1920s used arguments that the Communist Party was a "White" institution to expel socialists from their ranks and had the union over to (White!!) liberals like Ballinger who opposed anything other than simple bread and butter, non-political orthodox trade unionism, as opposed to the ICU's previously semi-syndicalist positions. In French West Africa in the anti-colonial struggle, arguments about the "Black Soul" were used to split African unions from the French unions (the CGT in most cases), delivering them to authoritarian bourgeois-nationalist parties whose first act in power was to crush the working class.

Separate organisations can divide the working class into competing and even hostile sections to the detriment of all. For example, the Black Power movement in the US in the late 1960s almost entirely opposed any alliances with Whites, including White workers and trade unionists. In Detroit, it even organised separate Black-only unions like DRUM which undercut the United Autoworkers (to which most Blacks still belonged), refused to build alliances with progressive Whites, and ultimately collapsed in large part because of the inability of a radical union amongst a small section of the working class to make the revolution on its own. Without allies, the small Black minority (about 12% of the US population) was unable to weather the storm of repression that gathered in the early 1970s. At the same time, the White workers failure to defend the Black movement ensured that they too were unable to withstand the bossesŐ "free market" assault that began in the late 1970s; i!t is no accident that the US has the weakest unions and worst welfare conditions of any First World country. Contrary to the beliefs of some, it is impossible for such a small minority to overthrow the massive power of the US State and ruling class on its own. Instead it needed allies. In the same way that an isolated revolution or anti-imperialist struggle cannot survive without international support and revolutionary resistance, no one fraction of the working class can win.

Arguments for separate organisation often prioritise non-class identities like sex or race (e.g. "Whites should work in their own communities" - Malcolm X)- but in fact class is a key divide in society- all societies.

The WSF therefore only advocate separate/special organisations insofar as they are:

(1) class conscious in organising specifically amongst working class people

(2) work in alliance with other working class and left formations out of recognition of the common interests of the working and poor people and the necessity of class struggle

(3) do not undermine the unions, but on the contrary work with them, defend them and promote them

(4) take up arguments about the need for anti-racism etc. with other sections of the working class

(5) helps prepare that group for the coming revolutionary class struggle

We need to point out that workers unity is in the interests of all workers, and that special oppressions are not in the interests of any workers In other words, we should not promote separate organisations uncritically, we should recognise there may be a need to have special organising committees, sections etc. amongst working class women, gays etc. These should be seen as "wings" of the working class movement, not as separate groups who reject co-operation with other groups, or as go-it-alone formations who can make the revolution on their own.

Whether or not the women's or Black's section [etc.] decides to include men [etc.] is up to it.

A perfect example of this approach was the Mujeres Libres group in Spain which worked alongside the Anarchist/Syndicalist youth, union, community, and political organisations, organised on a class struggle basis, and took part in the revolution of 1936.

STATE, CAPITALISM AND RACISM: ONE ENEMY, ONE FIGHT

We should not just talk about separate/special organisations in the abstract, we need to clarify why and how racism, class struggle and the need for revolution are linked.

We argue that racism is the product of capitalism and the State, created to justify slavery, colonialism and the super-exploitation of Black workers. Capitalism and the State are inherently racist: they always generate new forms of racism (e.g. against immigrants). The social inequalities created by racism can only be dealt with by the removal of capitalism and the State to allow for projects of redress, reconstruction etc. Therefore the fight against racism is a fight against capitalism and the State

Only the working class can make the anti-state, anti- capitalist revolution because only this class is productive (and therefore does not need to exploit), has no vested interest in the system, has power by virtue of its role in the workplace as producers of wealth and is facilitated in its struggle by concentration in factories etc. The Black middle class, capitalists etc. will defend capitalism and the State against the workers despite the fact that this means they are defending the system that creates racism. Therefore the fight against racism requires a class struggle and a workers revolution.

The struggle against capitalism can only succeed if it is anti- racist. We can only mobilise the whole working class if we fight on all fronts, against all oppressions that affect us. Insofar as workers can only be mobilised and united on the basis of programmes that opposes all oppression, insofar as working class Blacks etc.,. are the main victims of racism etc. (they cannot hire lawyers, move to private schools etc.), and insofar as the majority of people affected by racism are working class, it follows that anti-racism etc. are class issues. Therefore the fight against capitalism and the state requires a fight against racism.

No sections of the working class gain in real terms from the special oppression of Backs, colonial people etc. In the west, White workers may have slightly less unemployment etc., but they are still the majority of the workers and the poor. Racism worsens conditions for all workers because it divides workers struggles and resistance and ability to destroy the system. At the same time, the doubly oppressed groups like Blacks etc. require allies amongst the White working class. Without them, they lack the numbers, strategic position, or strength to actually defeat racism at the roots. In South Africa, this situation is somewhat different. Clearly, the defeat of racism in South Africa does also require a class struggle and a workers revolution (as elsewhere). But here the Black working class is the majority of the population, the most radical, combative and organised force in society. Thus the question of Black workers presents itself in a different fashion here as it is obvious that the Black working class will be the force that makes the SA revolution.

What then of then of White/Black worker unity? This unity was remote in the extreme in the apartheid years- it was extremely unusual for White workers to join the struggle of the Black working class under apartheid, precisely because of their extreme level of privilege (although some did, mainly from the Communist Party). So, in contrast to the situation in the West, White workers here actually did benefit from racism. Nonetheless, interracial workers unity (on an anti-racist platform) would have been advantageous even under apartheid because it would have weakened the armed power of the State (most Whites were at some or other point soldiers and were and are workers). With the demise of formal apartheid and the move to a formally non-racial bourgeois parliament, the prospects for such unity are far better. The economic crisis, the removal of job reservation and other legal privileges, the breakdown of the alliance between Whites of different classes that underp!inned the racist regime all make a workers alliance and unity more feasible.

Thus we have a situation where literally tens of thousands of White workers and historically White unions have actually joined the non- racial integrated COSATU unions; the main historically white union federation, FEDSAL, has also begun co-operating with COSATU in negotiations and even demos (although White worker attendance is quite poor). We should support this unity, so long as it is on an anti-racist basis, and so long as the general layers of activists remain broadly representative of the mainly Black unions. In other words, workers unity is good, if only in terms of our proletarian internationalism and non-racialism, but the basis of that unity must still be the struggle against racism as well as capitalism. In any case, it is clear that the Black working class will still be the battering ram that destroys the system (the possible participation of White workers as reliable allies notwithstanding).

Therefore, class unity on a principled anti-racist basis (with the provisions for special organisations outlined above) is the key to freedom.

This is why we say
"Black Liberation Through Class War"
"State, Capitalism, Racism: One enemy, one fight"

L. from the Workers Solidarity Federation (South Africa)

(The WSF dissolved at the end of 1999.)

Scotland Yardies

On 10th July 1997 a Jamaican national, Eaton Green, lost his battle to avoid deportation to Jamaica. Green's counsel, in seking to resist a deportation order, had argued that Green, a polic informer serving six years for armed robbery, had been told by a Metrolpolitan Police intelligence officer that he would be "protected".

The High Court judge, Mr Justice Jarrett, ruled that the Home Office was not bound by any such undertaking. Eaton Green's original trial, for a robbery in Nottingham, attracted a flurry of media attention because of the revelation that he had carried out the robbery and dealt crack and run a South London protection racket, whiole operating as an informer, and furhter, that Green's handlers (in particular PC Steve Barker) had full knowledge of his activities and attempted to protect him from arrest and prosecution by Nottingham police. The line adopted by the media in relation to this, and subsequent reveltations about "Yardie" informers, was that good "street cops" under pressure, under resourced and unsupported, had bent rules to try to effectively tackle a "Yardie" crime wave. The main proponent of this line is a Guardian journalist, Nick Davies. "How the Yardies Duped the Yard" was the headline of an article he wrote on 3/2/97.

Whether Davies believes what he writes is open to question. The articles themselves read like a damage limitation exercise drafted by Scotland Yard's press office. Their central proposition, though, does not stand up to examination. They do not fit with the facts.

In his 3rd February article, Davies opens with "Ten years ago, Scotland Yard realised that organised criminals from jamaica - the Yardies - were moving into London. By 1987 they wre pumping crack cocaine into black housing estates and establishing their control with terrifying violence. The response from police was chaotic and pathetic. A 1993 official report warned that "unless there is a consistent, aggressive and long term strategy", drug related crime would soar." In fact, Scotland yard's "yardie" strategy stems froma meeting in 1989 between UK police officers and Robert Stutman, then head of the New York office of the Drug Enforcement Administration, in which he warned that most crack dealing in the US was controlled by two ethnic groups - Dominicans and Jamaicans - and that these gangs were determined to engineer a "crack explosion" in the UK. Up until 1989, Yard policy had been in the hands of Roy Ramm, who stated soon after his appointment in 1987 "I'm absolutely convinced that there is no such thing as a black mafia or black Godfather operating in this country".

In 1988 armed police raided the New Four Aces club in Dalston to target suspected Yardie gang dealing in cocaine. The raid netted £6,000 worth of cocaine - not a significant quantity given that a kilo of coke carries a street value of about £160,000. Further Metrtolpolitan Police fiugures for 1989 show 58 grams of crack being seized in the whole year, compared to 331 kilos of heroin, 424 kilos of cocaine and 50,000 kilos of cannabis. In consequence of this, for all the apocalyptic proclamations of the likes of Stutman, police units like Operation Lucy were in fact wound down. The journalist Jim Davison, a former Sunday Times writer, and like Nick Davies, a propoonent of the "Yardie" myth, reports a dscussion with Roy Ramm at the time as follows: "It is a loose association of violent criminals bent on making profits from drugs and then spending them as quickly as possible", he (Ramm) said. Unlike the Mafia or the Colombian cartels, the gangs opted for a "little and often" method of importation rather than large scale smuggling operations."The end result of this is, as Davies reports, a Yardie Squad set up and killed off within six months in 1990, and the establishment of Operation Dalehouse in 1991, to target what the Squad Commander DS John Jones (who I'm sure would throw his hands in the air in Hendon-shaded outrage if numbered as a racist) called "a fairly wide-based criminal fraternity of black British people." So successful were they that this squad also wound up in November 1992. Davies throws up a smokescreen around the reality of Operation Dalehouse. He writes that it "made 274 arrests often for attacks on black victims. John Jones feared tgat part of the problem was that black victims of crime attracted less press attention, and therefore tempted the policy makers at Scotland Yard to ignore them. And all the time that the generals at Scotland Yard were ordering their footsoldiers to retreat, there were more Yardies flowing into London." In truthOPeration Dalehouse did make 274 arrests, but of these only 25 were chraged with serious criminal offences, and the Sunday Times journalist Davison concedes the squad met with a "lack of co-operation from the local community."

The end result was that by 1993, according to Davies, his heroes were reduced to "a hrad copre of half a dozen detectives and immigration officers who were still trying to tackle the Yardies. They had no office and no facilities and were reduced to using the bar of a small pub in Southwark where.. they swapped intelligence and tried to cobble together a strategy.... oficers had been forced to spend their won money to fund operations." It's here that Davies' argument begins to fall apart. Soon after pleading poverty on the anti-Yardie squad's behalf, he revelas that the Drug Related Violence Intelligence Unit (which Davies snidely notes was so named to avoid triggering complaints of racism) ran an informer code-named Andrew Gold who was able to live a life of indulgence, driving around in a Golf GTI, eating expensive meals, drinking fine wines, playing golf, making endless transatlantic phone calls and sleeping in a luxury furnished flat with a view of the Thames - all supplied at the British taxpayers expense." Not bad for an outfit that Davies had earlier told us was reduced to running its operations form a pub back room at its own expense.

Davies provides details of 3 Yardies informers run by one SO11 linked DRVIU. Andrew Gold, we are told, produced a report on the Yardies in London which contaied no useable new intelligence, at a cost of more than $45,000, before returning to Jamaica in January 1994.

Eaton green carried out armed robberies and ran protection rackets inder the proetection of the unit. The DRVIU cannot deny that they protected Green. Cecil Thomas and Rohan Thomas came into the UK on March 28th 1993 on false passports, to work qwith Green. An immigration officer who wroked with the DRVIU, Brian Fotheringham, secured residence rghtts for Green after he married a British national whose child he claimed he'd fathered, even though tyhe child's date of birth made clear that the women in question had been pregnant for four months before she met Green. At Green's robbery trial, DRVIU officers made illegal approaches to both the Crown Prosecution Service and the trial judge to try to protect Green. From May 1994, Fotheringham and PC Steve Barker ran another informer, Delroy Denton, who had agreed to work for the SO11-linked team following his arrest after a raid on the Atlantic pub in Brixton. Immigration's initial assessment iof Denton was as a "dangerous Jamaican criminal, given 16 years in Jamaica for firearms/aggravated burglary offences." Following the intervention of Fotheringham and Barker, Denton was back on the streets. On 19th December 1994, Denton raped a 15 year old schoolgirl. On 1st February 1995 the CPS dropped a rape charge against him on the grounds of insufficient evidence. Fotheringham and Barker continued to run Denton, who byis stage had acquired a reputation as a psychotic, who Davies concedes fantasised about "how he would like to tell a man and a woman that hje was going to kill them, then order them to stay and have sex, and then when the man was too scared to perform, he would rape the woman himselfbefore he blew out both their brains". In April 1995, Denton entered a flat in Brixton and raped and stabbed to death a 24 year old mother of 2, Marcia Lawes. Denton was charged with murder on 29th June 1995. On 29th October 1995 the CPS again dropped the charge because iof "insufficient evidence".

The Number Five Area Major Investigation Pool detectives investigating Denton contacted Fotheringham and advised him of the informers' status as an illegal immigrant. Fotheringham refused to act. Barker, with full knowledge of senior SO11 officers, continued to meet Denton. In July 1996, following further AMIP work, Denton was jailed for life. Nick Davies argues that the DRVIU was starved of "power and leadership" and in consequence, front-line officers, with falling morale, committed errors in the field. "In the background, Scotland Yard's policy makers blocked a series of anti-Yardie initiatives which had been proposed by front-line officers." This is bullshit.

Whatever Davies and the media management teams at Scotland Yard are trying to conceal, the chronology of their cover story makes no sense. The DRVIU was, we are told, set up following recommendations from Detective Chief Superintendent (now deputy Assistant Commissioner) Ray Clark. Clark made 35 recommendations and delivered a report which concluded "It has been made abundantly clear by all I have spoken to that unless there is a consistent, aggressive and long term strategy to deal with Jamaican criminals in London, there will be ever and sharply increasing incidents of murder, violence, drug related crime and crack availability." Davies would have it that "the policy makers at Scotlasnd Yard then sidelined a substantial number if Clark's 35 recommendations", and things then began to go wrong.

But Eaton Green was arrested on July 8th 1993, only 2 days after Clark signed his report and BEFORE the DRVIU was officially established. Both Eaton greena nd Andrew Gold (with his $45,000 budget) were being run by Scotland Yard officers before Clark delivered his report. Green and Gold were only able to remain in the UK due to the manouevres of immigration officers like Brian Fotheringham. If Scotland Yard policy indeed led to the "almost complete breakdown of the Metropolitan Police strategic response (to Yardie crime) and of the formal intelligence gathering and development structure" and if the anti-Yardie squad was really reduced to a Southwark frinking club how and why were the resources to run Gold and Green obtained? If Barker and Fotheringham had already overseen Eaton green's crime spree of their own initiative, and with a PR disaster and the souring of relations between the Yard and Nottingham CID the chief results, why accept Clark's report at all?

Black American Anarchist Victimised in Australia

PM Claims "not of good character" but Lorenzo Komboa Ervin wnis his battle to stay and be heard

On Tuesday July 8th, the Australian Federal Government cancelled former Black Panther Lorenzo Kom'boa Ervin's visa on the grounds that he was not of good character, while lawyers for Kom'boa replied that the Prime Minister had falsely accused him of dishonesty.

He spent several nights in Brisbane's maximum security Sir Arthur Gorrie Centre after the Acting Minister for Immigration, Senator Vanstone, cancelled his visa. Shortly after, Lorenzo made this statement: "I was handcuffed with my hands placed behind my back. The Immigration officials accompanying me then pushed my face into a wall causing my glasses to break. I was then dragged by the handcuffs by Correctional officers at the Sir Arthur Gorrie Correctional Centre. I was in pain at this stage. I was not allowed to bring my broken glasses to the legal interview with my barrister .... and I only have the use of prescription sunglasses which are only for outdoor use. "

Prime Minister John Howard intervened after racist Queensland MP Pauline Hanson had accused Kom'boa of using his four-week speaking tour organised by the anarchist group, Angry People, to stir racial tension among Aborigines. In an ironic twist, it happened to be NAIDOC week, which is the government-sanctioned celebration of aboriginal and islander cultures.

Immediately this news got out there were demos all over Australia and outside Australian consulates the world over. On July 10th about 150 demonstrators assembled at the immigration department office in in Brisbane, where several people spoke and a statement from Lorenzo was read out.

An application for Lorenzo's release and a new visa was heard by the high court at 3.30pm. The court sat in Canberra (the federal capital), but the lawyers for the Lorenzo and the immigration dept appeared in a court room in Brisbane, linked up with Canberra via closed circuit tv. All the protesters were eventually allowed into the court to watch the proceedings.

The immigration department's case was shaky and at about 5pm the hearing was adjourned till 11th July.

There were demonstrations organized in Sydney and Melbourne, Dublin, San Francisco, Atlanta, New York, LA, Edinburgh and protests in at least a down other countries were made to embassies. ON the Friday, the judge decided that the government had acted unlawfully and not accorded him "natural justice" and Lorenzo was released on bail pending a hearing on the Monday14th.

At the Monday hearing Government was forced to withdraw the decision by the Minister, Amanda Vanstone, to cancel his visa and was ordered to pay Lorenzo's legal costs.

It is usual process for travellers entering Australia, to be questioned by immigration officers at the airport, should they not fully complete their passenger cards or indicate that they have a criminal conviction. If this was Lorenzo's case, as the government claimed, why was it that Lorenzo was not questioned, but simply arrested and thrown into a maximum security prison to await deportation ?

While the Australian Government licked its wounds, both Lorenzo and Angry People called for an apology from Canberra, but, as they put it, "we're not holding our breath."

Reclaiming Theatre

A review of the play The Haymarket incident staged at Bradford University May 5th 1997

I'm the wrong person to review this play. "I'm biased. I was staying for the weekend-in Bradford for the 1 in 12 Club's May day festival It was the first time I'd seen the 1 in 12 in action, and possibly the best event they've ever put on. And I hadn't been back up north for a while. And Bradford suddenly reminded me of the nice bits about Middlesbrough (apart from relegation, of course). And the sun was shining. And I was thinking all weekend "I quite fancy moving here' And then I went to see this play.

It-tells the story behind May Day. Set in Chicago, 1886 it centres around the activities (and eventual framing and murder) of four anarchist trade union militants, August Spies, Adolph Fischer, George Engel and Albert Parsons.- Put on by the 1 in 12's theatre group -most of whose members had no previous acting experience.or drama school education, it tells the Story in a down to earth and human way , with humour, politics, romance. And it's bloody good.

The play starts as soon as you walk into the Theatre. In almost complete darkness, with no seats, and a barely visible stage, you are hearded in by 19th Century American cops with truncheons who bark at you aggressively to move to the front and to keep moving. And then very quickly you as the audience are dragged into the action. You very quickly become a crowd, responding to the events that unfold: A man (August Spies) dodges like a scared rabbit through the crowd and hides behind us against the wall. A cop pushes through , pulls him out, humiliates him and and beats hm up. This sets the context and tone of the play. Bits of action pop up in every dark corner of the theatre, and the audience (or crowd) moves over to see the action and occasionally gets involved, cheering speeches, backing off as a gun is fired, or just being an audience. And it keeps you enthralled. It's audience participation at it's best.: You don't feel daft when you cheer a speech or join in a song because you feel part of the Story.

The early part of the story centres around Parsons, An ordinary bloke, the play takes us through his home life, his relationships and eventually his involvement in a strike by workers at the McCormack Machine Company and the agitation for an eight hour day. During an attack on a Striker's Rally outside Mcormack's by armed police, at which August Spies was a speaker, one workers is killled and several wounded. Spies immediately circulates a flyer for a Mass Rally against police violence and calling for " Workingmen to arm themselves and appear in force". In response, the police attampt to stop the rally and a bomb is thrown, killing at least one policeman., paving the way for a massive state crack down on trade unionists in Chicago, including the hanging of four known activists -The Haymarket Martyres. The second half of the Play centres round the trial and excecution. The trial at which Spies turns up half-way through, stating he is prpared to face death along with his other comrades) is played out using much of the original recorded words. And as well as being intensely moving it's also funny.,which brought you back down to earth. There's the two cockney likely lads who are called as witnesses for the prosecuation who have obviously been paid to say that Parsons and Spies had made bombs.and make a coplete hash of their court appearance.. And there's the judge who, every time the lights come on to start a new scene, is caught snogging a "floozy" who sits almost on his knee throughout the trial wearing little else but a few feathers.

Then very shortly after, there's a disturbing and violent scene where the Four stand with their heads covered ready to be hung, and make inpassioned political speeches seconds before they die.

It's the best play I've seen for a long time. But if you want to see it yourself you'll have to do a bit of work. The Cast are mostly unemployed, ordinary young people. they haven't got any funding but would love to do a tour. They need groups to sponsor them. If you're interested you can contact the group directly through the 1 in 12 club (01274 734160) .. The Director and Producer and (it seems) the main enthusiast is Noel Batstone,a 1 in 12 member. I suppose it's just nice to see a real play with real people who ahven't been to college telling a political story that inspires you. And I haven't seen anything like it since the Poll Tax when a lad from Leeds did a one-man show about the peqasant's revolt, and toured the country with it. It'd be great if anarchists could give these people a hand to put the play on elsewhere. Go on- give 'em a ring.!.

John Mc Arthur

Letter

Replies c/o ACF
c/o 84b Whitechapel High Street
London E1 7QX

Dear Black Flag,

In regards to the statement that the "newly formed Anarchist Communist Federation " supported the CNT-Unificado/CNT Renovado which later changed its name to the CGT,in the last issue of Black Flag,may I point out the following facts:The ACF has never supported the CNT-Renovado/CNT-Unificado /CGT in any of its publications.The ACFs critiques of anarcho-syndicalism/revolutionary syndicalism that have been developed over the last 10 years would exclude any support for the Renovados/CGT.No motion of support has ever been put forward,let aloe passed,for any conference or delegate meeting of the ACF.

The ACF was founded in March 1986.In February and May 1985,a member of the Anarcho-Communist Discussion Group,one of the elements that assisted in the foundation of the ACF,wrote 2 articles of information in Freedom about the repression and torture carried out by the Spanish state against members of the CNT-Euszkadi(Basque section of the CNT Unificado) who had played an active role in the Michelin workers strike ain Vitoria.This was an act of simple solidarity and did not imply uncritical support for the CNT-U.This was followed in October 1985 by another article in Freedom "A Reply to the CNT-AIT" by the same writer,replying to a report by the Press Secretary of the CNT-AIT discussing the expulsions of various groups from the CNT,including the magazine collective Askatasuna who the Press Secretary wrongly called Platformist (they were not Platformist but were expelled because they advocated a libertarian Euszkadi-Basque country)the Movimiento Communista Libertaria (influenced by Platformism,but using the Platform as a point of reference and not as the Gospel)the Anarcho-Syndicalist Affinity Groups around Sebastian Puigcerver,a former member of the CNT national committee,and the magazine collective around Bicicleta,an independent anarchist magazine based in Catalonia.The writer went on to describe the physical attacks on members of the CNT-Unificado,with one militant nearly losing an eye,and another receiving a fractured skull.The aim of the article was not to discuss the rights and wrongs of the splits in the Spanish CNT,but to point to the authoritarian character of the expulsions ,and the barbarous behaviour of some in the CNT-AIT,including members of the Federacion Anarquista Iberica.The writer finished by saying "There are probably many workers in the CNT-AIT thoroughly sick of the violence and sectarianism employed against workers in the CNT-U,libertarians themselves,just as there are many workers who have left the CNT,and are disgusted at these antics.The sooner these destructive squabbles are settled,the better for the libertarian workers movement in Spain."Hardly an all out endorsement of the CNT-U.The writer of these articles is still a member of the ACF,but like everyone else in the ACF,would not support any syndicalist faction.To conclude otherwise,as your writer does,is a little specious.

Finally, (hooray) on the charge of Platformism against the ACF. The ACF does not regard itself as Platformist,but sees the Platform as an interesting point of reference.(Some ACF members are more enthusiastic about the Platform than others.)The same could be said for the Union des Travailleurs Communistes Libertaires of France -UTCL (renamed several years ago as Alternative Libertaire-AL).They did enthusiastically support the CNT-U/CGT and still do,as did the Swiss Organisation Socialiste Libertaire and various libertarian communist groups in Italy with similar politics to the UTCL-AL.These grouops have a conception of work within the reformist unions in their specific countries which in most cases includes taking official positions in the union structures. The ACF has nothing in common with these tactics,so you can hardly talk about a united bloc of groups erroneously labelled as "Platformist",especially if you also include the French Organisation Communiste Libertaire,who the writer in Black Flag would probably also describe as "Platformist" but who,as far as I am aware,never took sides on the CNT split.As regards the Workers Solidarity Movement,who are keener on the Platform than others,I'm sure they can defend themselves.

Yours for libertarian communism
Ron Allen

Letter: Sectarianism

From ACF (WOKING) C/O 84B WHITECHAPEL HIGH STREET LONDON E1 7QX Dear Black Flag,

To my mind,the ill-informed sectarian bollocks about the Anarchist Communist Federation in the last issue of Black Flag ruined an otherwise fascinating article on sectarian bollocks in the IWA.

I can't see how such snide shit stirring about other anarchists is going to help Black Flag become a forum for debate,ideas and action amongst class struggle anarchists.

Yes, anarcho-syndicalists are going to disagree with the ACF's position on the unions (otherwise they wouldn't be anarcho-syndicalists) but simply giving anything you disagree with a slagging isn't going to get anyone anywhere.

Yours gainst sectarianism and for a united revolutionary anarchist movement,

Freddy Cheeseworth

@ Quiz

1. Which linguistic scientist wrote that 'a visiting Martian scientist would surely conclude that aside from their mutually unintelligible vocabularies, Earthlings speak a common language'?

Answer Choices:
a: Gerald Edelman
b: Giles Brandreth
c: Noam Chomsky
d: Jordi Ballart

2. The same scientist has only one entry in 'Bartlett's Familiar Quotations', and rather a strange one at that. What is it?

Answer Choices:
a: Colourless green ideas sleep furiously.
b: When all's said and done, there's a lot more said than done.
c: If at first you don't succeed, try again. Then give up, there's no point being a damn fool about it.
d: Eat my shorts.

3. What was the longest strike in Australian history?

Answer Choices:
a: The Perth garment workers strike over dayworking.
b: The Iron Knob bauxite miner's strike of 1972 - 1976.
c: The strike of the Gurrindgi Stockmen of Wave Hill station, in the Northern Territory.
d: The Queensland sheep shearer's strike of 1878 - 1882.

4. What connects it to Professor Fred Hollows, Australian eye-scientist, rabble rouser, former Communist and general controversial figure, who, in his last interview before he died in 1992, said that he was now more in agreement with anarcho-syndicalism than anything else?

Answer Choices:
a: Fred Hollows spoke before the United Nations General Council on the issue.
b: Fred Hollows saved the sight of Vincent Lingari who was publicising the strike in Sydney.
c: Fred Hollows donated $150K to the strike after being awarded this amount with his 1972 Nobel Prize for Medicine.
d: Fred Hollows was the first signatory of a 2 million name petition on behalf of the strikers.

Correct Answers:

1: c - Noam Chomsky is the Professor of Linuistics and Philosophy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

2: a - Despite being in the top ten most referenced writers in the humanities (and the only one alive) his one 'familiar quote' is 'colourless green ideas sleep furiously', a sentence he contrived to show that a sentence could be grammatical but make no sense, and that impossible word orders could also be grammatical. For example, colourless can't be followed by green, ideas don't sleep.

3: c - In 1966, the Gurrindgi Stockmen of Wave Hill station, in the Northern Territory, went on strike against being paid only in rations, and for control of their land, leased at the time to Lord Vestey, British meat baron, owner of Dewhursts and tax-dodger extraordinaire. Eight years later, Aussie PM Gough Whitlam gave Vincent Lingari a piece of paper recognising the Gurrundgi people's right to the land. The strike as significant as well for boosting the land rights movement, still fighting in Australia to do this day.

4: b - Vincent Lingari came to Sydney to publicise and call for solidarity. During his visit he met Fred Hollows who noticed he had an easily curable eye disease that causes blindness. Hollows set up a 'barefoot' clinic in the outback, and made the operations himself, while gathering a team together and training aboriginal opthalmologists to follow in his footsteps. The project has since spread from Australia to Nepal and Eritrea.

Race, class and organisation - Workers Solidarity Federation

An interesting analysis of race, anarchism and class from South African organisation the Workers Solidarity Federation from 1998.

INTRODUCTION BY BLACK FLAG:

We recently observed a very fruitful discussion on race and class on the internet, particularly around "black" anarchism, special oppressions and the desirability of separate organisation.

One of the best and most comprehensive posts came from a member of the Workers Solidarity Federation of South Africa, an anarchist/syndicalist group which while in a personal capacity reflects their politics and positions on these matters. Interest in anarchism is growing throughout the world. There are active groups in most parts of the world, with the exception of the Indian subcontinent, Antarctica and as far as we know the Chinese dictatorship. This process will no doubt accelerate and there is a challenge for us to make our ideas accessible. But as our South African comrades point out below, "it was the ability of anarchism to provide alternatives and to pay special attention to the specific needs of these different sections of the working class in order to unite the whole class that made the success (of the Cuban anarchists and IWW) possible," not "a revision of anarchism to accommodate nationalism".

RACE, CLASS AND ORGANISATION
THE VIEW FROM THE WORKERS SOLIDARITY FEDERATION

It is falsely claimed by some that Anarchism as currently constituted is unable to attract Black people, and other specially oppressed minorities. It is therefore argued that we should thus endorse separate Black-only anarchist/ community organisations that may in some (vague and unspecified) cases associate with "white" groups - "white" groups should "work among" "their own" people etc.). It is also asserted from this view point that Anarchism is "Eurocentric" and lacking an analysis of racism and imperialism.

IN DEFENSE OF CLASSICAL ANARCHISM

These arguments are wrong or lacking in clarity. They reflect a distortion of Anarchist history, and a misunderstanding of Anarchist strategy.

Firstly, class struggle anarchism has historically proved quite capable of attracting massive numbers of people of color. In fact, one could claim that historically most anarchist movements have been based in Third World countries. For example, anarchism dominated the revolutionary movement in China in the 1910s and early 1920s. In the First World, Anarchist movements historically attracted specially oppressed national minorities, for example, the syndicalist IWW attracted thousands of Black workers in the USA Deep South, and other movements, Jews in eastern Europe.

Today, there are groups such as the WSF in South Africa and the Awareness League of Nigeria.

The key to this success was a consistent class struggle program that combated all manifestations of oppression. For example, the Cuban Anarchists mobilized both Afro-Cubans,creoles and Spaniards in massive integrated anarcho-syndicalist unions because they opposed racist practices like apprenticeship laws, because they supported the anti-colonial struggle against Spain and because they provided a class struggle answer to the questions facing all sections of the working class. It was not a "revision" of anarchism to accommodate nationalist paradigms that made the breakthrough - it was the ability of anarchism to provide alternatives and to pay special attention to the specific needs of these different sections of the working class in order to unite the whole class that made the success possible. Anarchists did not capitulate to nationalist ideas- they combated them- they did not organise separately, they organised as Anarchists on a class struggle basis.

Similarly, they were key players in anti- imperialist struggles in many countries, for example, Cuba (1890s) Macedonia (1880s), Herzegovina (1900s), Nicaragua (1920s), Ukraine (1918-21) , Ireland (1916) and Korea (1920-40s). Again, class politics was the basis of this engagement.

Even today, the Anarchist groups emerging in Third World countries like Nigeria and South Africa base themselves on a class program- we have seen the end results of nationalism and we oppose it (although obviously we defend peoples right to choose to believe in it, and even if we recognize grassroots nationalists as progressive fighters against racism etc.).

This does not mean that we downplay imperialism or racism- on the contrary we pay specific attention to these key questions, but we subject them to class analysis and advocate class struggle strategies against them. This clearly shows that the claim that Anarchism is "white" or "Eurocentric" is fundamentally wrong, as Anarchism - in terms of its analysis, history and composition- has in all respects been a truly global movement against oppression in all guises. All modern Anarchists need to live up to this legacy.

Black nationalism and/or separatism is not the only thing that can fight racism or attract Black people and workers to organisations. Even in South Africa, the Communist Party was the main mass organisation throughout the 1930s and 1940s and dwarfed the nationalist groups like the ANC; in the 1920s the main mass organisation (aside from the Communist Party) was the quasi-syndicalist Industrial and Commercial Workers Union. In Harlem in the USA in the 1930s, the CPUSA was able to win Black workers away from Garveyism on the basis of a consistent defense of the unity of White and Black workers.

AGAINST SEPARATE ORGANISATION

**As Anarchists we call for separate organisation in one sense: we call on the working and poor people to organise separately from their class enemy, the bosses and rulers**.

What then of non-class based forms of separate organisation such as women-only organisation (as advocated by radical feminism) or Black-only organisation (as advocated by Black nationalists)?

Before dealing with this issue, we need to understand the links between racism, class and class struggle.

STATE, CAPITALISM AND RACISM: ONE ENEMY, ONE FIGHT

We would argue that racism is the product of capitalism and the State, created to justify slavery and colonialism in the Third World, and to divide workers, and super-exploit national minorities in the First World. Capitalism and the State are inherently racist: they always generate new forms of racism (e.g. against immigrants). The social inequalities created by racism can only be dealt with by the removal of capitalism and the State to allow for projects of redress, reconstruction etc.

[/i]*Therefore the fight against racism is a fight against capitalism and the State*

CLASS UNITY, CLASS STRUGGLE, CLASS POWER

Only the working class, poor and peasants can make the anti-state, anti-capitalist revolution because only these classes are productive (and can therefore create a non-exploitative society), and have no vested interest in the current system. In addition, as the vast majority of the world's population they have the numbers to win, as well as the necessary social power (by virtue of their role in the workplace as producers of wealth they can hit the bosses and rulers where it really hurts- in the pocket) and organisational ability (their concentration in factories etc. facilitates mass action).

The Black middle class, capitalists etc. will defend capitalism and the State against the workers despite the fact that this means they are defending the system that creates racism. It is in their class interest to do so. In any case, they are shielded from the worst effects of racism by their nice houses, good schools etc.

*Therefore the fight against racism requires a class struggle and a workers revolution*.

The struggle against capitalism can only succeed if it is anti-racist. We can only mobilize the whole working class if we fight on all fronts, against all oppressions that affect us. We can only unite the working and poor people for a revolutionary victory through a consistent opposition to the divisions within the working class and poor i.e. race, nation etc.

Insofar as workers can only be mobilized and united on the basis of programs that oppose all oppression, insofar as working class Blacks are the most affected by racism and insofar as the majority of people affected by racism are working class, it follows that anti-racism etc. is a working class concern and issue.

*Therefore the fight against capitalism and the state requires a fight against racism*.[i]

Given that the working class is multi-national and multi-racial, it follows that its struggle must be fought on internationalist, united, integrated lines. As argued above, this unity is only possible on a principled basis of opposition to all oppression.

ARE WHITE WORKERS A 'LABOUR ARISTOCRACY'?

No sections of the working class gain in real terms from the special oppression of Backs, colonial people etc. In the First World, White workers may have slightly less unemployment etc., but they are still the majority of the workers and the poor i.e. of the exploited classes victimized by capitalism and the State . Racism worsens conditions for all workers because it divides workers struggles and resistance and ability to destroy the system. That is why the ruling class promotes it: it would never promote something that benefited the majority of workers. Therefore it is in these workers' direct interest to fight racism and unite with Black workers.

Even if these workers accept racism, they are still not its primary cause: racist-capitalism is. Nor are they its beneficiaries.

At the same time, doubly oppressed groups like Blacks etc. require allies amongst the White working class. Without them, they lack the numbers, strategic position, or social power to defeat the racist system and its causes for once and for all. Unity is also in their interests.

Similarly, the argument that the Western working class benefits materially from imperialism, is false. There is not a shred of proof, nor a sustainable economic theory to show this. Nor can any correlation be shown between the level of imperialist activity and the living standards of First World workers.

On the contrary, imperialism is against the interests of these workers, because it strengthens the power of their own states (e.g. colonial armies are used against workers "at home" -remember Spain 1936?), wastes resources and lives that could be spent on people on the military, promotes reactionary ideas like racism and imperialist patriotism that divide workers and strengthen the ruling class, and allows multi-national companies to cut jobs and wages by shifting to repressive Third World colonial and semi- colonial regimes.

SEPARATE ORGANISATION?

As Anarchists should unconditionally defend the rights of specially oppressed sections of the working class to organise separately because we defend the principle of free association. BUT we should separate question of the right to organise separately from the issues of the usefulness of this mode of organisation.

We simply cannot take it for granted that separate organisations are necessarily progressive or travelling the same road as we are.

Separate organisations are not necessarily progressive - in some cases they are clearly reactionary and a backward step, in others they are poor strategy.

Non-class based separate organisations typically fails to correctly identify the source of the special oppression faced by the group in question. For example, separatist Black nationalism calls for people of African descent to organise separately on the basis that all Whites are the source of Black oppression. Therefore they are the enemy. What such an approach fails to recognize is the primary role of capitalism and the State in causing Black oppression, and the common interests of both working class Blacks and Whites in fighting racism on a class-struggle basis (see above). Or it may be argued that capitalism is a form of racism - this again fails to recognize the common interest of both working class Whites and Blacks in fighting capitalism.

Separate organisation that is not on a class struggle basis almost always lays the basis for cross-class alliances as is based on non-class identities and supposed common interests between all who share that identity. As we argue, only class struggle can end special oppressions such as racism and sexism.

They thus became hitched to the class projects of capitalists, bosses and power-hungry would-be rulers. A case in point is the Nation of Islam in the US.

Separate organisations can divide the working class into competing and fragmented sections. Why stop at separate organisation for women, Blacks etc? The whole notion of separate organisation lays the basis for a continual fragmentation of identities and issues: gay versus black versus women versus lesbians versus bisexuals versus gay blacks versus white blacks versus bisexual males etc.

Instead of an emphasis on difference, what is needed is a search for points of agreement and common interest: divided we are weak-it is class that provides a basis for uniting the vast majority of the world's population against the primary causes of poverty and oppression: capitalism/ the State/ the ruling class.

Some call for separate organisation on the basis that only separate organisation can prevent the marginalization of the concerns of a particular group. For example, Black nationalists in the US often call for Blacks to organise separately so that they are not, for example, marginalized or ignored in mainly White organisations.

While this is an important issue, it does not follow that separate organisation is the best solution. Not at all!

Separate organisation often reinforces the marginalization of a group's concerns, for example, it can be used to as a way of ghettoizing issues. Rather than challenging racism, such organisations allow racism to be ignored by others. White workers can ignore the issue: "leave it to the Blacks, its their concern, not ours". But should, say, illegal immigrants have to fight against racist immigration laws on their own, or should they have allies from other sections of the working class? "Self- determining" isolation can readily lay the basis for weak struggles that are easily defeated by the ruling class (see above). Finally, the claim that Blacks can never function in integrated organisations expresses a disturbing lack of confidence in Black people's abilities.

Instead, we should win all sections of the working class over to a program of opposing, not ignoring all oppression. This is a more effective way of winning demands. Even if some do not have direct experience of a given oppression, it does not follow that they are unable to be won to a position of opposing it. As argued earlier, no workers really benefit from special oppressions like racism. It is in their interest to be anti- racist.

Separate organisation is not even progressive in some cases.

Separate organisation in the workplace is NOT acceptable in any case where industrial unions of all workers exist. The logic of trade-union organisation is to unify different categories of workers, who can only find strength in their unity. To set up a separate Black trade union in a situation where Blacks are a minority weakens the existing unions, but puts these workers themselves in a weak and unsustainable position due to their limited numbers, as well as in direct conflict with the existing union, thus creating a dynamic that can lead to the destruction of union organisation in the plant as a whole.

Maximum unity on a principled basis is always desirable, supported and fought for. Black-only unions are a recipe for failure where Black people form a minority in the working class (obviously the situation is different in South Africa where the Black working class is the majority- but more on this later). How can one even launch mild forms of industrial action without the support of most workers?

Furthermore, separate organisation is only admissible in cases where workers face a special oppression. We do not support Zulu-only unions like UWUSA (in South Africa) because Zulus do not face a special oppression as Zulus.

Separate organisation is not innately progressive. It can be used as a tactic to roll-back worker struggles and undermine the left. For example, the nationalist-minded liberal middle-class Black leaders of the mass Industrial and Commercial Workers Union in SA in the 1920s used arguments that the Communist Party was a "White" institution to expel socialists from their ranks and had the union over to (White!!) liberals like Ballinger who opposed anything other than simple bread and butter, non-political orthodox trade unionism, as opposed to the ICU's previously semi-syndicalist positions.

SPECIAL ORGANISING COMMITTEES

Having said this, it is clear that Anarchist political organisations should be integrated. Having said this, we do recognize that it may be necessary to set up commissions/ task grippes within these organisations to focus on specific issues e.g. groups to work on immigrant support. These are not separate organisations, but working groups integrated into the overall organisation, and to which any member may belong.

RELATIONS WITH EXISTING SEPARATE GROUPS

People respond to capitalism and the State in a variety of ways, and through a variety of ideologies. How should we relate to these groups?

In general, the WSF apply the following "rule of thumb". A basic distinction can be drawn between "political groups" (those which unite people on the basis of accepting a certain ideology- such as political parties), and "economic groups" (those which unite people on the basis of their common, immediate social and economic interests- such as unions, rent-strike committees).

We would work alongside in "political groups", for example, around campaigns.

And we would work within "economic groups". Economic groups tend to have working class bases and deal with issues relevant to working and poor people. They therefore have a class dimension. Our aim here would be to promote

(1) class consciousness and workers power: these grippes should be run by the working class and reject class collaboration.

(2) work in principled alliance with other working class formations out of recognition of the common interests of the working and poor people and the necessity of class struggle

(3) do not undermine the unions, but on the contrary work with them, defend them and promote them

(4) take up arguments about the need for anti-racism etc. with other sections of the working class

(5) win them to a revolutionary Anarchist program

Our aim here would be to unite and merge these "economic organisations": those in the workplace should be united into "One Big (Trade) union"; those in (working class) residential areas into "One Big (Community) Union". They would have a common struggle: against capitalism, the State and all oppression. In this way, they could provide the nucleus for the self-governing worker and community councils of the Anarchist future. Thus, we call for this unity to

(1) unite the working and poor masses around their common interests and needs

(2) provide a united basis for self-management after the revolution.

SOUTH AFRICA - A SPECIAL CASE

In South Africa, this situation is somewhat different. Clearly, the defeat of racism in South Africa does also require a class struggle and a workers revolution (as elsewhere). But here the Black working class is the majority of the population, the most radical, combative and organised force in society. Thus the question of Black workers presents itself in a different fashion here as it is obvious that the Black working class will be the force that makes the SA revolution. Since there is no left-wing or working class movement that can possibly marginalize the Black working class, the need for special committees, sections etc. to deal with racism is redundant in the South Africa case.

What then of White/Black worker unity? This unity was remote in the extreme in the apartheid years- it was extremely unusual for White workers to join the struggle of the Black working class under apartheid, precisely because of their extreme level of privilege (although some did, mainly from the Communist Party). So, in contrast to the situation in the West, White workers here actually did benefit from racism. Nonetheless, interracial workers unity (on an anti-racist platform) would have been advantageous even under apartheid because it would have weakened the armed power of the State (most Whites were at some or other point soldiers and were and are workers). With the demise of formal apartheid and the move to a formally non-racial bourgeois parliament, the prospects for such unity are far better. The economic crisis, the removal of job reservation and other legal privileges, the breakdown of the alliance between Whites of different classes that underpinned the racist regime all make a workers alliance and unity more feasible.

Thus we have a situation where literally tens of thousands of White workers and historically White unions have actually joined the non- racial integrated COSATU unions; the main historically white union federation, FEDSAL, has also begun co-operating with COSATU in negotiations and even demos (although White worker attendance is quite poor). We should support this unity, so long as it is on an anti-racist basis, and so long as the general layers of activists remain broadly representative of the mainly Black unions. In other words, workers unity is good, if only in terms of our proletarian internationalism and non-racialism, but the basis of that unity must still be the struggle against racism as well as capitalism. In any case, it is clear that the Black working class will still be the battering ram that destroys the system (the possible participation of White workers as reliable allies notwithstanding). Therefore, class unity on a principled anti-racist basis (with the provisions for special organisations outlined above) is the key to freedom.

This is why we say

"BLACK LIBERATION THROUGH CLASS WAR"

"STATE, CAPITALISM, RACISM: ONE ENEMY, ONE FIGHT"

Originally published in Black Flag, 1998

The Dawning of a New Era

An article reflecting on the Labour Party's 1997 election victory, it's consequences and leftist illusions in them as a working-class party.

Responses to Labour Election Victory

How many times since 1st May and the landslide election of Tony Blair’s Labour Government have you had conversations with punch drunk lefties that begin “What was your favourite memory of election night '97?”. Maybe it’s a sign of political illiteracy that party manifestos are so dull that no one bothers to read them anymore, but it seems that the media euphoria and the popping of champagne corks at Walworth Road have served to obscure the fact that New Labour was supported by The Sun, The Times, The Financial Times and The Economist and the New Labour Manifesto set out its aims as follows:

“In industrial relations we make it clear that there will be no return to flying pickets, secondary action, strikes with no ballot or the trade union laws of the 1970s.”

In their book “The Blair Revolution” Peter Mandelson and Roger Liddle set down in detail what Labour’s pledges to “crackdown on petty crime and neighbourhood disorder” and “stop the growth of an underclass” in Britain” will actually mean.

On crime; “To improve the effectiveness of the police, so they catch more criminals....The issue is not just more bobbies on the beat but how the police best organise themselves to exploit technological advance - from genetic identification techniques to the use of video recorders, to data matching systems.”

“...To increase the likelihood of convictions in the courts and through reform of our criminal justice procedures, reduce the number of technical acquittals.”

On the “underclass”; “It is not right that some people should collect the dole, live on the black economy and then refuse to co-operate with society’s efforts to reintegrate them into the labour market. It is dishonest and corrosive of our attempt to build a sense of mutual obligations in the community. In the circumstances where new opportunity is being offered and refused there should be no absolute entitlement to continued receipt of full social security benefits.”

The Economist and The Sun both backed Labour because they read between the lines and anticipated what lay behind all the cheery grins and photo opportunities.

European capital cannot afford the cost of the maintenance of the welfare state. Germany’s unemployment stands at 4.5 million, French unemployment is over 3 million, Britain’s around 3.5 million. The cost of unemployment is borne through the provision of welfare benefits. The welfare state is a drag anchor on economic growth. If European capital is to compete with the Asian economies and the US economy, it requires labour market flexibility to hold down wages so intervention by the state to sustain the labour market as a way of reducing unemployment is out. The only remaining solution is to dismantle the welfare state itself. The Financial Times, in calling for support for Blair, recognised that the party best placed politically to dismantle the welfare state is the party which gave birth to it. Blair’s vision, which he has sold to the CBI, The Economist and a host of other business forums, is of a hi-tech, low wage economy. As Mandelson describes it “John Major presided over a massive boost to government spending in the run up to the 1992 election. Public spending rose by 5.7% in the election year alone... Public borrowing has too often absorbed too high a share of the country’s savings. Government policy must ensure that the nations savings are put to productive purposes, rather than immediate public or personal consumption.”

The vote cast for Labour on 1st May was objectively a vote for the dismantling of the welfare state, slashing of public sector pay, workfare and a high tech police force to save the middle classes from the disorder likely to result. Does anyone still need to ask why Labour didn’t oppose the Criminal Justice Act?

Whatever subjective intentions Labour voters had, the end result was the replacement of a weak, divided anti-working class government with a right wing anti-working class government with a massive majority!

Over the next 5 years Labour will seek to drain resources form working class communities. The closure of schools, youth clubs, libraries and playgroups, and the selling off of housing stock and chronic disrepair which are the trademark of Labour in local office will be attempted on a national scale. Unless the resistance to this responds on the basis that Labour is the class enemy in office, and opposes it as such and fights from the basis that every school, every youth club, every council home, belongs to the community in which it is based and is not the property of the grinning Rachmans of Blairism, the Labour project will succeed, and the wholesale abandonment to 3rd world levels of poverty of whole sections of the working class which is the legacy of Clinton in the US will be our fate here.

My favourite memory of May 1st? Well, mine was a week or so later, in Socialist Worker, with a headline “We Didn’t Vote for This.” Tough shit, comrades, you voted for it, campaigned for it and the rest of us are now going to pay for it.

Published in Black Flag Issue No. 212.

Black Flag 213 (1997/8)

Issue of the London-based anarchist magazine Black Flag from the 1990s.

Contents

Diarmuid O'Neill

In September 1996 Diarmuid O’Neill, an IRA member under observation by the security forces, was shot and killed by Special Branch and armed police when they raided an address in Hammersmith. After being shot, Diarmuid was denied paramedic assistance for 25 minutes, by which time he was dead. One police officer was seen standing with his foot on Diarmuid's head as he lay dying. Diarmuid was dragged bleeding out of the house into the street, where he lay, bleeding from the bullet wounds.

The killing was carried out as part of a raid on an IRA active service unit. In December Patrick Kelly, James Murphy and Brian McHugh were gaoled for conspiracy to cause explosions,

Evidence at the trial made it clear that the police and Special Branch were fully aware that Diarmuid was not likely to be armed. They had already bugged the flat and his car. They had the unit under constant surveillance, including at the Hornsey warehouse space they used to store arms and explosives. When the police opened fire on Diarmuid he had already showed both his hands clearly through the door of the flat,and Patrick Kelly had shouted "We give up-we are unarmed”. The other members of the unit recall the police shouting "Shoot the fucker" as Diarmiud opened the door.

In September 1996 the British state transferred its shoot to kill policy against Republicans from the six counties to the streets of London. If the cops that day weren’t hyped up to kill, why did they watch footage of the entirely unrelated Canary Wharf bombing and footage of bomb victims before carrying out the raid? Why did they attempt an immediate cover up by releasing reports of a "gun battle with terrorists" when there had never been any suggestion of a gun battle? The Justice for Diarmuid O'Neill Campaign has called for a public enquiry into the killing.

Chris Plummer

Chris Plummer is an anarchist who was sentenced to 15-23 years in jail (!) for his alleged part in a raid against a Nazi skinhead house in Texas. He has already served one year in prison. Just recently, he was transferred to another jail and has already suffered several broken ribs, a broken jaw and cheekbone, scarred eyes, and other injuries at the heads of neo-nazi skinhead inmates. His situation looks bleak and he has already come to believe that he won't make it out of jail alive. He needs your assistance now.

As an outspoken prisoner, Chris has come under fire from prison administration and neo-nazi prison gangs for his organizing work and direct action. He is currently having much of his mail stopped and the authorities are trying to frame him for having a knife.

Letters of protest to Warden Moya, RT2 Box 4400, Gatesville TX 76597 with copies to:

Christopher Lee Plummer
PP #677345, Hughes Unit
RT2 Box 4400
Gatesville, TX 76597

News

……FROM GREECE, TURKEY, CHECHNYA, FINLAND

On November 7, 1997, Basil Karaplis - a member of the Athens ABC - flew to Izmir, Turkey, invited by the local group of Savas Karsitlari (War Resisters) and the Evrensel Kultur Merkezi (Universal Culture Centre), which had organized a three day meeting to celebrate the International Antifascist Day (Anniversary of Crystall Night, Germany, Nov.9 1938). Savas Karsitlari is one of the components of the AMARGI Anarchist monthly which was being produced in Izmir for some years but stopped appearing in 1994 due mainly to economic reasons.

Well, this visit to Turkey was the first that had not to do with military objectors and non violence, since the meeting's purpose was to present the antifascist movement in Greece to the turkish public opinion. The event started on Nov.8 with an exhibition of photos from greek resistance against the Metaxas dictatorship (1936), against the german occupation (1941-1944), during the greek civil war and the british occupation of the country (1944-1949), against the transfer of Greece from the british to the american influence, against the military junta (1967-1974) and up to our days. The film "Z", by Kosta Gavras, was projected in the same evening, telling the story of Grigoris Lambrakis (an MP of the "Unified Democratic Left" who was active in the Peace Movement and in the international campaign against the Vietnam War and who finally was murdered by fascists due to the above activities in May 1963).

Next day, Nov.9, there was projected the film "the greek civil war" (by Roviros Manthoulis) and there followed a detailful discussion on the greek antifascist movement covering all periods of greek history (from the formation of the greek state to the end of the civil war) and all of its aspects, the greek-turkish relations contained. On the last day, Nov.10, there was projected the film "days of the Polytechnic School" (the story of the anti-junta revolt on Nov.17 1973, directed by Dimitris Makris). The discussion that lasted till late focused not only on what had happened in Greece but also on what happened in Turkey and of course on what had happened and still is happening in Cyprus.

The conclusion of the three days projections, speeches and discussion is that greek and turkish people (and peoples and ethnic minorities) have nothing to separate. What they share is a common enemy and that is capitalism and government policies. What the anti-fascists should fight for - in both and in all countries - is the freedom of people and NOT the freedom of things, property or even land (be it a "motherland" or not). The general idea was that we can all be alive and happy, once we get rid of state and "super"-state oppression which give birth to fascism and nationalism when such birth is needed to promote capitalist interests.

Next day, a press conference had been organised at which three newspapers were present (Gundem, Emek and the english-speaking Turkish Daily News). After a night of raki drinking, singing and talking, B. Karaplis returned to Athens after it had been decided to strengthen the contacts between the antifascist movements (and between Anarchists) in Greece, Turkey, Cyprus, Kurdistan and all over the world.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++ A matter also discussed during the visit was that concerning Osman Murat Ulke, a military objector, who is now imprisoned in the Eski Sehir military jail. He's been sentenced to 2 yrs. of prison, after which he's to face another trial (in case he still refuses to serve the army) which will cost him another 2 yrs. imprisonment and that will go on untill he manages to escape or untill turkish laws change under domestic and international pressure. On that point, we must mention that the ties between the antimilitarist movements of Turkey & Greece have been very tight. Anarchist antimilitarists from Turkey had come to defend greek Anarchist military objectors (Nikos Maziotis and Pavlos Nathanail) at the greek court-martials while Anarchist comrades from Greece had defended Osman Murat Ulke, "Osi", at his trial at the national security court of Ankara early this year. ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Anarchy in Chile

The aim of "Freedom"... throughout our years of struggle, has been carried deep in the hearts of the thousands of people battling for their basic rights. These voices, screaming for justice, have not been silenced by the violence and lies of our exploiters and, in an attempt to rescue our history, a book about the history of anarchism in Chile has been written. The book deals with, not only Anarchism, but the role of the larger workers' movement in Chilean history (from 16th Century until 1994). However it does pay particular attention to the role of Libertarians. The book is entitled "Caliche: el rostro pampino" available from MADRE TIERRA editions and its author is Hector Pavelic. (Caliche: (saltpetre) the pampa's face.) I now propose to summarise the role of the anarchists in this history.

We begin in 1872, when the Chilean Section of the IWA was established in Valparaiso, a major coastal city. Tragically, this was also the year of the anarchists' expulsion from the International, and the section was not destined to last for long. However, it planted the seeds among the workers, for the growth of a strong and developing movement, spreading Libertarian ideas throughout syndicates and work-places. Libertarian ideas were becomming particularly strong amongst the Nitrate miners in the North of the country.

But this process was interrupted by the outbreak in 1879 of the Pacific war. Chile had occupied Antofagasta in the North (then Bolivian territory, and rich in Nitrate deposits) and declared war on both Bolivia and Peru. However English Capital also held major stakes in the conflict - having bought up huge amounts of mining land cheap during the war. The eventual victory of the Chilean State brought prosperity to the English enslavers, Chilean bosses, and the State (via Nitrate taxes) but spelt misery and death to the people. As ever - it was the exploited who paid the price; and the rich, who enjoyed the benefits of the spoils of war. Unfortunately for them, the war wasn't enough to stop the social struggle or to tame the people.

In 1887 the Union Republicana del Pueblo (People's Republican Union) was formed, with a clear anarchist platform.. There followed, shortly afterwards, a series of largescale strikes by railworkers, miners and others, culminating finally in the first national general strike in 1890. The strike was joined by workers stretching the whole of the country and was the first of its sort in Latin America. The strike was brutally put down with the violence we have come to expect from all governments.

In 1891 another conflict took its toll on the working class: President Balmaceda, who was rapidly losing control of Congress, nevertheless continued to assert his presidential authority - attempting to press through reforms against the wishes of both Congress, and - more significantly - the interests of English Capital in Chile. This lead to a civil war of quite unexpected dimensions that finally deposed Balmaceda from government. History, or rather, official history, tries to hide from us the actual genesis of the conflict, citing violations to the constitution, but we're not stupid and we won't be deceived by these lying so-called 'intellectuals' who fill the schoolbooks with crap and crummy arguments. Constitution is not a strong argument: after all constitutions are brandished and used by all governments for their own purposes.

Between 1892 - 1897 many societies were established including 'Sociedad de la Igualdad'- formed by Francisco Bilbao, Santiago Arcos, Victorimo Lastarrias and Eusebio Lillo - which fought for what they called the'Sovereignty of Reason', 'Universal Fraternity with common and natural life' and 'People's Sovereignty in Politics'. The group consisted of artists, workers and intellectuals and published the paper 'El Amigo del Pueblo' . From its inception on April 4th 1850, until its final day, 29th April 1859, the group were a constant headache to the state and all those who had been involved from the beginning were exiled on its dissolution. The society had shared some of Proudhon's ideas around federalism but didn't call themselves anarchists. This was the first experience of this kind and was a model for those to come.

Among the other societies forming during this period were "Sociedad de Proteccion al Trabajador y mutuo apoyo" (Society for worker's protection and mutual aid ) and "Centro Social de Trabajadores - El Grito del Pueblo" (Workers Social Centre - The People's Scream). Newspapers and magazines appeared, including "El Oprimido" (The Oppressed) and "El Proletario" and many important faces in Chilean Anarchism came to light: Magno Espimonza, Escobar Cavallo, Luis Olea....

In 1898 there was a general strike in Iquique, accompanied by the creation of new societies ("Rebelion"- a carpenters' society., "Caupolican" - an Indian (mapuche) name, FFCCE - railworkers resistance, etc...) new magazines ("La Tromba" - The waterspout - "El Rebelde" - The Rebel , "La Antorcha" - The Torch - "El Pueblo" - and "El Jornal") and the first May Day demonstration. This was a time of strong social movement and the "Partido Obrero Francisco Bilbao" - Francisco Bilbao Worker's Party - became an anarchist group in 1899. The following year saw the first demonstration against military service and the army - under the slogan: 'The Army is the Academy of Crime!' and was organised exclusively by anarchists.

Between 1900 and 1906 a lot of anarcho-syndicalist and resistance organisations emerged, all of them clandestine, except for a few trade unions. In 1902 harbour workers staged a 60 day strike and in 1903 there was a general strike in Valparaiso resulting in the murder of more than 100 workers by the oppressor dogs. The rebellion spread to Antofagasta, Iota and Coronel and lasted for 43 days.

The famous "Semana Roja" (Red Week) in 1905 was a crucial event in our early history. Workers had had enough of the inhuman conditions in which they were forced to live, the rising cost of living and the taxes on meat coming from Argentina. A worker's committee "Centreo de Estudias Sociedad Ateneo Obrero" called all workers to join the strike and to support the cause. On October 22nd, 30,000 people joined the uprising, inspired by the revolutionary ideas sweeping working class public opinion. Among them were butchers, shoe makers, tanners, cigar makers, truckmen, tapestry makers, typographers, telegraphers, blacksmiths, tinsmiths, bakers and the brave FFCCE workers who blew up the railways. The 1800 strong police force were no match for the crowds. And the ruling class were forced to form a "White Guard" of 300 armed rich boys to pitch in to massacre the popular forces. Despite the 250 victims, the movement continued to grow steadily.

In 1906, two important federations were formed: "Federacion de Trabajadores de Chile," - FTCH and "Federacion de Estudiantes de Chile" the latter comprising one of the most important forces in Chilean Social Struggle

However 1907 saw one of the most tragic episodes in our history (and possibly the worst example of mass slaughter in a labour dispute in world history). In the North of Chile, in the isolated desert pampas, the Nitrate miners went on strike for basic living conditions. The mining camps or villages were built by the bosses solely for the purpose of production - they built the substandard housing, stocked the stores, paid the workers in tokens redeemable only in the company stores and held strict control over the day to day life on the camps.

The strikers descended on the town of Iquique with their wives and kids to make their demands and were joined by other workers in the city; solidarity flourished everywhere. A strike committee headed by Jose Pariggs was formed - Luis Olea was also an important member of the committee and both were remarkable anarchist militants. The strike headquarters was established at the Santa Maria School. Overall there were around 4,500 strikers and supporters in the school and another 1,500 or so camping in tents around the square.

The army were called in by the bosses, martial law was declared, stores were locked and on December 21st at 3.45 pm the slaughter began. The first to be shot were the members of the committee. Chilean, Argentinean, Peruvian, Bolivian and European workers were slain with an astonishing ruthlessness, with their wives and children. All dead. The number of victims was reckoned to be up to 3600. Luis Olea was murdered by Roberto Silva Renard's gun (he is now known as "Carmicero de Iquique" - The Butcher of Iqueque).

An eye witness gave the following account of the massacre " On the central balcony...stood 30 or so men in the prime of life, quite calm, beneath a great Chilean flag, and surrounded by the flags of other nations. They were the strike committee...All eyes were fixed on them just as all the guns were directed at them. Standing, they received the shots, As though struck by lightning they fell, and the great flag fluttered down over their bodies...There was a moment of silence as the machine guns were lowered to aim at the school yard and the hall, occupied by a compact mass of people who spilled over into the main square.. There was a sound like thunder as they fired. The the gunfire ceased and the foot soldiers went into the school by the side doors, fifing as men and women fled in all directions."

Despite the great sacrifice of these comrades, the movement was impossible to stop. The large numbers of people working at the mines, their diverse places of origin, and the bitter conditions forged one of the strongest forces in the Chilean workers struggle (unfortunately, condemned to disappear after the 1st world war) and their revolutionary spirit spread throughout the territory like wildfire.

This movement directly lead, in 1909 to the formation the 'Federacion Obrera de Chile'- FOCH. It aimed to pull together all the societies involved in the struggle, through delegations, to form a national federation. There were anarchists, Marxists, democrats, etc... The various working class movements rapidly began to organise themselves within the new federation and in 1910 the FECH formed the popular university Victorino Lastarrias (in honour of one of the founding members of Sociedad de la Igualdad 1850). The university forged vital links between workers and students and offered basic education to the exploited.

During this period, the strikes, building of barricades and rioting against the police continued. In 1912 Federacion Obrera Regional de Chile - FORCH was formed with the remarkable participation of Juan Onofre Chamorro. This was also the time noted for the militancy of Manuel Rojas - one of the most important Chilean writers who described the situation of the working class in books such as "Hijo de Ladron" - Son of a Thief - "Lo obscura vida radiante" - The dark bright life etc., and is internationally recognised as Chile's best novelist.

In 1917 the IWW arrived in the region and the following year the FECH organised the "Assemblea Obrera de Alimentacion" - Assembly for the Nourishment of the Workers. The FOCH, IWW and POS (Partido Obrero Socialista - Socialist Workers Party) all participated. In September 1919, the AOA (or WFA) called a general strike, which was brutally put down by the authorities. San Fuentes (the president) instigated legal proceedings against the strikers and many workers and students were sued.

As the Nitrate mines began to produce less profits and workers were laid off, miners, highly politicised and practiced in revolutionary organisation were returning to their villages. Strikes were breaking out throughout the country, the state was in substantial debt to foreign banks and to deflect attention from its domestic problems, the government invented a war with Peru. The war never happened, but troops were deployed to strategic points and nationalist and rabid anti - Peruvian propaganda was dissemenated by the state.

The FECH was opposed to any armed conflict, and openly condemned the government for its belligerency. On September 21st a column of rich scum broke into the FECH's headquarters burning books, furniture, and ultimately the whole building. "We have to teach a lesson to these so-called Chileans, who have sold out to Peru's gold" said one of the authorities. Most of the "Traitors to the country" were jailed after being sued in the courts under what the government called the "Subversion Trial" (pathetic isn't it?). One of those jailed - the Law/Spanish student Domingo Gomez Rojas went mad from torture and was sent to a sanatorium, where he died four months later, he was only 23 yrs old. Overall 1920 was a year of brutal repression for the workers movement - many locals were burnt down, many agitators were murdered, workers were sent to prison etc. and the following year witnessed the almost forgotten San Gregorio Massacre where hundreds of miners were killed mercilessly.

By 1925 there were 214 syndicates in Chile boasting the active participation of more than 200,000 people. And it was the first year where a Chilean delegation of the IWW were able to participate in an IWA Congress. Henceforth our participation became more regular. But on June 5th 1925 more blood was shed in La Coruna (Nitrate mine encampment) - on this occasion more than 500 rebels were tortured in Iqueque.

In 1930 the Chilean economy was hit by disaster: German scientists discovered a synthetic Nitrate, far cheaper than the natural one, and the mines which had provided a (meagre) living for thousands of workers and where revolutionary syndicalism had been bred, began to close down rapidly. Of course, the proletariat bore the brunt of the crisis and were powerless to stop it. They were forced, by famine, to move to the South, where the overcrowded cities were almost collapsing. As no pain comes alone (Chilean expression) the year before - 1929 - had been the year of the Wall Street Crash and the beginning of a worldwide recession. The situation was therefore even more desperate than ever.

Also in the 30s an important figure in anarchism emerged on the scene: Pedro Nolasco Arratia. Today, a French collective uses his name.

In April 27th 1934, the FOCH headquarters in Santiago was assaulted by the police and the 'white guards'; 7 workers died in the attack, a child was slain, and 200 workers were badly injured. In June the same year, 477 peasants were slain in Alto Bio-Bio, Ranquil and Lonquimay. In December 1936 the Confederacion General de Trabajadores - CGT was formed with the participation of the IWW and the FORCH. Some important objectives achieved by the IWW were: i) the 8 hour working day, ii) dominical (Sunday) rest, iii) Indemnity for accidents at work, iv) Monetary recognition of years of service, v) the right to retirement and vi) the right to an old age pension. By this time the FACH - Chilean Anarchist Federation- was active and sent some International Brigades to support the Spanish comrades in the Spanish Civil War (1936).

On January 28th 1946 at Bulmes Square (Santiago) 8 workers were murdered and many more were seriously injured by the police dogs. In 1947, Pisagua (an infamous concentration camp) was opened and a period of fullscale of persecution of anarchists began. Anarchist organisations had to go underground and one such clandestine initiative was the Luisa Michel cultural centre, which operated with the clear aim of giving a rational education to female workers. In 1953 its name changed to "Luisa Michel Libertarian School". It was run by comrade Flora Sanhueza R. and had over 70 students. With time, it began to accept children as well. It worked non stop until 1957, and we have to praise the strength of libertarian women who were able to resist the authorities for a period of ten years!

In 1950 Ernesto Miranda incorporated 12 federations and several syndicates into the Movimento Unitario Nacional de Trabajadores -MUNT. Its aim was to unite all the independent syndicates in this area of the world. This aim was achieved in 1953 when the Central Unitaria de Trabajadores - CUT was formed. Its initial statement of aims and principles was drawn up by 3 anarchists from the CGT. However in 1957 a split shook the organisation: the anarcho-syndicalists abandoned the CUT in protest at its involvement in an electoral pact with the FRAP (Frente Amplio Popular) during the lead up to the presidential election in 1958. FRAP was a political institution of left wing parties and CUT's involvement (with the FRAP) in the electoral process was seen as a betrayal of working class independence.

Miranda, after being declared "illustrious son" by Fidel Castro himself, created the "Comite de Defensa de la Revolucion Cubana". Whilst on the other hand, the Anarchist Federation, FACH, declared in 1960 that "At that pace, Cuban Revolution will end married with the Russians". On August 15th 1965, in the Liberation Hall, the MIR (Movimiento de Izquierda Revolucionaria - Revolutionary Left Wing Movement) was born. The first secretary was the Trotskyite Enrique Sepulveda but Miranda and Clotario Blest were on the Committee (two dedicated anarcho- syndicalists). Originally the MIR was an attempt to create a strong anarcho-syndicalist movement , but in 1967 Miguel Enriquez and Luciano Cruz took over, polluting the MIR with Marxist Leninist ideas / practices. Miranda, Blest and their anarchist comrades quit.

The next year, the VOP was formed (Vanguardia Organizada del Pueblo) by a group of young men who rejected the authoritarianism of the MIR. There were two tendendies within it: Panekoism (sort of anti authoritarian Marxism - weird eh?) and Anarchism . Both the MIR and the VOP had their influence and during 1969 they intervened within many work-place struggles forcing the bosses to sign agreements drawn up by the working class (and, admirably, financing their activities from the rich through bank robberies).

However, the authorities continued to take their revenge whenever they could - for example, during this period the Homeless Peoples' Commitee of Puerto Montt occupied some fields in the south to build themselves housing. This lead to an order to attack by minister Perez Zujovic and the resulting Irigoyen Pampa's massacre claimed the lives of 9 people including two pregnant women.

In 1970 the new (relatively popular) Socialist President, Salvador Allende declared an amnesty for all political prisoners. VOP benefited from this and agreed, on the president's request, to form part of the GAP (Grupo de Amigos Personales) - the president's personal guard. In March 1971, VOP members of the guard, warned the president about a rightwing plot to topple the government. The most important of the plotters was the traitor Edmundo Perez Zujovic. Allende refused to heed these warnings, but the VOP used direct action to prevent Zujovic from succeeding in his plans - on June 8th, 1971, Perez Zujovic was executed. The VOP had also found him guilty of the Pto Montt massacre 1969 (detailed above). However the VOP paid a very high price for its promise to protect Allende as he began to lose control of the government and the country. Not only were its members pursued by the state, but also by the right and left wing. The Rivera Calderon brothers were cowardly murdered by the secret police, unarmed and holding a white flag, in apparent revenge for their participation in the just execution of the bastard, Zujovic.

In 1972, partly as a reaction to severe food and other commoditiy shortages, (the US had emposed a trade and credits embargo in retaliation for the nationalisation of the US owned copper mines) the workers began to take over their work-places. Neighbourhood committees distributed goods direct from the worker controlled factories and the anarchist aim of self organization was acheived in many areas of life. The FTR -Frente de Trabajadores Revolucionarios played a major role in this process - demonstrating that workers were quite capable of running a factory by themselves, that government and bosses were no longer necessary and the government were taken completely by surprise. Allende, baulked at the prospect of workers self organisation and sent 'observers' to the affected factories, whom, in practice, did the same obnoxious job of any traditional boss: gave orders. At the same the peasants were taking over agricultural land and organising through the MCR (Movimiento de Campesinos Revolucionarios).

The pressure against the popular government was mounting, boosted by millions of dollars pumped into the rightwing opposition from the US (Henry Kissenger had stated that he did not see why the US should stand idly by "and let a country go communist due to the irresponsbility of its own people") and on June 29th 1973 there was an attempted Coup d'etat. This was a sort of test to see how the people would react a real one. The army began to attempt to search and inspect the industrial cordons (to seize activists) but people erected barricades in the popular neighbourhoods and prevented the incursion into their factories or homes by the police or the army.

But the real coup came when the tanks rolled into the streets of Santiago on September the 11th 1973. This is remembered as the most terrible day this century, as a nightmare where thousands and thousands of people were tortured , raped and murdered relentlessly. The people were defenceless against the new dictator Pinochet (or Pinoshit, call him what you wish) having only a few or no weapons - those that escaped death were sent as political prisoners to concentration camps in the north. Pinochet was to rule for nearly 17 years.

These first camps as a dreadful and cruel irony, were established upon the remains of the old Nitrate Mine villages - the original cradles of class consciousness. Many others, however, were sprouting like mushrooms after rain in the rest of the country. The most notorious were Pisagua (in Tarapaca), Chacabuco, Calama, Tocopilla's mines, Copiapo, La Serena's police stations (Coquimbo), Buque de Escuela Esmeralda, Escuela de Mecanica de la Armada, and Quillotas police stations (in Valparaiso).

Those who were executed were thrown into the sea or buried illegally in Chinolco or other clandestine places. In Santiago the incarcerated revolutionaries (called by the army "prisoners of war") were sent to National or Chile Stadiums, to the concentration camps and to secret jails (or dungeons) such as : Villa Grimaldi, La Venda Sexi, Jose Domingo Canas, Tres Alamos, Cuatro Alamos, Londres 38 etc... There were other camps in Lota, Coronel, Concepcion, and Santa Barbara. By 1974, the prisoners who had been killed at the hands of Pinoshit's dogs were called "disappeared prisoners", for the government publically denied all knowledge of these people. All political parties and trade unions were banned, some courses at Universities were closed down - denounced as focuses for revolutionaries. People were cowed by fear under the terrible shadow of the DINA (Direccion de Inteligencia Nacional) - the secret police. In 1978, Victoria (Nitrate mine) was closed due to its reputation of being a cradle of political extremity.

However by the onset of the 80s people had regrouped and were beginning to fight back. In 1980 the syndicates affiliated to Norway's IWA obtained the freedom of the VOP members who had now been in prison for 9 years and 4 months (they had been arrested 2 years before the coup and had been transferred to concentration camps by Pinochet). They exchanged prison for exile.

MIR (a marxist movement as explained before ) assassinated Roger Vergara - the chief of Army Intelligence. And in 1982 the textile workers went on strike after many years of fear; the Government couldn't intimidate them with repression any longer. They decided to risk police brutality for the sake of the whole workers'movement.

The strike kept on going until its bitter end. On May 11th (1983) a solidarity strike was called: at 2pm workers would go straight to home, children wouldn't go to school, teachers wouldn't give any lessons, people wouldn't buy anything and vehicles would march slowly through the streets. At nightfall, lights would be extinguished and people would march hitting empty pots. Everything happened as planned, although there were some incidents at the universities. At 8pm the sound of empty pots began. The police tried to silence it by throwing tear gas bombs at the buildings. Two were killed in La Victoria (a popular neighbourhood) and Lo Plaza, and 600 were arrested with several wounded. Between 1983 and 1984 mass protests became more frequent and the people defended themselves against the police with molatovs, stones and barricades.

Anarchists were, of course, involved in these uprisings but they did not especially try to spread their ideas; the struggle against the dictator and the fight for human rights took precedence over ideological differences. All the revolutionary movements were in the fight together- there would be more appropriate times for ideological arguments in the future.

Anyway, in 1984, in Talca, a libertarian magazine called "La voz del Naturismo" was distributed and in 1987 black flags reappeared in Santiago, Concepcion and Osorno. Social centres began to appear - a centre for social studies "El Duende" - The Elf in Santiago, and the "Kolective Anarkista Liberacion" - KAL in Concepcion both under the umbrella of TASYS -"Taller de Analysis Sindical y social" - Studio for Social Studies and Analysis, created with the aim of providing space to the oppressed. A newspaper called "Acrata" - Anarchist - was published by Colectivo Anarquista Concepcion and the bulletin "Liberacion" by the KAL. "Accion Directa" was published by anarchist comrades in Santiago. In 1989, Pinochet was finally forced to admit defeat and 'democracy' was restored to Chile.

In 1990 "El Duende" hosted the creation of "Coordinadora Anarquista Estudiantil", and in Concepcion "Solidaridad Obrera" supported strikes of any kind. On January 2nd 1991, in an assembly, here in Concepcion, the Anarchist Intercities Federation "Federacion Anarquista Interciudadana" was established. Then, again, in Concepcion, the JAM (Juventudes Anti Militaristas) and, in Santiago, COSMO (Colectivo Contra el Sevicio Militar Obligatorio) were formed. After this appeared other movements such as MALO (Movimiento Anarquista Luis Olea), COSMO Temuco, FAI Concepcion, "Kolectivo Kultural Libertario Malatesta" in Concepcion, "Red Anarquista" - Anarchist Web in Villa Alemana, Osormo, Tenuco, Concepcion, Valparaiso, Santiago , etc.....the FAL "Federacion Anarco - Libertaria"etc....

There was also an attempt to create a libertarian editorial called "Peste Negra". Some of the most recent publications are "Rebelion", "Ni Dios Mi Amo Contra Toda Autoridad", "El Duende Negro", "Milikk - Ya Al Servicio? - Ni Cagando!", "El irreverente", "Accion Libertaria".... and "Tiempos Nuevos" - coming soon! (This is ours).

As regards our collective, the last year was a time for re-organisation. Some people left , others joined us as we finally decided to dissolve the KAL. September,and October were very difficult months for us - full of suspiciousness and divisions. Recently we've been searching for a proper name to the collective, and we ended up with "Arbol Negro" - Black Tree - which we think is about right. In relation to anarcho-syndicalism, we sent a delegation of two people representing Concepcion and Santiago respectively to the IWA congress in Spain in December. Thus we were recognised as a section of the IWA in Chile and we took over the work left by the IWW. Nowadays we're in a period of shaping "Solidaridad Obrera" and in that sense we'll celebrate a Congress of the three cities affiliated to the International (Temuco, Santiago, Concepcion) in March next year. Everything is going alright and soon we will certainly be a strong force again, untamed by the years of terror. We have to take back what was stolen by the army. We hope to begin to release "Solidaridad Obrera" monthly - if possible - a bulletin designed to create awareness among our class.

Well, this is the history of anarchism - syndicalism in Chile. We have a lot of mistakes in our past to learn about. History is not written in vain, its aim is to teach us lessons. If we have fallen, we need to know how to stand up and fight. Furthermore we need to analyse our history it so we can improve our actions and learn not to repeat the same mistakes . In this way our revolution can be set on the right course and we can finally have the opportunity to enhance as human beings. After all, that's the purpose of Anarchism.

With love, fraternity and Solidarity

Jose Antonio Gutierrez Danton of Colectivo Arbol Negro and "Solidaridad Obrera"

PS; we're particularly interested in contacting exiled libertarians..... if you're one please contact us.

213cnthomo.txt Anarchism, heterosexism and secular religions

(NB: this text appeared in the archive.org archive of the old Black Flag site but it not credited in the contents for this issue?)

An article by Nicolas Chozas entitled "La CNT y los homosexuales" appeared in the 1st October 1996 edition of CNiT, newspaper of the Spanish CNT exiles in France. He refers to a letter from a gay man in a CNT newspaper "asking us to deal more with gay issues" which made him decide to " ...clarify some points not only to this friend, but also to other CNT members who, although they are not gay, they are a bit confused about these issues". Generous of him.

First of all, despite accepting the "challenge of fighting Capitalism, the State and everything surrounding it" (my italics) he presents a narrow viewpoint that anarcho-syndicalism has no interest in "the vindications of particular groups, like gay groups, which are alien to the workers' problems", and that these are "personal matters, which only affect people who feel this kind of sexual orientations".

Now, I'm one of these comrades who is "confused" because I am a worker, an anarcho-syndicalist militant, and some of my problems as a worker are to do with my "sexual orientation". Chozas apparently believes that because the CNT "is not a marginal union, or a union of alienated people" we should shut up about it. So much for fighting "everything surrounding" capitalism and the state.

Gay and bi men (my apologies to lesbians and bi women, but we are who Chozas means) are seen as somehow supposed to be separate from the working class. This is only true if to identify as gay is to be marginalised because of prejudice among working class people. Chozas implicitly accepts the capitalist definition of people as workers - labour-producing units - not as three-dimensional human beings. Society also defines some of us as gay in the same way.

The aim of anarchism is to restore our humanity, something I appreciated more when I was coming out, because realising how I was culturally excluded as a bisexual man gave me an insight into how I was dehumanised as a worker. "Human rights" which do not involve the liberation of the working class reduce those "rights" to class privileges, and restoring the humanity of the working class is the business of anarcho-syndicalism.

Sexual identities and class

However, I'd like to point out that there is a lot of confusion about who "gay men" are. Because the gay subculture is a reflection of the values of the Anglo-American, white, middle class men who are its most visible, economically powerful and vocal component, it is assumed that all lesbian, gay and bisexual people are like this - and that anyone who is not is heterosexual.

Gay identity politics is the project of those for whom their homosexuality is their only deviation from the "norm". For a lot of us class, race and gender are more pressing concerns, and we can't separate our sexual identity from these. Because we can't buy individual privileges, we have to live in our working class milieu - what we need is greater acceptance of sexual diversity, not better ghettos.

Personally, I am happy being "gay" because for me it describes a way I can be a working class bloke without apeing the stereotypes promoted by middle class macho journalists at The Sun, Loaded, and the like. It's about not letting my relationships with other people be defined by gender, rather than a lifestyle choice. I'm not going to abandon my working class culture, but I'm not going to let it control me.

For a lot of working class blokes straight[1] machismo is sinonymous with their class identity, and any insecurity about this leads them to work harder at it, in the same way as all those middle class lefties do. Homophobia and extreme misogyny - and their accompanying violence - are products of this insecurity about gender - proving your masculinity to yourself, because your feelings or behaviour are considered inappropriate.

Gay is a term now associated with a fixed identity, rather than just feelings or behaviour. To be gay is to be assumed to be exclusively homosexual, and to pursue a particular lifestyle. The reality of widespread bisexual behaviour, among lesbian, gay, bisexual and "straight" identified people is erased by the gay subculture as well as by heterosexist society. Confounding the tacit equation of behaviour with identity, research by Project SIGMA[2] into male bisexual behaviour in Britain found that only a minority of their respondents identified as bi.

Sex between men is everywhere, whether it's through contact ads in the straight press, or through cruising, which is not confined to your local park after the pubs shut or "cottages". You don't have to go anywhere near the gay scene to get laid, and straight identities needn't be compromised. Many straight men do not consider themselves gay because they only have sex with other straight men.

The closet is maintained by alienation from recognised gay identities as well as by fear and denial. Historically working class gay relationships have often been of the butch-femme/man-wife variety, because gender identities are a very strong part of working class culture, a way of asserting your humanity against your definition as a worker, and are easier to relate to than the affluent gay man. The butch/man in these relationships has no identity questions, only the femme/wife does.

Queens and masculinity

As well as the white, Anglo, middle class connotations of "gay", the most established working class gay identity is that of the Queen. Since this is basically a feminine male identity, it gets the low status of all things feminine in this society. If you're neither middle class nor a Queen and you identify with your mates then you're like them - straight. A Queen is most definitely not a Man[3].

Queens, drag or otherwise, have long been the most visible and bravest section of what is now called the "gay community", establishing social spaces for gay men by their presence. Their visibility and their femininity have also made them the most despised by both the middle class gay men and machos, straight or gay. The masculinisation of the gay subculture, exemplified by the Clone and its successors, has reinforced this and led to gay men neglecting gender issues.

Gender is at the root of the problem, nevertheless. An additional complication for men in Hispanic cultures is the question of sexual identity and role. In these cultures it is only the "passive" partner who plays the "woman's role" who is a Maricon, the guy whose dick gets serviced remains a Man. This kind of [bi]sexuality is widespread, but it is a bisexuality dependent on equal contempt for women and Maricones.

In reality, the vast majority of men who have sex with other men are working class, but those who are most visible and committed to a gay identity are not, except for the Queens, who have been marginalised by the assimilationist politics and masculinisation promoted by conservative middle class gay men. In Black and Hispanic countries and communities, Queens are often sex workers, so same sex love among the industrial proletariat is not a widely recognised phenomenon.

Anarchist bigotry

Unsurprisingly, "workers" and "gays" are seen as separate. But before any gay anarcho-syndicalists think they can put Chozas straight (excuse the pun) just by coming out, he has more pearls of wisdom for us. "Anarchism ...is based on certain values ...constituted by the NATURAL LAWS." "Unnatural sexual acts, that is, all those sexual acts outside the heterosexual couple, (so, no threesomes, either) are contrary to the essence of anarchism and rationalism."

Pope Nicolas then goes on to compare us to alcoholics and smokers, wheels out the cliches that homosexuality causes AIDS (although, this being anarchist bigotry, the Wrath of God doesn't get a look in - it's caused by us abusing our bodies in unnatural acts) and paedophilia, and throws in a little gratuitous drug addiction for good measure.

Now, it's easy to dismiss this as the rantings of an ancient bigot, but he has a point about anarchism and anarcho-syndicalism. "Everything that surrounds" capitalism and the state to Chozas probably means religion, education, and the apparatus of ideological control. His interpretation of anarchism is as 19th century as the translator of the piece tells me his Spanish is, but no less accurate on his own terms.

Nowadays we would include gender, race, sexuality, etc. Ignorance about our own history, sanitised by liberals like George Woodcock, leads us to project contemporary attitudes back into the past. Because anarchism is largely ignored by academics I used to complacently think that, unlike the left, we didn't subscribe to the "aristocratic decadence/capitalist perversion" theory of this culture's obsession with explaining away same sex desire - I was wrong.

Spanish anarchism and sexuality

Richard Cleminson's essay "Male inverts and homosexuals: Sex discourse in the Anarchist Revista Blanca"[4] introduces the treatment of the subject in the most influential Spanish anarchist journal of pre-revolutionary Spain. I don't propose to go into great detail, but I think it's worth citing an example to illustrate Chozas' consistency with the ideas of the time.

In 1935 the editorial response to the question "What is there to be said about those comrades who themselves are anarchists and who associate with inverts?"[5] read as follows: "They cannot be viewed as men if that 'associate' means anything apart from speaking to or saluting sexual degenerates. If you are an anarchist, that means that you are more morally upright and physically strong than the average man. And he who likes inverts is no real man, and is therefore no real anarchist."

While by this time views were diversifying to take into account more progressive thinking about sex and sexuality in the 1930's, the quotation above is fairly typical of those cited by Cleminson. Unsurprisingly, it is only in the post-Stonewall[6] era, when lesbians and gay men have become more visible and confident about speaking out that they themselves have articulated a more libertarian view of sexuality.

What this clearly illustrates is that we need to take into account the knowledge of human sexual behaviour which has been built up since the modern Gay Liberation movement began in the late 1960's. Anarchism is about complete human liberation, not merely economics. We need to absorb the insights of the black, women's and gay liberation movements, and reject the heritage of 19th century pseudo-science.

Secular religions

Cleminson notes that in pre-revolutionary Spain, "The power of the Catholic Church as ideological factory of the ruling class and patriarchal society was still uncurbed. The power and influence of such ideas were all-pervasive, and it is not coincidental that much Catholic morality reemerged in the Spanish anarchist and anarchosyndicalist movements as moral puritanism, sexual abstinence, and other manifestations of frugality."

For anarchists the mechanics of religious ideology, as well as establishing the oppressive principle of a higher authority than oneself, are about displacing the value of humanity from the self to the ownership of the non-existent God. Our atheist humanism is seen by the religious as rejecting the value of humanity, because they can not accept that a human being can be complete without a God.

Ascribing certain ideas to a God places them beyond the realm of rational argument and outlaws dissent as heresy. Certain secular ideologies have a similar mechanism. Science and Nature are as much unanswerable ideologies as God, and are supposed to similarly render any counter argument invalid. In theory anarchists have long understood this - Bakunin argued that the worst tyranny would be that of Science, or claiming to be Scientific (as Marxism does), as it would accept the validity of no dissent.

Chozas' Natural Laws are clearly beyond argument as far as he is concerned, and therefore anarchism must accept them, in spite of their obvious theocratic origins. As an anarchist approaching the 21st century I see clearly that he has accepted the principle of theocracy, but his God is Nature instead of Jehovah. Nature is constructed in the image of Chozas' heterosexist prejudices as surely as Jehovah is in the image of His believers'.

Universalism

The secular religions of the 19th century - Science, Nature, Nationalism, Liberalism, etc - share a common mindset, a belief in linear progress and in their own Universal relevance. This Universalism (a word with a meaning not dissimilar to catholic, incidentally) is based on assumptions about the nature of humanity. Crudely, we are talking about white, middle class, heterosexual, able-bodied men as "normal" and everyone else as "abnormal".

Race, class, sexuality, [dis]ability and gender are all ideologies which have been elevated to the status of "norms". Furthermore, there is a binary relationship between each of these "norms" and its opposite[s]. This relationship is hierarchical, and the "abnormal" can only, by definition, be subordinate. For an anarchist the acceptance of Universalism and its norms should be impossible because of these binary hierarchies.

Anarchism is about reclaiming our full humanity, from God, from Science, from Nature, from Capitalism and the State. Our social revolution is about creating a society in which we can live as humans, not as workers, or blacks, or women, or any other socially-defined category. The fundamental basis of such a society is Federalism, from Proudhon, Bakunin, and Kropotkin to the anarcho-syndicalist traditions of our movement.

"Revolutionary unionism is opposed to ...the centralism of the state and church. ...In the centralised organisation, the needs of society are subordinated to the interests of a few, variety is replaced by uniformity and personal responsibility is replaced by unquestioning obedience."[7] To me this applies equally to Universalism, which is too little questioned. Accepting social and cultural (and sexual) diversity is a prerequisite of the human liberation which is anarchism's objective.

Diversity

Diversity has become a buzzword with the popularisation of ideas loosely labelled as "post-modernism" - the end of a Universal worldview. While the federalist basis of anarchism should embrace this, it is important that we do not just accept authoritarian ideas in the name of diversity. In arguing that anarchists must absorb the insights of the black, women's, gay and now transgender and disability liberation movements, I would warn against an uncritical approach to this.

These movements were originally inspired by libertarian socialism, being unashamed of being black or a woman or gay in order to challenge the definition of yourself as such and not fully human ("normal"), and to seek the destruction of the social and ideological apparatus of oppression - in the same way as revolutionary socialism sought to destroy the class system which defines us as workers, not as human beings.

In accepting the definition imposed on us by society - the ruling classes - we run the risk of degenerating into identity politics. Radical Black Power has since become Black Nationalism, supporting the black petite bourgeoisie and their ambitions, for example. All identity politics are based on a nationalist model, whether they are assimilationist or separatist. Loyalty to the "nation" is demanded, and policed.

Because of this mentality mixed-race and bisexual people are often regarded as untrustworthy among black and lesbian and gay communities, respectively, or required to modify their behaviour to fit a new "norm". Transgendered women occupy a similar position in some Feminist circles. In embracing diversity, as we must, anarchists must be careful to develop an integrated politics of liberation, not of identity.

Nevertheless, we now know so much more about human life than we did in the 19th century, and to ignore new insights into human liberation is to consign anarchism to irrelevance. The left have often limited their response to those of us who do not fit the "norms" they accept to afterthoughts, designed to "correct" these "anomalies" and to leave their political programmes intact, untouched by the history which challenges the self-appointed leadership of their sects. We must not make the same mistake.

Peter Principle

Notes:
[1] I use "straight" in this article as an identification only, it implies nothing about actual sexual behaviour.

[2] Commissioned by the Health Education Authority - yup, AIDS risk assessment again - research into more than 20,000 men who had had sex with men and women in the previous five years found that only 43.9% identified in any way as bisexual, often reluctantly, 0.9% as gay, and 13.2% as straight. Source: Bi Community News, Issue 8, June 1996.

[3] This is not intended to be perjorative, I'd love to be a wise old Queen, but the football, hooligan music and beer tend to rule this out - and I'd look crap in drag.

[4] Published in Gert Hekma et al. Eds. - "Gay men and the sexual history of the political left" by Harrington Park Press 1995, ISBN 1 56023 067 3.

[5] An invert was an "positive" 19th century term for homosexual, which was a medical term. The idea was that a female soul had been trapped in a male body, resulting in an attraction to men, and vice versa. Perverts, by contrast, were debauched. This is more like a definition of a contemporary Transgenderist.

[6] The Stonewall Inn riots of June 1969, a reaction to a police raid on a mafia-run New York gay bar, are the mythical beginning of modern gay liberation. Although equality movements dated back much further, the Gay Liberation Front was founded by activists inspired by this event, as well as by their experience of the anti-Vietnam War and Civil Rights protest movements. The rioters were mostly apolitical black drag queens, hustlers and bar dykes.

[7] Quotation from The Principles of Revolutionary Unionism, common to the Solidarity Federation and the International Workers' Association - the anarcho-syndicalist international founded in 1922. The CNT is its Spanish section.

Anarchy On Film

Pretty Vacant Films of Sheffield are making a documentary about the unfinished history of British anarchism. They are looking for any film stock or broadcast quality video tape, an old 16mm camera, sound recording equipment and any copyright free footage of demos or actions.

They also want to interview anarchists of every hue, so if you have something interesting to say get in touch with them at Pretty Vacant Films, Unit 3, 4 Agden Rd Sheffield S7 1LY. They're also on the lookout for musicians or performers who would like to contribute something.

Zero Tolerance: Giuliani time here?

In August 1997 Abner Louima, a Haitian immigrant, was detained at New York's 70th Precinct station house. During the course of his detention he was severely beaten and had the wooden handle of a toilet plunger inserted by force into his rectum (resulting in a punctured intestine and torn bladder) and then had the handle of the plunger rammed into his mouth, knocking out his front teeth. He was racially abused, and, during the assault on him, one of the cops shouted "It's Giuliani time "- a reference to the New York right wing mayor who initiated the "zero tolerance campaign".

Zero tolerance - which involves the prosecution of every petty crime, and the removal of graffiti artists, beggars, traffic light squeegee merchants and winos from the streets, has been a licence for police brutality. New York's middle classes are happy though; as the Guardian journalist Linda Grant described: "At night people stroll down the streets as if they were Parisians on the boulevards. New Yorkers have their city back, the Manhattan of its own heyday before drugs and guns drove families to suburbia and the poor to desperation." Zero tolerance is about saturation policing. Its supporters would argue that its success can be shown in the 45% drop in violent crime since 1991.The reality is that "Giuliani Time" has meant an increase in violent crime - but the victims are poor, black, homeless, and the attackers are cops. Civilian complaints against the police for excessive force rose by 61.9% in 1995. Abuse of authority complaints rose by 86.2% and allegations of illegal searches soared by 135%. More than half the complainants are African American. A further 25% are Latino.

"Giuliani Time"

When police shot 16 year old Kevin Cedeno in the back Giuliani condemned the media for not asking why Kevin was out late at night and whether he had a criminal record.The fact that police had lied in their statements, saying Kevin was shot in the stomach after a confrontation caused him no concern at all. Anthony Baez died from an illegal chokehold after his football accidentally bounced into a police car. When his mother questioned police commissioner Willian Bratton at a town hall meeting, Bratton told her to sit down and stop making a fool of herself. Giuliani, standing next to Bratton at the time, said nothing.

As Linda Grant's Guardian article (17/2/97) recognised,"The New York of Mayor Giuliani could be the London of Tony Blair and Jack Straw.The beggars could be cleared away from the streets along with the litter and the burglars - and Londoners, like New Yorkers, probably won't ask any questions".

Jack Staw time?

Jack Straw believes in zero tolerance. He believes "in giving city centres back to the people." He believes in getting more police on the beat on "targeted patrols" on behalf of the "law abiding majority who want to live in clean and pleasant surroundings." With 61,250 people in jail, he has ordered the building of 3 new private prisons. Since 1992, the number of offenders in jail under 21 has risen from 6783 to 10583. Jack Straw wants to use the Criminal Justice Bill to set up a fast track system of punishment for young offenders, with the abandoning of repeat cautioning ("cautioning plus") and the introduction of curfews on the under 10s.

The legacy of the outgoing Home Secretary Michael Howard was aptly described by the barrister Michael Mansfield as "the abolition in effect of the right to silence; the increase in police powers without a concomitant, independent supervision of these powers of criminal investigation; the restrictions imposed by public order legislation on freedom of movement, association or protest; the provision of legal aid and the steady decline in readily available advice through neighborhood or community law centres." Mansfield believes that Howard's "reforms" should be "reviewed, revised and in some cases removed" by Jack Straw. Charles Pollard, Chief Constable of Thames Valley, has said of zero tolerance,"the problem is that sutained policing of this sort ends up targeting minorities within communities." Most of the left in this country have spent the years since 1945 running round like headless chickens trying to con working class people into voting again and again for ever more right wing Labour governments.The end result is a Labour government with a massive majority and a clearly anti working class agenda. Jack Sraw knows it would be easy to use that majority to rescind Michael Howard's pro-police agenda. Instead, he's kept all Howard's weapons for his own armoury and added more besides. He knows that zero tolerance targets minorities. He's been to New York. He's seen the evidence for himself.That's the whole point.

Zero tolerance isn't about ending crime, it's about containing working class communities and keeping the poor off the streets. In New York the streets are free of litter, because welfare recipients are forced to clean the streets as part of the Workfare programme and street cleaning is the only option on offer to them. Homelessness is a crime in New York. For Tony Blair,"The basic principle here is to say yes it is right to be intolerant of homeless people on the streets." So where do the homeless go? Some of them in New York went to live in shanty towns under the boardwalks at Coney Island. In January 1997, 3 of them died when an open fire they were huddled round burned down their encampment. "They died like rats in a gutter" according to Linda Grant. In the UK the average life expectancy of a rough sleeper is 43. But solutions to homelessness that don't involve policing solutions cost money. Linda Grant again: "Londoners want (I want,the homeless want) a better quality of life than we have had to get used to.The price of peace of mind comes expensive if you are talking hostels that don't have to be closed down because they are more dangerous than the streets themselves. Read my lips. This means taxes." And thats a price that Tony Blair, low tax saviour of middle England, won't pay. If anyone still believes Labour has a reforming agenda, let them explain David Blunkett's comment that "The truth is that any government entering the 21st century cannot hope to create a more equal or more egalitarian society simply by taking money from one set of people and redistributing it to others."

According to the Institute for Fiscal Studies the top 10% in the UK enjoy an income equal to the whole of the bottom 50% of society. By 1993, more than 2/3 of income in the bottom 10% of households came from means tested benefits. By 1993, the UK had 3.9 million children living in poverty - more than any other EU member state. According to Child Poverty Action Group definitions, 23% of the population live in poverty. For Labour, the solutions to all this are clear. Capital can no longer afford the cost of the welfare state. Labour's task is to dismantle it. In its place will be Welfare to Work or....jail.

Professor John Pitts, of the Centre for the Study of Crime, Neighbourhood and Social Change, has observed "crime has grown least in those European countries where discrepancies of wealth and opportunity are lowest, or where governments have worked to ameliorate the effects of globalisation and de-industrialisation upon the most vulnerable."(Guardian 28/5/97) Labour intends to exacerbate the "discrepancies of wealth and opportunity.", but for Straw's middle class supporters it's the best of both worlds - lockdown capitalism - not only do you pay less taxes but the streets are clean and your home doesn't get burgled. Crime becomes something the poor do to each other. Anyone who steps ouside this gets hit even harder. (When working class communities in Dublin organised through Concerned Parents Against Drugs to deal with the heroin that was flooding their communities, it was them -not the dealers - who went to jail. In Birmingham, the Newtown Independent Residents Association had to overcome constant police intimidation to build a successful, street based, anti racist, anti-mugging campaign.)

Jack Straw wants it to be "Giuliani Time " in the UK. He wants a "quiet" police state where the liberals are happy because the streets are clean and the poor are only seen when theyre thanking him for the marvellous opportunities created by New Labour,and then only through the medium of a press office promo video. The pro Labour left are buried by history - having been cheerleaders for New Labour and therefore de facto cheerleaders for the crackdown to come. The rest of us are left to deal with the consequences. The battle in the next few years will be two fold - to resist the criminalisation and lockdown of working class communities and resist the rise of crime within our communities, to no longer live or die like "rats in a gutter."

Alvaro Hernandez Luna

Companera/os,

It's been some time since a full update on Alvaro Hernandez Luna has been sent out. In June, he was sentenced to 50 years in prison for aggravated assault of a sheriff -- charges resulting from Alvaro disarming same sheriff as he pulled his weapon on Alvaro, unarmed. The premise of this attempted assassination of a longtime Raza activist was to apprehend Alvaro for a robbery he states he did not commit and for which he was exonerated. In fact, of the three charges he faced in Alpine, Alvaro was found innocent of all but one. "It would have been a disgrace to the police and sent the 'wrong message' to our Raza that it is justified to resist racist attacks and of the political conspiracy against us," Alvaro writes of his sentence. "We not only have the 'legal' right' to defend ourselves, but an international right under principles of self-determination."

A longtime Houston, Texas (USA) activist and leader of groups like the Ricardo Adalpe Guerra Defense Committee, National Movement of La Raza, National Chicano United Front and others, Alvaro had moved from Houston to Alpine, Texas and came under scrutiny immediately. "The state's own evidence (at trial) showed once I arrived in Alpine, I became the target of surveillance, harassment and false charges. They interrogated people close to me, asking them what I was doing in Alpine. They were told I was 'working on some legal case,' had a computer and many 'open files,' and that I had been talking to Raza about police brutality and racism," writes Alvaro. "They feared I wanted to reopen the police murder of my friend, Ervay Ramos, shot in the back by a racist, coward pig in my presence in 1968. Murder has no statute of limitations and the Justice Department can reopen any such case if the evidence is there."

A petition drive to open a federal investigation of Alvaro's charges and reopen Ramos' murder was recently initiated and is included in this e-package. Ramos was a 16-year-old student shot in the back, fatally wounding him, by Alpine cop F. L. "Bud" Powers, Jr., on June 10, 1968 after a traffic stop. Powers was later indicted for "murder without malice" in the killing, but was never disciplined, served no time and remained a police officer.

More updates

* Alvaro's motion for a new trial will be heard August 7 at 3 p.m. in Alpine, TX by the same judge who presided over his first case. While it's expected he won't receive his request, he is upbeat. If the motion for new trial is denied, the appeals process begins.

* All official/organizational correspondence, requests/checks for tapes and donations to support Alvaro's case should be directed to the Barrio Defense Committee-Houston at our new address: 1436 W. Gray, #308, Houston, TX 77019. Houston will be primarily handling Alvaro support work and, as such, should be the primary contact henceforth. Checks should be made out to "Alvaro Hernandez Luna Defense Fund" (acct. no.: 2668161929) and sent to Houston. Please distribute this information and address widely.

* If you have Internet web browser access, please visit the Free Alvaro Hernandez Luna Now! Defense pages at http://members.tripod.com/~defensa and link it to your own pages if you have them (and write back to say you linked, so you can be listed on our links pages).

* Please make sure to forward a copy of any material about Alvaro printed in publications. We are in the process of developing a press kit and any support letters and articles are needed. All materials can be sent to the Houston address above.

* This message will be followed by three parts: a petition on Alvaro's behalf, which everyone is welcome to reproduce and return to BDC-Houston; a 6/22 article by Alvaro summing up the struggle for his freedom; and a 7/4 article which serves as the introduction of a book he is writing. All these articles may be republished provided the information at the end of the articles is included.

Tierra o muerte...in it to win it,

Frank San Miguel Barrio Defense Committee-Houston 1436 W. Gray, #308, Houston, TX 77019 E-Mail: ahl@rocketmail.com

PS -- i can also be reached via email at xicano1516@hotmail.com or c/o Black Fist Collective, Box 980582, Houston, TX 77098-0582

Olivier Martin - The not unusual case of

After a demo against the Front National in Toulouse in February, Olivier Martin, a 35 year old anarchist militant saw a young Arab guy being beaten up by two thugs. Naturally enough, he intervened. It turned out that the thugs were plain clothers police, and he was convicted of assaulting the police and sentenced to 9 months' imprisonment, plus 9 months' from a previous suspended sentence.

His appeal is awaiting judgement, so letters of support should be sent to:

Comité de Soutien ŕ Olivier Martin c/o CNT-AIT Toulouse 7 Rue de Remesy 31000 TOULOUSE FRANCE

The suppport committee note that his case is not unusual. Police, whether plain clothes or off duty, regularly assault people, usually of Arab origin, and often around anti-fascist demonstrations. As well as Olivier Martin's case, there is also that of Richard Martin in Marseille. Two men who he thought looked like members of the FN. He was charged with assaulting a police officer. When the case came to court, photos proved that the two cops were not wearing any identification, which is illegal under French law, and the police's case lost credibility.

Unfortunately, Olivier Martin's actions were outside the range of the cameras.

Thinking the Unthinkable

Prior to the last election, the Tories floated the idea of scrapping Lone Parent Benefit. The newly elected Labour government was expected to restore the benefit, particularly as the new Social Security Secretary Harriet Harman had purported to be opposed to the cut while in opposition. Instead, Labour in office has moved to railroad though the cut and has floated the idea of abandoning disability related benefits like Incapacity Benefit and Disability Living Allowance. The long term aim of Harman and her junior Frank Field is to abandon the existing benefits system completely and replace it with private insurance provision for periods of unemployment and ill health. Among Westminster pundits this has been coded as "Thinking the Unthinkable".

The Guardian columnist Hugo Young highlighted exactly what underpins Labour's attacks on the welfare state; "A greater contribution from every available citizen to improving the gross national product is the vision new Labour is determined on." The Welfare State is a drain on the profits of capital. Labour is identified as the mother of the welfare state and hence is best placed to kill it off. The attack on single parents is an attempt to test the opposition on the road to dismantling the benefits system in its entirety. It's the equivalent of Thatcher taking on the steel workers in preparation for the miners. Labour has tried to argue that they've had to accept the spending plans of the previous government, and that this cut is part of the outgoing chancellor's spending plans, but that won't even wash with old right-wingers like Roy Hattersley any more. Hattersley thinks that Labour are prepared to "tough it out" to show that "the middle classes and their values are safe in our hands... New Labour will stand firm against the debilitating forces of care and compassion." Labour can afford to ignore Hattersley and the 47 MPs who voted against the cut to single parent benefit because the size of their majority makes any opposition through Parliament meaningless.

The new Labour government is committed to the defence of inequality. Cuts in benefits and the imposition of student fees are a direct result of Labour's determination to protect Middle England from the threat of increased taxation. So Gordon Brown can dismiss the idea of an increase in benefit levels as a means to tackle poverty, while Blair can defend millionaire Cabinet member Geoffrey Robertson when it is revealed that he has set up offshore trusts to avoid UK tax liability. Labour is committed to the redistribution of wealth from poor to rich as much as their Tory predecessors. "Welfare reform" means an end to "welfare dependency" not an end to poverty. The most significant aspect of Labour's attack on welfare is the element of compulsion. When the Tories introduced the Job Seekers Allowance it marked a step towards conditional benefits - a move towards workfare. Workfare is a key component of Labour's attack on the welfare state - the welfare to work scheme for young people is harsher than anything dreamed up by the Tories. It offers claimants two choices - work for benefit level wages or starve. Further, promoting a political consensus around the notion of welfare dependency allows the government to get off the hook of its failure to live up to its promises out of office. Months before his election Blair told reporters "If the next Labour government has not raised the standards of living of the poorest by the end of its term in office it will have failed". Given that Labour has committed itself to low public spending, low taxation and low inflation, job creation in any meaningful sense is not on the agenda. Restoration of the massive cuts in public spending of the last 18 years is a pipe dream. But - if the poor are idle because they are idle - not because capitalism has no use for them, if people turn to crime not because they can't live on the benefit levels available to them, but because they are criminal scum, Blair can keep his middle class acolytes happy that his hands are clean, while Jack Straw's "Zero Tolerance" of the poor, the homeless, minorities, can be extended to all aspects of society.

In August 1996 the Spectator columnist Bruce Anderson wrote, "We have expressly constructed slums full of layabouts and sluts whose progeny are two legged beasts. We cannot cure this by family religion and self help. So we will have to rely on repression."

On 20th April 1997 the Guardian reported Blair as decreeing that there should be no improvements in benefit levels so that life on benefit should be less attractive.

We should recognise that Blair and Anderson differ from each other only in degree of language, not in method. Welcome to the New World Order.

Reflections on Australian Democracy

My dictionary defines democracy as rule of the many, from the Greek demokratia meaning government by the people. It is widely accepted that certain countries are democratic (western Europe, USA etc.) and others aren't (China, Cuba, Nigeria, for example). There are many areas where democracy is applied to; industrial democracy, for example, is a watered down version of workers control whereby workers have some say in how industry is run, rather than it being totally at the whim of management. One facet of democracy is the right to abstain or not to participate. While anarchists do not put much store in "rights", this one should be particularly dear to anarchists, as it represents a chance not to choose between equally bad options. The right to abstain is also linked to how those whose views form a minority are treated by the majority. The fledgling Czech democracy, for example, has certainly failed this test when it comes to the Roma refugees.

It is important how a minority is dealt with, and how they perceive their treatment. Anarchists address these problems by making decisions at the smallest possible level, by having federalist structures for decision making where things are transparent and mandated, and by recognising the right to "secede". To secede means to opt out of the federal structure and form whatever new relationship to that structure that the minority wishes to. The right to secede or dissent is what distinguishes anarchist federalism from the phoney versions peddled by the European Union, the US and Australia, among others. But, having recently been there, I'd like to look at Australia's democracy in greater detail.

Australia is one of a handful of countries in the world where voting is compulsory. Failure to vote can result in a $200 fine (about £90). To make matters worse, there are three tiers of government - federal, state and local, each with their won bureaucracy, all for a population of 18 million. The absurdity of it all was well illustrated on a three day tour from Adelaide to Melbourne I took. The tour happened to start on the South Australian election day. Our driver, a good solid bloke with that traditional Aussie anti-authoritarian streak, was too busy in the morning to vote. He had already expressed his contempt for politicians - something I heard again and again in Australia. We spent a while searching several small towns for a polling station (fortunately you didn't have to vote where you live) until we found one, just before it closed. Our driver avoided his fine, and when asked how he voted, replied, "there was only one choice really, I voted No Pokies". No Pokies was a single issue ticket dedicated to getting gambling machines out of the State's pubs.

While it's undoubtedly useful for such campaigns to get a boost, the most famous being "No Dams" in the 80s, it's a farce of a democracy, constructed for politicians' vanity, where they can claim to have been elected on turnouts as good as those achieved by Stalin, Mao, Bokassa and other good democrats, though perhaps not by such wide margins.

The one argument I heard in favour of compulsory voting there was that otherwise single issue and pressure groups would get too powerful. If this is the strength of Australian democracy it is not worthy of the name. My experiences in Australia were of very good people under governments of such incompetence, banality and stupidity that multinationals must rub their hands in glee. T's not a case of the governments people deserve, as no one deserves government such as this.

@ Tourist

Market Forces

A bus is travelling along a mountain road.
The road is on the edge of a high cliff.
The bus carries one hundred passengers.
They are rich and can pay.
Among them is an economist.
He knows the working of market forces.

Suddenly the bus swerves And plunges over the cliff.
The passengers are terrified Except for the economist.
He is not perturbed.
He knows the working of market forces.
He knows that a bus-load of anti-gravity belts will instantly materialise In response to the demand that has just been created.
Market Forces Triumph Once Again!

Chas Duke

10 Billionaires Could Wipe Out Poverty

ABOLISH WAGE-SLAVERY; ORGANIZE ONE BIG DEMOCRATIC CLASSWIDE UNION.

In a faith-based religious newsletter called "Ministry of Money," the following except appeared in a story about poverty which I thought worth sharing:

"As unbelievable as it may sound, the combined wealth of the world's seven richest people could end world poverty. A United Nations Human Development Report recently published (and reported in the June 22, 1997 issue of Manchester Guardian Weekly) notes that an $80 billion anti-poverty program would provide access to basic social services and eradicate poverty. The net wealth of 10 billionaires, according to the report, is worth 1.5 times the combined national incone of the 48 least developed countries. The growing gap between rich and poor is also quantified in the report: in 1960 the richest fifth of the world's population was 30 times as wealthy as the world's poorest fifth; in 1994, they were 78 times as wealthy."

As we witness accelerating economic polarization in the U.S., it is important to also ponder the global implications of wildly bifurcated distributions of income and wealth. The cold terms of financial accounting cannot begin to describe the incalculable human suffering that lies behind the numbers.

Gives one pause to reconsider Marx's aphorism: "expropriate the expropriators."

Abolish wage-slavery; organize One Big Democratic Classwide Union.
Michael Eisenscher meisenscher@igc.apc.org
http://iww.org/join/

Solidarity with Hans-Georg Eberl

On the 2nd November 1997 the 22 year-old anarchist and antifascist Hans- Georg Eberl (member of FAU/IAA and I-AFD/IFA) was taken into custody by police during an antifascist action against a "europe-congress" of the extreme right. He was detained in so-called "investigation custody" - a sort of pretrial detention - for 2 weeks and is being accused of "dangerous bodily harm" and "serious breach of peace". We are calling on the international antifascist and anarchist/ anarchosyndicalist movement for solidarity with Hans-Georg and to write notes of protest to the responsible bavarian minister of the interior, Beckstein (member of the so-called Christian-Social-Union Party, CSU) and to the public prosecutor in Ingolstadt.

What has happened

Various parties and organisations of the extreme right had mobilised for a meeting in the bavarian town of Koesching (near Ingolstadt) for the 2nd November 1997 to "create a cross-boarder european right". Around 500 members of the far right and neonazis attended the event. Yvan Blot, european MP for the extreme rightwing french "Front National" held a speech in his function as "political spokesman for german affairs" of the FN. Further speeches were held by Frank Vanhecke of the "Vlaams Blok", by Harald Neubauer for the "Deutsche Liga fuer Volk und Heimat" (DLVH), by the publisher of the monthly right-wing extremist publication "Nation und Europa" Peter Dehoust, by Alfred Mechtersheimer (former member of the german Green Party, founding member of the right-extremist "Friedenskomitee 2000" and of the "Deutschland- Bewegung") as well as by the former party leader of the extreme rightwing "Republikaner" Franz Schoenhuber.

Around 140 antifascists voiced their protest against these unification- efforts at a vigil which was held directly infront of the entrance to the meeting place of the neonazis. This antifascist gathering was continuousl y provoked by neonazis and nazi-skins, until eventually two antifascists were attacked by a nazi-skin and one of them had her nose broken in the attack. The police deliberately held back and covered the escape of the nazi-thug. As a result, a fight broke out between antifascists and neonazis, during which the police intervened on the side of the nazis and also started attacking the antifascists. Three antifascists were taken into custody. One of them is Hans-Georg who is being accused of having thrown a stone which hit the big toe of a policeman. The latter was hit s o "hard" that he didn't even need medical attention.

Hans-Georg was brought to the prison in Eichstaett and was put in "investigation custody" on the ground of "danger of collusion". The explenation of the public prosecutor for this was that Hans-Georg had taken off his jacket a short while before he was taken into custody.

"Investigation Custody"

The "investigation custody" in Eichstaett went from the 2nd to the 14th o f November 1997. Hans-Georg is being accused of "dangerous bodily harm" and "serious breach of peace". He was made to do forced labour for 1 german Mark per hour and no-one - except for his parents - was given permission to visit him. Letters were only handed out to him after they were censore d by the authorities, most letters were only given to him after his release from prison. Hans-Georg was subjected to special harassment, for example his glasses were only handed out to him after a week of imprisonment. At the same time the authorities tried to carry out a "fast proceeding" the laws for which were only just passed half a year ago. In a "fast proceeding" circumstantial evidance is sufficient for a sentence. The public prosecutor responsible in this case is no-one else than the nephew of the bavarian minister for the interior, Guenter Beckstein (CSU).

An injustice to one is an injustice to all!

We know that the repression against antifascists and anarchists has alway s been one of the instruments of the state. During the last months, the state politics of fighting and preventing antifascist actions, banning antifascist demonstrations and persecuting militants in germany have increased immensely. The "democratic" state is confirming itself once more as a henchman for the right. It is time to confront the responsible attorneys and ministers with publi c pressure. We are calling to write notes of protest to the responsible courts and authorities.

(the address of the responsible public prosecutor, Beckstein) Amtsgericht Ingolstadt z.H. Staatsanwalt Beckstein Auf der Schanz 37 85049 Ingolstadt Tel.: +841-3120 Germany

(the address of the federal minister responsible for bavaria) Staatsminister fuer Bundesangelegenheiten und Bevollmaechtigter des Freistaates Bayern beim Bund Schlegelstr. 1 53113 Bonn Germany Tel.: +228/202-0 or 202-1 Fax: +228/22 9800

(the address of the responsible bavarian minister of the interior, Beckstein) Staatsminister des Innern Odeonsplatz 3 80539 Muenchen Germany Tel.: +89/2192-01 Fax: +89/2192-3350

Please transfer any donations to help finance the upcoming expenses of the trial to: Account-Owner: K. Jagau, Account-Number: 3594 11-708, Bank Code Number: 600 100 70, Bank: Postgiro Stuttgart, Germany, Note: Ebs

Stop the trial against Hans-Georg Eberl!

Free Workers Union (FAU/IAA) Initiative for an Anarchist Federation in Germany (I-AFD/IFA)

More information via: FAU or I-AFD, Gruppe Verden, Grosse Str. 62, 27283 Verden, Germany. E-Mail: faustgt4@anarch.free.de or i- afd_1@anarch.free.de

The police tactics being employed against anti-globalisation activists in Vancouver make a mockery of the suggestion that Canada is a "free country." This, of course, should not be news to us after the outrages committed against First Nations peoples at Gustafsen Lake, but this shows that repression is now being generalized. Antoni Wysocki

NEWS ADVISORY For Immediate Release Monday November 24th, 1997

RCMP Nabs APEC Alert Organizer

One of the main organizers of a group opposed to APEC was nabbed today by RCMP during a panel discussion on globalization and the corporate agenda. The group, called APEC Alert, has a large mobilization planned for Tuesday on the UBC campus. They had long suspected that police would begin nabbing key organizers, 24 hours before the APEC Leaders' Summit, in an attempt to quash student protest at the Leaders' Summit. A picture of the arrested activist, Jaggi Singh was seen on the wall of the APEC organizing office. Mr. Singh was charged with assault, allegedly for using a mega phone which was turned on too loud during a protest two weeks ago. He has been transfered to a holding cell in Richmond. So far, 12 students have been arrested for peacefully protesting the APEC Leaders' Summit at UBC.

Students who witnessed the event were outraged and approximately 250 of them marched to the local RCMP detachment to express their disgust. "We are effectively living in a police state," said Jonathan Oppenheim, a physics student at UBC. "This has nothing to do with security or upholding the law. The RCMP have been abusing their power in order to prevent protests at the APEC Leaders' Summit. In Canada, we like to think that people have certain freedoms. Well, think again!"

One of the conditions of release for previous arrested students was: "I will not participate or be found in attendance at any public demonstration or rally that has gathered together for the sole purpose of demonstrating against the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation or any nation participating in the so named conference."

The students do not believe that Mr. Singh will be released until after APEC.

On Tuesday Nov. 25th, the students will gather from 9am - 11am in front of the Student Union Building at UBC and then "Crash the Summit."

For more information, contact APEC Alert at 571-7540, 251-9914 or alert@netinfo.ubc.ca

Without A Trace

"History records the patterns of men's lives, they say: who slept with whom and with what results; who fought and who won and who lived to lie about it afterwards. All things, it is said, are duly recorded all things of importance, that is. But not quite, for actually it is only the known, the seen, the heard and only those events that the recorder regards as important that are put down, those lies his keepers keep their power by."

Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man

Dominant culture rarely interests itself in evidence other than that which demonstrates willing and enthusiastic complicity from its subjects. Acts of refusal and revolt are effaced from the historical record when they expose the tenuous control of authority. Even when they do appear, presence, motives and behaviour are all mediated through the lens of elite partiality to deny that we are capable of generating the ideas and means of our own liberation. That much most of us recognize; it is the premise of the class history developed in the sixties by the likes of E P Thompson, Christopher Hill and Eric Hobsbawm. But theirs is also a quite particular history focused on the same level of public appearance as that of the establishment. Just as real life is elsewhere than on television, so the history of resistance is at the very least written between the lines of the official record of leaders, followers and climactic events. The reason derives not just from the actions of those in authority but also from the strategies of resistance adopted by those who desire to demolish all authority. In the interests of self-preservation, the ruling class and their official recorders, journalists and other such vermin, whose social position depends upon maintenance of the established class structure invariably work to keep attention only on a protest or movement's leaders (whether real or imaginary) and particularly on those who can demonstrate the same class status. But as well as those who lack the influence to have their words and actions recognized as important, are those who have no intention whatsoever to be so identified. It is this realm of individual and collective refusal that has proved most resilient in resisting exposure.

A vast area of active political life is ignored for the simple fact that it takes place at a level we rarely recognise as political. Trained by the mass media to applaud the spectacular action rather than the functional and prudent, all is in the appearance, the image of revolt as reproduced through that same mass media. But much political activity is elaborated among an intentionally restricted public that excludes or is hidden from the gaze of authority. It is not only that the historical record is kept by elites, for elites, but that subversives themselves have an interest in concealment (and thus greater personal security and self-control) of their activities. Such acts as these were never meant to be recordable; they were successful only in so far as they were invisible. The most successful poisonings of class oppressors, for example, are those never known as such. Just like the perfect crime, the subversive act seeks to escape all detection, cover its tracks and avoid appearance in the archives: for the perpetrators to strike ... anonymously ... and so survive to strike again (only those who wish to be martyrs, self-publicists or media personalities would wish to wait around to offer their names and have their picture taken).

"A pestilent pernicious people ... such as take oaths to the government, but underhand labour its subversion."

Bishop Trelawny, 1717

Though the point, by its very nature, is impossible of proof, apparent docility is the measure of subterfuge, and is only broken by those crises of ruling class confidence that allow insurrectionary breakthrough. Our ability to capitalise on these favourable moments must be understood in the context of the development of that which is ordinarily hidden. So a view of politics focused either on the official and formal relations of power (the command performances of consent), or on open protest and rebellion, represents a far too narrow concept of political life. The body of knowledge of the past and the current which we must grapple with is for the most part a record of what obtrudes onto the public stage and from there onto the historical record. There are undoubtedly important and instructive events and occurrences among them, which can give strength, through popular memory, to protest and resistance. But the lens of hindsight and reportage is a distorted mirror. History records what is most spectacular and most easily located: the start, the peaks, the decisive break with the past. We see the climax, the (only possibly decisive) invasion of public space. As such it implodes the development of movements of refusal and social transformation, for it freezes our attention at a single frame in time, disconnected from that which made it possible (as Dickens remarks in Barnaby Rudge, "We note the harvest more than the seed time"). These moments almost never come from nowhere; they are rather the acceleration of continuing processes through timely public manifestation. The agitation and preparation that precede and underpin the demonstrative act are always beginning and never end. It is at the point of certain rupture that the perpetrators of everyday acts of refusal consider it safe to appear on the public stage. Unless provoked by the State into desperate measures, open collective defiance is rarely undertaken unless it is practical and likely to succeed. Until that time, the mechanisms, structures and struggles which necessarily precede it are a closed book.

The accumulation of petty acts of defiance and refusal makes critical upsurges possible. They are not a substitute for revolution but a necessary condition for it. That it is why the insurrectionary moment invariably escalates so rapidly (and as if from nowhere) that revolutionary elites, the vanguard, find themselves hopelessly overtaken and left in its wake.

"How is it possible that so many people immediately understood what to do and that none of them needed any advice or instructions ?"

Vaclav Havel, New Year's Day 1990

Ability to act in moments of critical juncture derive from the long preparation of engagement in minimalist and apparently apolitical actions.

No More False Prophets, No More Hired Tongues

An understanding of previous movements for change is not merely an exercise in historical interpretation. A knowledge gained is the means by which we can understand how to take effective action, ourselves, today. When we recognise what has been, we can plan for what might be. Movements that attempt to create a groundswell of opposition by initiating public (usually publicity-seeking) protests at the outset will often meet with a wall of general indifference (not because people don't care, but because they are a lot more realistic about the utility of such initiatives than the protesters). If they begin to engage in activity that actually poses a threat to State and Capital, they often find it impossible to sustain themselves against infiltration and repression.

The art of the possible is discovered rather in those anonymous, immediate (but not by any means spontaneous) short-run collective actions that utilise the deep traditions implicit in guerrilla warfare and can melt away when faced with unfavourable odds. Cryptic and above all surreptitious actions are best adapted to resist an opponent who could probably win any open confrontation. Spontaneousforms of popular action can be, and are, deliberately chosen because of the tactical advantages for all those involved. What might be called a low-intensity class warfare is always pressing, testing, probing the boundaries of the permissible so as to take swift advantage of any fissures that may open up in moments of crisis. It is not that our incapacity to sustain permanent political organisation (most sensible people vote with their feet and avoid these formations like the plague) but that the choice of fleeting, direct action represents a popular tactical wisdom developed in conscious response to the political constraints realistically faced. Anonymity and a lack of formal organisation then become enabling modes of resistance, a measure of our understanding of both the danger and the futility in spectacular mediated action. While such action precludes formal organisation, it most certainly does not eschew effective coordination, achieved through the informal networks of affinity, kinship, traditional and intentional community, workplace and, yes, even perhaps ritual and religious practice. Socially embedded networks, developed at the level of the everyday, will be as opaque to the authorities as they are indispensable to subversive activity. The accelerated erosion and mutation of established social structures has been central in our current incapacity to engage in effective collective refusal. What's left of the Left has signally failed in imagination to recognize this and to foster new communities of resistance. Rather, it engages in plans for grandiose but deeply meaningless national federations (federations of what?) and equally disempowering parades before the world's television cameras.

Effective subversion must be organised out of the gaze of domination, in a sequestered physical, cultural or social location those areas that are least patrolled by authority. For those who look only on the surface of things, those seduced by the spectacular image of defiance, such strategy is a retreat from conventional class struggle. But, all things are not as they seem: as has been argued here, this is the very form that traditional class struggle has taken. The clandestine, apparently innocuous, maybe even anti-political assembly provides the fluidity and guerrilla mobilityfor effective subversive projection.

No Name No Slogan

There are immediate uses and gains in formations such as these: no leaders to round up; no hierarchical organisation to reproduce, no membership lists to investigate; no manifestos to denounce; no mediators to meet (and join) the power-holding elite. No public claims are made, no symbolic lines drawn, no press statements to be deliberately misconstrued and trivialised by journalists. No platforms or programmes which the intellectuals can hijack as their exclusive property; no flag or banner to which to pledge a crass and sectarian allegiance. What concrete forms will our subversion take ? The concrete forms it already takes: theft, feigned ignorance (all the better to dissemble our intentions), shirking or careless labour, footdragging and unofficial go-slow, zero-work, secret trade and production for sale (for barter, or, even better, for free), squatting, default on all payment for anything, evasion of taxes, destruction of official records, sabotage and arson, impromptu riot (for the sheer hell of it) and the detournment of state-sponsored celebration into moments of joyous destruction. If we were to undertake all this with the objective of attaining a complete self-reliance in the satisfaction of all desires and needs, we may well find it sufficient for the move from surviving within this system, to superceding it. Let the daily celebration of life be but a dress rehearsal for insurrection. It is the accumulation of small, instrumental acts that will bring authority to its knees. Let us rise.

How Do We Organise

Much of the class struggle anarchist movement concentrates on campaigns: trying to mobilise people to force the government and the ruling class to grant concessions, by demonstrations etc.

Anarcho-syndicalism, on the other hand, concentrates on industrial organisation. This article argues that neither strategy is doing as well as it could, and discusses a different approach. What if we concentrated on projects which gave working class people immediate benefits - for example, housing advice, food distribution, community centres etc?

Anarcho-syndicalism aims to offer this kind of practical benefit. The idea is that working class people will put a lot more energy into unions than any other kind of political activity. Unions are, at least potentially, run by and for working class people, able to win on a regular basis, etc. As far as it goes, this is undeniable.

Look at the average demonstration in your city. Is it workers or is it students? Is it democratic or is it run by (self-elected) stewards? Does anyone even think it's going to win anything, or are they just making themselves feel better? Even if it did win, would it have an obvious benefit for the average working class person? And even then, who would take credit - politicians, Trots, self-appointed leaders? Is there any point to it at all, except to give the Trots a new crop of recruits? Can you imagine anyone with a job, a family, not enough time and too many worries giving any time at all to the average campaign? Even with the union movement in its present sorry state, anyone can see that unionism is much more attractive than traditional campaigning to any worker in their right mind.

However, anarcho-syndicalist groups are supposed to offer real benefits, not just theory. But unionism needs a lot of people to work. Anarcho-syndicalist groups, at least in the English-speaking world, are all pretty small: too small to start a meaningful union or to change the direction of an existing union. So they can't do anything until they get bigger. So they offer theory not real benefits!

Food Not Bombs distributes free vegan food to the homeless. A lot of FNB groups are totally independent, but there are problems. As the name would suggest, FNB concentrates on pacifism. The original aim seems to be to overcome "the violence within". This implies blaming ordinary people - if only working class people were pacifists, there'd be no nuclear weapons.

The second problem is one of charity. There's a definite split between the people who dole out the food and the people who take it. There's not an emphasis on self-organisation.

I think we can combine the best of both worlds: the anarcho-syndicalists' emphasis on benefiting working class people, and the aim of eventually forming unions for revolution. And FNB's emphasis on projects which are public, immediately beneficial, and can be carried out by small groups. Some arguments against this approach are:

1. We need bigger groups. It's a bit much to expect a group of three people to start a food distribution project. However, there's no need for that. For example, one idea is to gather all the information you can on housing, unemployment rights etc, and distribute it through existing anarchist publications. Where I live, there are heaps of places which give this information out for free. However, they don't always get to all the people who can use it. So there are projects which don't need many people.

2. You can't involve the whole community and be specifically anarchist -so you have to be either a charity, a non-anarchist group, or a front group. This seems to be common sense. But I think there's a way out. My idea is for anarchist groups to start openly anarchist projects. However, we also help local communities set up their own projects and have an input into ensuring they are democratic, not a charity, not a Trot front etc. A few people will probably want to join us, but most won't (for a few years anyway). If Trots or Christians try and take these groups over, we have the experience to spot this and hopefully advise on how to stop them. So, we can keep groups specifically anarchist and spread our ideas, and yet involve the maximum number of people in a genuinely democratic way.

3. Campaigns can achieve more. It's true that a successful campaign will achieve more than a single piece of mutual aid. But it isn't a fair comparison. For example, Melbourne Food Not Bombs has five events per week. How many groups can run five successful campaigns even in a year? And guarantee that they'll be successful, that no one will steal the credit, and that their gains won't be legislated away when they publicity dies down? None. Even successful campaigns, like against the Poll Tax in Britain, don't seem to have really helped the anarchist movement in the long run.

4. You'd be abandoning class struggle. If a mutual aid project was fairly successful, three things might happen. The state might ignore it, in which case we can spread our ideas as well as build up respect. Or the state might shut it down. The state can break up a demonstration and claim the demonstrators were 'violent', 'out of control' etc. If they did that to a child-minding service, do you think people would believe them? Or, they could try and shut it down and fail - the best of both worlds. Successful mutual aid projects could generate campaigns -campaigns where people would have a stake in the anarchists winning.

5. You'd be giving governments an excuse to cut services. The government isn't going to let anarchists take over providing services. The state does not want anarchists giving advice on workers' rights, how to take your landlord to the cleaners, how to avoid government work schemes etc. They don't wnat creches run without social workers, food distros dicsouraging consumerism or social spaces where no boss profits from beer sales. Mutual aid projects show that communities can survive without governments.

I'd love to lose this debate. I'd like someone to say 'mutual aid might be better than what we have now, but such-and-such is much better'. But something's got to change. Isn't 100 years long enough to test a theory? The conditions are right for anarchism - Leninism's collapsed, capitalism can't deliver, and we have groups all over the world that are small, but big enough to put these ideas into practice. We can do it now, or we can wait another century.

James Hutchings (Sydney, Australia) email:jameshutchings@hotmail.com (email me for information about the new practical anarchism email list).

Interview: Ronan Bennett

Ronan Bennett is one of the few contemporary authors whose voice speaks of authentic working class experience and whose writing takes sides in the struggles of ordinary people to determine the direction of their own lives against the forces of capitalism and the state. He's also- crucially- an entertaining and exiting storyteller, able to inject a hard realism into genres not otherwise noted for their reflection of the anger, pain and joy of working class life, without sacrificing plot or momentum. His plot for the hit film 'Face' combines an exploration of what happens when solidarity breaks down in working class communities and all that's left is the chase for wealth (or survival), with a gripping thriller about an armed robbery gone wrong and bent cops leaching off the backs of the communities they claim to protect.

Ronan Bennett grew up in Belfast, son of a Catholic mother and a Protestant father. In 1974 he was arrested and charged with the shooting of a cop. He was convicted by a Diplock court and sentenced to life imprisonment. He spent a year in Long Kesh before the charges were thrown out on appeal. Relocating to the UK he was targeted by Special Branch and charged with conspiracy to cause explosions in the 'Persons Unknown' case. The case collapsed, but only after he'd spent a year and a half on remand. As someone who comes from a community which has been targeted as a training ground for repression by the state, and who has experienced that repression at first hand, Ronan Bennett is a partisan writer. He is also one who has not been afraid to write as a Republican socialist, whether in his fiction, in 'A Second Prison', 'Love Lies Bleeding', and his forth coming film 'A Further Gesture' or in his numerous articles challenging the prejudices and lies of the British media over the frame ups of the Guildford Four and Birmingham Six, the lies and distortions of the agenda and motivation of militant Republicanism, and the cynicism and cowardice of the British political establishment over the peace process. He's also worked to promote the work of the Dubblejoint theatre company and Belfast writers like Brian Campbell, co- founder and editor of An Glor Gafa, (The Captive Voice), the Republican POW magazine. In 1992 in the Guardian he stated, when asked how he'd vote in the General election, "Labour's record and program are woeful… it has made principal in politics contingent on the latest opinion polls… for a socialist to vote for the party would be an act of supreme cynicism. I will not be voting."

BLACK FLAG: As someone coming from a Belfast background, who's been through jail, but has managed to get an outlet and a voice in the media, could you tell us how you arrived at that position?

RONAN BENNETT: What happened for me was after my years in the Cages and in Brixton, I went to University and did a PhD in Crime and Law Enforcement in the 17th Century and thought I'd want to teach, but kept returning in my imagination to the past, to incidents from prison, and, I think, like a lot of people, you start to jot things down, then you reach a point where you have to decide "do I go for it or not?" I think most people don't go for it, particularly people from a background where the last thing you would expect to be is a writer. I did the draft of "A Second Prison"- sent it to an agent, it was picked up fairly quickly.

BF: Did the politics of "The Second Prison" cause you any problems?

RB: No. I have to say there's politics in every single piece of work I've done. Most publishers and producers aren't concerned with politics, they're just concerned with "Does this work as a book or a film?" If the ideas aren't just there to win politically correct brownie points they'll back you. What I'm so proud of with "Face" is that the producers and the director Antonia Bird kept sight of the political and moral point but led the audience into it. I've never written from the point of view of someone who's secure or comfortable or middle class. When you're writing you can't pretend, you have to feel committed to what you do. I can't do the chameleon thing, "I'll now take the view of a middle class university lecturer". Because of my experiences I'm only really interested in the kind of characters I write about- usually idealists who've kind of lost their way. There is a conflict- the kind of politics we have demand commitment, they're about absolutes, about certainties being followed through, but the best literature, drama is about doubt, uncertainty.

BF: That is a clear theme in a lot of your work- a central character who's lost somehow, is looking for a moral or political grounding again.

RB: Its really difficult. When you meet someone with similar politics to yourself it makes for a great conversation but not great drama. What audiences want is debate, tension. Say if you set a film amongst "believers"- there's nowhere to go, no debate to have. So you have a dramatic device- someone who has those doubts, and then someone to play the character off against. I think its important to question your own politics, all the time, but there are certain ideals I have that will never change. In struggles, particularly armed struggles, terrible things can be done, but they don't ultimately lead you to abandon the things you believe in. But if 95% of your audience thinks politics is boring you have to introduce dramatic devices to get your point across without compromising. One of the things with "Face" as well is using humour as a means of winning people over as well. One of the people I really admire is Jeremy Hardy, who gets to make some really cutting points and gets away with it because he's funny.

There is an aspect of the earlier work like "Second Prison" and "Love Lies Bleeding" that's based around parallels with the IRSP/INLA feud. Its drawn from me being in jail with Ta Power, Jimmy Brown and Gerry Steenson, they were comrades then and then they started killing each other. It hit me in a really big way, especially when TA Power was killed ( Ta Power was the inspiration behind the IRSP faction that wanted to fight to preserve the socialist republican tradition of the IRSP against the degeneration into gangsterism of the IPLO) Ta was one of the most gentle but politically determined people I've ever met. Everybody liked him and to be killed by your former comrades was so tragic. I remember Gerry Adams getting up at a meeting in West Belfast and saying "We have to remember that Republicans have done bad things". He was right in many ways and it shouldn't undermine our cause. It is important not to romanticise violence or armed struggle. We need to maintain a critical perspective on our own history.

BF: To what extent do your experiences in Long Kesh inform your work now?

RB: The friendships and the solidarity are still strong. The idea that you're weakest and most vulnerable when you're an individual, but put a thousand of us in together , with a sense of political coherence and solidarity; that was a tremendous inspiration. That ethic of solidarity is in all the work - even in "Face" where the wider essence of it has broken down, Ray still looks after Stevie, Alice is involved with the Kurdish group. When I went to Latin America to research "Overthrown by Strangers", I didn't have a theme. I found that theme in Canto Grande, a prison outside Lima, with the political prisoners there. It's like the Kesh but the stakes are higher. There'd been prison massacres, a navy bombardment of a jail, and the level at which they stood up for each other was amazing, People who were poorly educated, who might have been thieves or pimps before they were politicised. It was one of the most inspiring experience of my life.

BF: Did you get much flak here for basing the book around Sendero Luminoso, given that most of the left here and in Peru would have massive criticisms of the way Sendero operates?

RB: Well, Sendero's authoritarianism was far too much for me. But say you're an Andean Indian, your life expectancy is lower now than it was under the Incas. If you're born into one of the Andean villages you live and die in poverty and there's no way out. You can go to the city and end up in a shanty slum. No one is going to do anything. The left parties have let you down and a political group comes along and says "fight", "Take Land". What do you do ? Either your existence goes on like this for your life and your children's lives or you just have to fight. I think as well there was a lot of misinformation put out about Sendero.

BF: What's next ?

RB: I love cinema, I love it as an art form but there are some ideas that feel like a book. I've got a film called "Days Like These" in development. It's set in Derry between 1969 and 1972. It begins with the Battle of the Bogside and ends with Bloody Sunday. It's fast paced and, hopefully, funny and it's got lots of sex and drugs and rock and roll. Then there's a four part series for the BBC called "Rebellion" which goes from 1916 to the defeat of the anti-treaty IRA. It's about an IRA man who starts off as a Pearce nationalist and ends up as an anti-treaty communist. There's a new book, a love story set in the Congo, "Cursed to Eat Bread", which is partly about the sabotage of independence and partly about the role of the writer (the central character is a writer) and it tackles the argument that writing should not be political, that commitment damages art, which is the dominant ethos at work. I'm also working on a book about a zero tolerance campaign in the 1630's, which mirrors Howard's and Straw's sweep the poor of the streets campaign. It is intended to be an allegory for today. It's called "Havoc In Its Third Year". Its about the politicisation of law enforcement as a campaign against the poor.

BF: How do you keep your integrity as you become more successful ?

RB: Being a writer was never a role I'd envisaged for myself and the last thing I want to do is grow into a middle class respectable writer- that would be death for me politically and creatively as well. One thing is I avoid the "scene" - I don't go to Grouchos, I don't "hang out". I've got the same friends I had at the start. I go back to Derry and Belfast and work with up and coming writers in the nationalist community and you can't go back to those places without being reminded of who you are and why you started. I'm trying to encourage Republicans to get together as a writing group, to analyse their experience through fiction or films or short stories, whatever. I think people from a working class background can come through but it always helps if you see someone else break through. So you get people like Ken Loach or Jimmy McGovern, people who're writing authentically about their lives, it's a real boost for people, it proves what can be done.

Review: Asian Dub Foundation - Real Areas For Investigation (RAFI)

Asian Dub Foundation have just produced their second CD. Like their debut, its stunning; a mixture of hard beats, guitars, polemic and a determined stance against injustice, but produced by a group of working class Asian kids and so pretty much ignored by the music press.

ADF stand out because they're political at a time when politics in music has been reduced to Oasis sipping red wine at private receptions with Tony Blair.1997 has been the year that the music press "discovered" that Asian musicians like Nitin Sawhney and Talvin Singh were producing breathtaking, inspired music that left the average white student guitar band sounding like the redundant middle class shite it always was. Young Asian kids had developed a network of clubs that allowed real space for creative musical experiments. But the music press refused to acknowledge the political battles that had allowed this space to exist at all.

ADF are an in-your-face reminder that Asian youth identity in the UK is a product of struggle, from the battles fought by Asian trade unionists at Spiralynx and Fords in the 70s, the self defence campaigns around the Newham 7 and Newham 8 in the '80s, through to the struggle against organised racism and fascism in the '90s. RAFI includes a track dedicated to Saptal Ram, "Naxalite"- a celebration of a peasants uprising in West Bengal, and "Assassin"- about Muhammed Singh Azzad,who assassinated the ex governor general of the Punjab, O Dwyer, in revenge for the Amritsar massacre.

Criucially, RAFI shows up the fact that white working class East Londoners have got a lot more in common with Asian kids from East London than with middle class wankers like John Tyndall.The "community of sound" ADF refer to isn't some hippy dream space; it's a multi racial culture of struggle - against police oppression, against racism and for self education and organisation, "against the lies you've been given". This is of course, another reason why the music press don't want to know - they can tolerate Sean Ryder or Liam Gallagher dribbling on about cocaine and smack, but let anyone come forward with an agenda which isn't about drugs or liberal "love everybody" shite - and just watch'em run scared.

ADF are great - because of what they say and because they represent the most slamming fusion of drum and bass with slashing guitars and ranting MCing I've heard yet. Go out and get RAFI.

Caption: "A BULLET IN THE HEAD WONT BRING BACK THE DEAD BUT IT'LL FREE THE SPIRIT OF MY PEOPLE."

Black Flag 214 (1998)

Issue of the London-based anarchist magazine Black Flag from the 1990s.

Contents

Trade Union Recognition

Recognition of trade unions by employers was initially sought and fought for by working people to ensure that proper collective bargaining took place and collective agreements were observed. This was a step towards securing reasonable levels of pay and working conditions. It could only be gained if workers were united and determined to get it.

The recent debate about whether legislation should be passed to allow employees to vote on whether they want to have a trade union recognised by their employer has little to do with these struggles of an earlier era apart from the recurrence of some of the terms.

In the 1990s trade unions have become massive and bureaucratic bodies with interests and agendas of their own quite distinct from those of their members. So the extent to which they represent and pursue the interests of their members is often slight and coincidental. So, any decision by Blair as to how the legislation on trade union recognition should be framed will have but little impact on working people at large and the problems and difficulties they face.

There are elements in the discussion that we should think about. For instance the argument about whether it is acceptable to require a level of support from among the whole of a workforce is an idea that has a history and a number of resonances. But there is one very particular consequence. The proposed level at the time of writing is 40%. No agreement to recognise a trade union in a place of work could be enforced unless at least 40% of the total of employees in that workplace had voted for it. Very few MPs obtained as much as 40% from the whole of their electorate. No post war government has ever got that much support Such a system applied to Parliament would return only half a dozen MPs. But let us leave such pleasant fantasies and get back to trade union recognition.

It is clearly a cheek for MPs to say what levels of support are needed to legitimise any proposal. And aside form this the trade union organisations are keen to get legislation that gives them the best chance of winning votes for recognition. This might be a means through which they can get back into the industries where their support has declined, mainly because trade union membership never stopped anyone from losing a job when a company was on the skids. Indeed trade union activism was often the factor that meant someone was picked out to be made redundant.

The employers' organisations are opposed to recognition presumably because they are living in a 1950s time warp and believe that the trade union recognition means trade union activism which means that working people will again be campaigning and struggling with militancy and effectiveness for improved conditions and wages. I reckon that trade union recognition works as much in the interests of the employer as it does in the interest of the worker. Where trade unions are recognised the whole system of negotiations and deals works within a pattern that is acceptable to and often largely imposed by the employer. The significant industrial battles carried out by workers in the past decade have been conducted in spite of rather than with the active support of national trade union leaderships. The campaign of the Liverpool dockers is the outstanding recent example of this.

But trade unions can be useful. I have always belonged to the trade union appropriate to my job. Indeed I have been an active lay officer for over 25 years and regard trade union work in my workplace - defending people on disciplinary charges, accompanying members in meetings with managers, negotiating local conditions of service - as being useful work. But on the big issues the inertia of the large organisations and the hostility of highly paid trade union professionals to troublesome members mean that workers fight these battles outside the main organisations they have formed for the purpose.

Therefore I take the unorthodox view among trade union activists that recognition of trade unions by employers cannot have much impact on working people and that their most important campaigns will continue to be fought autonomously and using such external resources as they can recruit to their aid.

The success of these campaigns will depend on the levels of this support and the effectiveness and imaginativeness with which it used. Highly paid suits in top trade union jobs will make no helpful contribution here. They are more interested in influencing legislation on trade union membership and thereby extending their membership and income and the areas in which they can negotiate deals on behalf of their members and with the minimum contribution from the members as to what sort of deals they want.

A short History of Polish Anarchism

An anarchist movement of Narodnik ( Russian anti-capitalist democratic activists of the late 19th century) and Anarchist ideas from Russia and Western Europe came into existence at the turn of the 1th century. The ideas were by no means uniform, from the uncopromising and controversial Nieczajew [nechaev?], gallant Bakunin, anarcho-communist prince Kropotkin or Leo Tolstoy, promoter of a pacifist christian negation of statehood.

The first and most significant anarchistic group in the pre-independence Poland originated in 1903 in Bialystok and consisted in an enormous part of Jewish people. In the next years some similar centres came into being in Nieznow, Warsaw,Lodz, Siedlce, Czestochowa, Kielce and a couple of other towns.What particularly intensified activity in all centres was news from the Russian Revoluution, Bloody Sunday in St Petersburg. These groups took part in terrorist activity as well as propoganda actions such as attempts on police officers' and factory owners' lives. There were also bank robberies to gain funds. Nowadays the majority of us anarchists entirely reject such methods but to understand the motivation to act in this way it is important to realise the level of cruelty and despotism of the tsar's authority. For example in Warsaw, on Governer general Saklow's order, 16 young anarchists, (about 18 years old) were murdered by the authorities and their bodies thrown into the Vistula. Shots at demonstrating workers were not uncommon either.

At the same time material popularising the ideas of anarcho-syndicalism came pouring in. Adherents of this kind of anarchism repudiated terrorism claiming it did not contribute to an increase in society's consciousness, but on the contrary averted it from anarchism and caused disarray in the movement. That is why anarcho-syndicalists encouaraged other anarchists towards propagandistic activity and joining trade unions.

The best known theoreticians of Polish anarchism were Edward Abramowski, Waclaw Machajski and the anarcho-sydicalists Dr Jozef Zielinski and Augustyn Wroblewski.

Edward Abramowski claimed to be a non-state socialist . However it should be noted that the word "socialism" at that time did not have such a limited meaning as it has nowadays and a majority of groups of liberation, leftist groups and struggles for independence identified with it. Abramowski presented his views in works such as "Ethics and Revolution", "Republic of Friends " and "A Public Collusion Against Government". As an alternative to the state system were , in his opinion, gratuitous ????? trades set up by rules of common affairs and mutual services associated in bigger co-operatives. Only they are a support of a real freedom, give welfare, order, justice and brother hood to the individual. Furthermore they are organised from the grassroots, spontaenaeously without compulsion.Existing associates should form on a specified territory a free commune without authority and police. However the lack of a supposedly indispensable repression machinery does not mean the eruption of chaos into human life art all. The reverse happens- it releases energy and fervour that were being reduced in a system so far and that make people wanting to create the surrounding reality and to find themselves in it. An example of a big growth of social consciousness in the big solidarity days and then the repression of 13/12 ?????? is the best evidence of an enormous potential in people who have realised that they can change something in their life and surroundings at last. But let's return to Abramowski's theories. An unquestionable authority of those days, Tolstoy, had a considerable influence on his views. Follwoing him he advocatied non-paymnet of taxes and refusing to join the army. At the same time as being against the church as an institution he referred to Jesus' sermons which in his opinion denied statehood and authority. In his book "A public collusion agfainst governemnt" he gave some instructions about how people should struggle with the Tsar for thier own national maintenance. it certainly did not mean promoting another dictatorship which statehood is. Abramowski was also ( as every anarchist) opposed to national socialism. He prophetically warned "The politics of modern socialism is not a politics of strengthening and extending national authority that tends not towards setting people free but towards towards authorising everything which can be authorised only in their life." ????????????

Another popular polish anarchist was Waclaw Machajski, born in 1876, an originator of a new current, so-called machajewszsczism. Originally he was a patriotic activist in the PPS party but gradulaly he came to anti-intelligentsia views. he claimed that all the greatest evil that surrounds people comes form ideas and ideologies of intellectuals. Although the consequence of that attitude was the setting aside not only of democracy and socialism but anarchism as well his ideology was closely related to this movemnt. Foretelling the constraints that follow socialism he augured an arrival of a slavish system in which bureaucratic machinery set up by intelligentsia would constrain an ordinary workman. During the interwar period syndicalist ideas had reercussions in the Union of Trade Unions ( ZZZ in Polish) this was 130000 strong and active from 1931-1939. The association presented itself to join the IWA. It is still active today and assembles anarcho-syndicalist and syndicalist trade unions. During the war the ZZZ and other organsiations formed the Polish Syndicalist Union (in polish ZSP) which actively battled against fascists. However it was not isolated from other formations and coperated with the National Army (AK) and the People's Army (AL). An illegal newsheet, the Syndiclaist, was published and ZSP detachments took part in the Warsaw Uprising.

Anarchistic ideas reappeared after the war at the same time as the Alternative Societies movementand the Sigma club which originated in the early 80s. Other groups like the Autonomous Anarchistic Federation of Lublin, Freedom and Peace, Intercity Anarchistic Federation and Orange Alternative shot up like mushrooms after that. They were all active against the communist system however as distinct from Solidarity they defended themselves with irony and humour and refusing to join the army than more traditional methods. A lot of the radical ecological activists came form these movemnts. Some still exist and there are new ones as well such as Social Activity Membership in Slupsk. Anarchist ideas of the workers movemtn found a lot of support. A group of the Anarchist Federation published a paper "Works" in Nova Huta.

An inspiration to that kind of activity was often the original Solidarity which has a lot of syndicalist features in its programme. "the only possible way to change the actual situation is to set up authentic workers' autonomies which would make the employees the real master of a factory. Our association demands a restoration of the autonomous nature of the co-operative. It is necessary to pass a new bill which will protect from administrative interference." This was passed by the National Deputies conference of NSZZ (Solidarity) in 1981. The real programme of this association is now much less radical and far from the original.

It should be said that Polish anarchist history is not as impressive as the Spanish, Italian or Russian. [ this is according to the Polish authors of this piece ] A strong desire for its own statehood after years of slavery won in Polish society. As always this situation gave independence to only a minority, to the majority only new chains. I hope the future will not bring us a sadomasochistic cult of the headman to Polish society but instead the triumph of freedom and autonomy. Long Live Anarchy.

The Possible

Being a revolutionary anarchist can sometimes seem daunting. With all the attacks facing us from bosses, the State and other forms of authority, it can appear that a free society is a long way away. But in this issue there are a number of articles which show that the way we organise can be achieved in the here and now, and that in itself can open up new possibilities for resistance, creativity and self-organisation.

This can be on a small scale, as the example of the IWW in New Milton shows. One person was able to make a difference. This doesn't mean that the five workers who joined the IWW will immediately or automatically become revolutionaries, but it will give them a sense of what can be done when you organise collectively.

We speak to a Liverpool docker about the struggle of the wharfies in Australia - his message is clear "Each individual can change things, and collectively we can do more". The dockers are considering transforming their paper, The Dockers Charter, into a paper for a rank and file union movement. We hope they do, not because we see that as an end in itself, but because such a forum, run by a group as universally respected as the dockers, would open up[ more possibilities.

And to Bradford - a lot of work well done, a lot of barriers broken down and communications established. But here is more to it than a weekend of celebration and discussion for 250 or so activists. One of the contentions of authoritarian socialists like the SWP is that you need a centralised Party to "learn the lessons of the past". What events like May Day 98 in Bradford prove is that you don't, and that forums which respect differences can be more constructive than anything that ever happens at Marxism.

Now who wants to organise next year's?

Danish strike fails to bring home the bacon

About 400,000 private sector workers in Denmark went on indefinite strike on the 27th April) against a background of employers making big profits and workers having shown "restraint" for the last few years. Employers had refused to accept any demand that increased company costs, despite the fact that the economy is booming and workers wanted more time off.

The unions declared their willingness to re-enter negotiations but this offer was rejected. The employers locked out more workers in retail and distribution. By the third day of the strike the stock exchange fell by around kr34 bn.(about £3b) and foreign investors were getting jittery. The Social Democrat government warned that if the strike went on longer than 10 days they would be forced to intervene.

As in the big strike of 1985, there was a national meeting of shop stewards in Odense to decide on the outcome of the strike. The meeting agreed the formation of national and local co-ordinating committees to organise the running of the strike. This was also in response to the union leaders who were talking about opening negotiations where the demands of the strike could be watered down. The strike remained solid and the employers started to complain about a "workers' dictatorship" as they have to ask permission from the unions for any movements they want to make. The unions only allow things to happen on the basis of emergency cases. One cannot get petrol, cannot get out of some of the islands, without permission from the trade unions. During the strike there was a unionisation campaign with workers going to non-organised workplaces to recruit them.

On May 7th a special law dictating the terms of the "contracts" of the sectors affected by the strike (and lockout) was passed, thus making all further industrial action illegal. The striking workers returned to work the following Monday, though some held stop-work meetings and went home for the day. The new law gives between one and three extra days leave, depending on service, but it also cuts back on the employers' contributions to pension funds and abolishes a special tax paid by employers to cover some of the governments expenses for pay during sick leaves.

According to the government, the terms of the special law will not cost the employers any more than the agreement which was rejected by the workers and started the strike. We spoke to a Danish union activist attending the march for Social Justice in London and asked him about the end of the strike. His view was that Danish workers were too 'comfortable' to find the will to continue in defiance of the law. His union, the Scaffolders club of the general union, had instead used their anger and frustration to good effect in the local contract bargaining that was going on, and had signed new agreements with several previously non-unionised firms, usually after pickets. Other groups of workers have decided to stop their financial support for the Social Democratic party as a protest, such as the Copenhagen airport workers.

Copwatching in Chattanooga By Lorenzo Komboa Ervin

Brothers and Sisters:

Myself and two other members of Black Autonomy-COPWATCH program were arrested in Chattanooga City Hall on Tuesday nite when we took over the meeting as a protest of their disrespect of the desire of the Black community to have this matter of police brutality discussed. The Coalition Against Police Brutality, which includes the NAACP, Operation PUSH, Nation of Islam, and Black Preachers, along with radical forces like Black Autonomy, Concerned Citizens for Justice, Operation Brighter Tomorrow, etc., came to City Hall with a 15-page written proposal for establishment of a Police Control Council for community control of the police. This proposal was based on the old BPP proposal from 1969, rather than seeking a toothless, politically- controlled "review board".

A member of the CAPB had called a week in advance to have us placed on the agenda so that we could give a special presentation. And until the last minute we were assured that this was the case. However, the day of the event when we arrived with a large number of Black community folx, we were curtly told that our request had been denied with no further explanation. Although the NOI had stated in an CAPB organizers meeting that they would take over the meeting, when the time actually came, they got cold feet and said we should "just wait". They punked out completely.

Refusing to accept this insult to the Black community by these corrupt politicians, myself and the BA activists in attendance, then made our move. I went to the speaker's podium, and slammed my fist down, scaring everyone into silence. I demanded that we be heard then, instead of wading through two hours of zoning reports, real estate and business reports, bureaucratic reports and other garbage, while they ignored a room full of Black people. The politicians tried to shout and gavel me down, but then gave up and ran out of the room, when the people rose up and demanded that I be given the right to speak.

To keep the pigs off me while I delivered my speech, I had Damon McGee, Mikail Musa Muhammad, and others stand and become a wall that the cops would have to wade through in order to get me. This worked to perfection, it actually took them twenty minutes before they could even touch me. Finally three of us were arrested, and all during this time, the so-called leadership of the CAPB (including Min. Kevin Muhammad of the NOI) never rose one time to protest our arrest or showed solidarity. These weak, backstabbing punks actually waited until we had been arrested and gave a presentation "disapproving" of our action, and calling for a "private deal" to be negotiated out of the earshot of the people. They then held a private meeting to try to expel us from the group, but realized that the masses overwhelmingly loved what we did, even if the conservative "leadership" didn't, so they backed off. We suspect that they created the "Coalition" as a way of restoring their credibility, and to handcuff radical elements around their middle class program. But we don't need this weak coalition with petty bourgeois elements, we must unite with the people.

We were thrown into jail under atrocious conditions: 31 men in one cell, with no ventilation, one toilet, no food for hours, pushed around by jailers, no medical attention, and no legal rights to an attorney. In fact, Brother Mikail was told that he could not even have a bail bond and would have to stay in jail indefinitely, so yesterday we had a demonstration in front of the jail and the Sheriffs' office, and he was suddenly let go. One thing stuck out in my mind: although the FOI never stood up and defended myself from the cops, or protected our Black sisters, they surrounded me and tried to "chastise" me when I was released from jail. Something is very wrong with this.

We are all charged with "Disrupting a meeting" (6 mos. jail time and $1500 fine), but Bro. Mikail is also chaged with "resisting arrest", although he did no more than the rest of us in standing in the way of the cops. We go to court on next Tuesday, May 26th. We will not compromise with these charges, and will build a political defense to expose police brutality and racism in this town and unite our oppressed people. We are calling ourselves "THE CHATTANOOGA THREE", and will mount an international campaign soon. I will post more later.

May Day 98

The May Day Celebrations in Bradford this year included not only a march and bands but a three day conference organised by anarchists from groups around the country.

May Day 98 grew out of the desire for change and self analysis that has been making itself felt in the movement for about a year. The main priorities of the conferences were not to produce any orderly proposals or achieve on-paper unity, but to talk to each other without sectarian barriers, to look honestly at our failures and to use our collective imagination as to the way ahead. To achieve this the conference was structured into groups of fifteen to twenty people and participants were split up from their mates to encourage a wider circulation of ideas and to stop cliques from dominating discussions.

The groups had four main themes for discussion, which were: away from the margins, all worked up, land ecology and the environment and dreamtime. Some groups stuck to this, others ignored it and just talked about what they wanted. Topics of note ranged from a discussion of space travel in one group to a big argument about whether we can have cups of tea after the revolution in another (If there's no tea I quit now! But we will eradicate lemsip.)

The conference was attended by about 250 people, a quarter women. There had been plans to have a women-only group, but most women felt this would mean the other groups were very male dominated. So instead there was one men only group (not self-selecting and some men weren't too happy about it) so that there were at least a third women in the other groups.

Some felt the conference would have been more productive if it had been more focused, but overall people were positive and felt inspired, especially by the friendliness and lack of backbiting. For me the conference was summed up by the feedback session on the last day, where instead of the usual dismal bureaucracy the room was buzzing, people were laughing, joking and hurling affectionate insults at the speakers. I left for once with faith in our movement, and hope for the future.

Squatting in Barcelona

In one week, there were two evictions of casas okupatas in Sants, a working class Catalan speaking area where we have one of our largest CSOs (Centro Social Okupado), "L'Hamsa" and where we hold concerts of 1000 to 1500 people. One was evicted in the morning without prior warning, 8 arrested. In the evening there was the usual demo of about 200. Along the route 8 meat wagons suddenly turned up with riot cops in them who immediately blocked the road. The demonstrators decided to veer off and go down a smaller road heading for the evicted squat. Once there, they were confronted by a line of cops dressed up as hard-core squatters. These cops all took out their guns about 10-12 in all and tried to provoke a (shooting) incident. The okupas pulled back cautiously and later that night the large green paladin bins were set light to and the ETT offices were attacked. (ETT is Empresas de Trabajo Temporal, 6 month contracts with shit wages, just being introduced in Spain for the first time) The response of the cops was to comb the area looking for anyone resembling a squatter. The area of Sants was taken over in a military style occupation, anyone they met was arrested and given a good going over once in the copshop. Obviously people who had nothing to do with this were "taken in". One guy hid under a car for an hour and a half not daring to move. In all, five have been taken in and charged.

The following day another squat, where people live, was also evicted without warning. This time nobody was inside. The same day the eviction order arrived for "L'Hamsa". For a month now there's another ending on "La Vakeria". This seems to indicate that the authorities have decided on repression as the means to put an end to the okupas. Attacking two of our major social centres in the same week, and attacking three squats in the same area is indicative if this. The latest thing, of dressing up as okupas and pulling guns is a new and very alarming development. Catalonia is not the Basque Country, where there is a similar situation to Northern Ireland. Guns are rife there, but not in peaceful tourist-land Barcelona. Hence people are very concerned about this change of tactics and the people in Sants are tense and incensed at the occupation of their neighbourhood.

Subsequently, there were three big concerts : in "L'Hamsa", a place near "La Vakeria" and in "El Palomar" (another CSO similar to L'Hamsa). The concert at L'Hamsa was free and more than a thousand people turned up. It was held to calm the nerves of the people there, as well as creating publicity. The day after we read that the Generalitat (Catalan Autonomous govt) is discussing a proposal to enter into dialogue and negotiate with the okupas. This ,as you can imagine was received with large doses of cynicism by the squatters. Obviously a face saving motion; attack the okupas physically while making public statements to the contrary. It seems to me like the typical cynical manipulations of cops and villains (politicos)!

The day after a demo was planned outside the law courts in L'Hospitalet where La Vakeria is, which went off without a hitch. About a thousand people turned up despite rain.

The following day another demo in the Ramblas attracted several thousand.

The next week the alleged report of the Generalitat appeared in "La Vanguardia" using photos taken inside L'Hamsa. It's tone was anti-okupa, saying their ideas were good but their methods were wrong, typical divide and rule stuff. Two days later, after everything had calmed down a bit, there was even a rumour that the judge on the L'Hamsa case had withdrawn or retired.

However, that Tuesday La Vakeria was suddenly evicted at 7am with 22 people inside, chained to different parts of the building, offering "passive resistance". Judges have already ruled (twice) in Catalonia, that a peaceful eviction (i.e. not fighting the cops) is not an illegal occupation and have acquitted people a couple of times so tactically this is a good thing to do.

As soon as the people were out and taken off to the local copshop, the bulldozer went in and what is left of a beautiful 18th century Catalan macia (country house) is nothing but a memory of 6 years of occupation and a lot of rubble.

So, La Vakeria went, and as L'Hamsa was still under threat another demo was called for the following day. People turned up in the Plaça de Sants and went to "La Morada", the house evicted the day before at the same time as La Vakeria. There were 1000 people who then decided to walk to L'Hamsa, which is right behind the Sants copshop. There was serious rioting, cops at one end of the main road and okupas at the other. The road is straight for about a mile with four lanes, which made it easy for the cops to use their usual tactic of going in groups of five with one cop at the back firing rubber bullets at people. Many of the cops had been bussed in from other parts of Spain and didn't know the terrain and had no experience of confronting the okupas, who usually stand their ground and shower the cops with bottles taken from the large green recycling containers, which are everywhere, and bricks from the sacks of rubble from the constant construction work taking place everywhere. Ironically, it's the construction companies which supply the okupas with the ammo they need to take on the cops with by constantly doing up properties to rent out at prices no one can afford to pay. This market tactic of controlling house prices and is the equivalent of hoarding grain, a tactic constantly denounced by the okupas as speculation.

When the demo got close to the copshop, it stopped, as usual to maintain a safe distance from the cops. At that precise moment plain clothes cops on the demo, who were at the front of it and at the back, took out "self-defence spray" and started spraying people in their faces. These sprays are illegal in Spain, so the cops don't even respect the laws they are supposed to enforce. It also appears that the whole thing was a set up. Normally demos go direct from central Barcelona to L'Hamsa, but because of the eviction of the house in Sants, it was predictable that they would have to go down Creu Coberta, the main road, past the copshop.

People at the back also knew that there was a line of plain clothes cops behind them, making it impossible for people to leave without getting nabbed, with the attendant tortures and beatings which go with being arrested. Also, the side streets of Creu Coberta are narrow, and there were more plain clothes cops hiding in their doorways. One squatter from Melbourne was caught in this way. He decided to get out of the area and ran down a side street where a plain clothes cop jumped from a doorway and sprayed him in the face. Not being able to see anything he grabbed on to someone else and they carried on running with cops in pursuit right behind them. Realising that the cops were getting close he let go of the other person to let them escape. He carried on running and later bumped into a woman and ran into a bar. The bar owner and customers tried to stop the cops from taking him off, a brave thing to do in the circumstances, but in vain, nonetheless.

In all 17 were arrested and taken to the main copshop in the Via Layetana which the squatters had attacked ferociously the last time there was a major confrontation, the day of the eviction of the squatted cinema "La Princesa". Once there they had to run the gauntlet between the pigs between the vans where nothing could be seen. Once inside the eldest of those nicked and two women were beaten up very badly. Menstruating women were not allowed to change their tampons initially, and when they went to the toilets to do so were accompanied by male pigs, which is contrary to regulations and illegal.

The prisoners saw cops taking lines of cocaine continually to keep them hyped up and could see the pleasure in their faces when they were hitting people.

All the next day friends and relatives of those arrested tried to see their loved ones, but only for a few minutes and had to wait all day to do it as the cops wouldn't say when. Charges varied, but they wanted to deport the Aussie. On his charge sheet it said arrested for "social disturbances and causing damages". For this, they deport people, but as Spain is now part of the EU this means deportation and exclusion from any member country for 5 years. Another dirty tactic.

The Friday, just before 10am the okupas went tot he law courts to support those "kidnapped" by the cops, as is the custom. During the morning more and more were arriving until there were a hundred or so, on the other side of the road from the cops. By mid morning the majority of the meat wagons went off as it was clear that nothing was going to happen. Those arrested were making declarations to the judge and people hung around outside waiting to see if they were going to be released or not. After 1pm one of our lawyers came out to tell us of the state of play. The charges for each one was read out and they would all be released soon. This news made us all a bit happier and gave a boost to our enthusiasm. As it was lunch time the judges, lawyers and clerks were leaving and were met with clapping and laughter from the squatters. This made some laugh but intimidated others, obviously not used to popular justice and having their power questioned, or maybe because of their guilty consciences for what they had just done and do every day - send human beings to hell-holes for not being rich, where all suffer and some die. The rich have their cases quashed - as happens frequently here in Spain - or their case is thrown out of court because the "New Civil Code" now does not consider some things as a crime. This particularly angers the okupas as the new code makes occupying a building a criminal rather than civil offence, as it was before. It is also retrospective, which mean that for those who were squatting before March 1996 are now criminals. Under the Spanish constitution it deliberately prohibits "retroactive legislation" as being unconstitutional! During the defence of "La Princesa" part of the legal defence was based on this. At first the judge dealing with the case accepted the argument and shelved the case until the constitutional court in Madrid made a pronouncement.

However, after the summer went by the judge "suddenly" changed his mind and stated that the present law was the law and therefore the okupas had to go. He'd obviously had his orders. However, for cases of pederasty the penalties have been reduced, and in one important case in Valencia the accused, who were expecting to be sent down for a very long time, have been released for exactly this. The judge kicked the case out of court. One law for sexual offences and another for property offences. Those arrested were released one by one and greeted by loud cheering and clapping. After greeting the judges etc., the squatters crossed the road en masse and okupied the space right outside the garage type entrance where the prisoners came out from, shouting slogans like "Llibertat detingudes" (Catalan for "Free the arrested") and the pigs had to get out to show their authority. After a lot of singing and shouting and taunting the police there was a moment of tension when the chief pig tried to quieten down the okupas and get them to move back across the road, something they aren't used to doing. Retreat is not in their vocabulary, especially when it comes from a pig. The okupas are total democrats, making decisions in asembleas, meetings open to everyone, and do not like "orders". They know how the cops act with eviction orders, brutally beating people and even strangling them. There was a stand-off and what broke it was that at exactly at that moment more prisoners came out. So everyone ignored the cops and started cheering. This calmed the situation and the chief pig could have eased off, but then being reasonable isn't in their vocabulary.

The cop tried again to get people to move back, was ignored, so the helmets went on and the truncheons came out. Some of the cops just waded in, even breaking the mirror on their van, and the rest followed suit. One of the two TV crews started filming, the other intentionally did nothing. The okupas caught them out and got them to film as well. As the okupas were pushed back across the road some couldn't get up the steps leading to the Promenade above, as part of it was blocked by cops. Then the most brutal attack occurred, many of those who couldn't get up there fell over and two cops started laying into them with a sadistic ferocity.

Even then the cops didn't let up. The squatters regrouped and shouted "Basta Ya!" (That's enough) holding their hands up in the air like the anti-ETA demonstrators, to show that they are non-violent, against violence and against terrorists. But even doing this didn't stop the cops laying into people. They were all lined up in riot gear chomping at the bit to lay into the okupas. The father of one of the squatters, who had just been released, was screaming abuse at the cops, as he had been one of those who had fallen over and was in a lot pain. His daughter tried calming him down along with others. An unconscious girl was laid out in the grass in the middle of the Passeig (Promenade) well out of reach of the cops.

Another friend came up to me and we hugged one another to give each other support and show our solidarity. She had been hit really hard on her shoulder with a truncheon. There was blood on her hand, which she explained was form another friend who had had her head split open by the cops. Later when I saw this on TV I saw the censored version where a group of friends screamed wildly at the cops; one of them had blood pouring down her neck from the head wound; the others touching her head, showed their bloody hands to the police, who were just arrogantly ignoring them.

As if all this wasn't enough, when the ambulances arrived the cops started attacking the injured who wanted to go to hospital. They also refused to let many of the injured (30 in all) anywhere near the ambulances, let alone get in them, saying they weren't injured enough. Only two were allowed to go to hospital.

People regrouped to talk about what to do. The asemblea drew up a list of the injured with all relevant personal details on it, which is necessary to file a complaint against the cops. Others who were more hurt grouped together to go off to the hospital, they needed official proof from a doctor to sustain their complaints, as well as to treat their wounds. Not having transport we all walked off.

AT the hospital we were well treated, in every sense of the word. Nobody made waves about us, or about legal problems over medical insurance or being a foreigner. Gradually we all moved to the waiting room which we okupied, sitting on chairs, talking, some sleeping and passing around snacks and water. These attitudes of sharing and doing what we want surprised those in the hospital, both workers and patients. The atmosphere was good despite the fact that we were breaking all the normal rules of the hospital. Even the porters and security guards were friendly to us. This was bigger and better publicity for us than the "mass media of disinformation" who only gave the cops version. One comic moment was when an elderly woman with a crutch came into the waiting room. We gave up a seat for her, re-okupying floor space and that's when she asked what we were doing there. "The police have attacked us", to which she said "this is just like the okupas", to which the other burst out laughing. She explained that she live near La Princesa (the evicted cinema which was attacked by 200 riot cops and a helicopter in a battle lasting three and a half hours) and she described what she saw that day. After being seen by the doctors, people started leaving in groups. At the main entrance there was a group of squatters protecting the entrance, that is to say making sure that no more cops turned up to kidnap people. After La Princesa was evicted, one okupa was taken off to hospital, but as the ambulance was driven by cops he didn't get there, instead going to the main copshop. On every okupa demo there's always an ambulance wanting to come through, which we always let through, but what a coincidence.

People drifted off gradually but this was far from being the end of it. Those from La Vakeria (an old 18th century dairy) went straight to the town hall meeting in their area, L'Hospitalet. Those responsible for the eviction and demolition and subsequent police brutality were the mayor and politicians of L'Hospitalet. At the meeting the okupas claimed La Vakeria as being legitimately theirs, because "we have constructed it physically and intellectually".

Part of their communiqué which they read out was shown on one local TV channel. So people went off to their squats to protect them and continue their lives in as normal a way as possible, and to go to the incessant demos being called., two for that Friday night, and another for the following morning under the slogan "La Vakeria sigue, sigue, la lucha sigue sigue" (The Dairy keeps on keeps on, the struggle keeps on keeps on). We re-okupy, so it's a change of scene or place, but as the okupas say "You can evict our houses but you can't evict our ideas".

The same day as the unwarranted and cowardly attack on the squatter outside the courts, there was a demo against the temporary work agencies (ETTs). According to official figures most people leave these agencies' jobs after one month. This is probably because people are so hard up that 45000 pesetas a month (£90)seems better than nothing. So people accept the work and after one month drop it immediately realising that it isn't worth doing for the pittance they give and call a wage. It's not even subsistence wages. Rents in Spain are 30000 per month minimum, but normally are about 40-50,000, so people give up their time to have enough to pay the rent but nothing else. Eating, transport, going out, presents or even such basic things as clothes and household goods just don't come into it. The demo was called in Cornella, a working class area where there are lots of factories, most notably multinationals, e.g. Siemens, and has a lot of people in trade unions, albeit reformist ones like the Comisiones Obreras or UGT who always make pacts with the government, going blatantly against their own affiliates interests. They get paid a rate, per head, for every affiliate, given to them by the central govt, a pay off if ever there was one.

A few years back when the French government was attempting to introduce short term contracts, the youngsters at school from 16-19 in one of the Colleges/schools in Cornella had a banner hanging outside the school for ages saying that the French through constant rioting had succeeded in obtaining the withdrawal of this scheme. Therefore, they in Cornella should be doing the same. Just before last Christmas, the people from the same schools decided to call some demos against these agencies, the ETTs. It's normal practice on many demos in Spain top push the large green paladin bins into the middle of the road, take out useful material to lob at the cops and then set fire to them. On that occasion something of that sort happened, as well as attacking the ETT offices. As this went on for a while, one young lad was picked out by the cops, arrested and tortured and then released after a couple of days. He was rearrested and a confession was extracted which he signed naming himself and his mates as being those who had done this. Not being able to live with himself he committed suicide. A demo was called and a thousand people turned up, and it was attacked by the police with plain clothes cops looking to arrest people just like they had with the other guy.

As a reaction, the youngsters in Cornella called a general strike for one day in protest. AS there was quite a lot of publicity the cops did not attack them (then!). Not long after a hit squad went into the ETT office and set it alight with petrol and mollies, in plain daylight, with the office workers being told to leave. This made publicity; so when people saw posters for a demo in Cornella the same week s the full scale attack against the okupas, nobody had any doubts about the outcome. About 600 people assembled in the middle of Cornella and decided to march to another place where they would read out a communiqué. Once there the riot cops attacked them before they had time to read out anything. The major danger came from the 50 plain clothes cops inside the demo and about 6 people were arrested. They were taken off to a nearby building where they were placed in separate rooms. Shortly afterwards a group of 5 to 6 riot cops came in to give them a good working over. In the corner of the room the pigs already had the molotovs, rocket launchers, etc. to back up their charges against the accused. For this they could get sent down for a couple of years apiece. The propaganda work had already been carried out by the mass media saying that the okupas had called the demo, and this two days after the Sants demo where 17 were arrested for rioting, etc. The judges normally send down anyone brought before them by the cops, dismissing contradictory evidence saying they prefer to believe the word of a police officer. This had happened after La Princesa to an American who was teaching English in a private language school until 10pm, but the cops claimed had been rioting at 8.30-9pm. The judge rejected his underground ticket with date and time on it as evidence. Spain has progressed from Fascist dictatorship to banana republic.

The fly in the ointment for the authorities is that several of those arrested are CNT members. This is bad (for them) for two reasons. Firstly that there is a CNT and anarchist black out of information, except historical things, 1936 and all that. The CNT is now "historical", not exiting today and not having any relevance to people, places, events and life today. That's according to them! Secondly, the CNT is a legally recognised organisation, and so has a right to reply to anything published against it or its members by anyone.

When the press published the cops version, as always, the CNT handed over a personally signed communiqué giving its version of events to each newspaper. Some of them published it, albeit reduced, which gives publicity to the CNT and anarchist movement, as well as officially denying the cops version and therefore the version published by the press as well, showing them up as the lying shits they are.

The week after this onslaught against the okupas (and remember the okupas say "L*s okup*s somos tod*s, pero faltan l*s pres*s" - the okupas are all of us, but the prisoners are missing, i.e. not here with us) there was ten days of events organised by the squatters about he arrested and talking about what had happened. These took place from one end of Barcelona to the other, including the suburbs, and brings together all the cases of repression taking place around the city. The prisoners are 49 from La Princesa, 16 from the riot attacking the main copshop that same day; 17 from the Sants demo including the Aussie compañero who faces deportation from Europe for 5 years; 6 from the Cornella demo.

For more details and to support those arrested contact CNT, c/ Joaquim Costa 34, Barcelona Tel/fax 93 318 88 34

Obituary: Merle Austin Africa

In early March 1998, eco-revolutionary MOVE activist Merle Africa died in prison. As one of the MOVE Nine she was serving a 30-100 year sentence for a crime she did not commit having been framed by the Philadelphia Police in an attempt to silence the revolutionary voice of MOVE.

Despite knowing that she would probably die in prison, Merle was one of the strongest, most determined women I have ever known. Staunch in her belief in defence of life, all life, she always remained positive and focused. She never appeared bitter by her wrongful imprisonment, instead she turned her energies to compassion and support for others. When Merle found out that I'd been arrested under the Gandalf prosecution, she was quick to offer support and advice. Like all of the MOVE Nine, Merle was a staunch revolutionary. "MOVE's work is to stop industry from poisoning the air, the water, the soil, and to put an end to the enslavement of life - people, animals, any form of life."(quote from MOVE) With the death of Merle we have lost her inspirational voice and Chuck, Debbie, Janet, Janine, Delbert, Ed, Mike and Phil have lost their sister.

Obituary by Noel Molland (aka Rabbix)

For more information about MOVE read "A Quick Guide to MOVE" in BF209

Interview: Adil Rahman of Newham Monitoring Project

Newham Monitoring Project has been fighting racial harassment and police harassment in East London for 18 years - consistently running an emergency advice line, offering practical support to individuals and running campaigns. NMP has always been a grassroots community organisation and funding has come and gone. The withdrawal of funding and loss of its office more than a year ago had lead to rumours of its demise but Black Flag found NMP still going strong when we interviewed Adil Rahman.

BF: Tell us how NMP started

NMP: NMP was set up 18 yrs ago in 1980 following the murder of Akhtar Ali Baig - a young Asian lad. He was walking out of East Ham tube on his way home from college, where a group of skinheads had a £5 bet on who could kill the first "paki." Akhtar was the first black person they saw and they actually fought to get across the road - you know they wanted to win the bet - it was broad daylight - and they stabbed him through the heart for a £5 bet.

That was really the straw that broke the donkey's back - East London was the centre of the NF's programme and there was a lot of fascist activity. There had been many other cases - in 1978 the Viet brothers who had been working on their car outside their home were attacked by a group of fascists armed with iron bars and other weapons. The three brothers defended themselves while another brother inside the house called the police for help. The police came - allowed all the fascists to go, arrested all the brothers and charged them with affray! The charges were very serious and the brothers were imprisoned for between 3 and 25 years. This scenario of unprovoked attacks by fascists resulting in the arrest of the victims was a daily reality.

The other side of the coin to all this fascist activity was the police racism. There were 2 kinds of responses from the police to call outs from black people reporting attacks. You could get a brick through the window and wait four hours for the police to turn up - or they'd turn up immediately, allow the perpetrators to go and arrest the victims. (Today they may have learned the language of multi-culturalism but little has actually changed.)

So the community had had enough - the community leaders, the temples, churches and mosques got together and said look this can't go on - the response of the statutory agencies had been totally inadequate and we needed to do something ourselves. Racist and police attacks needed monitoring 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year and so the NMP was formed. It is very important to remember how NMP got started and why 18 years on we are still active and supported - NMP came from community politics - from the bottom up and not from the top down.

Following NMP's formation in 1980 there was the case of the Newham 7 which drew a real focus to Newham. A group of racists had been attacking kids at a local school - it had been going on for 4 months - the police had been informed, the school had been informed, the council had been informed - and nothing had been done about it. So 7 young men got together and said well if no-one else is going to do anything we will make sure you get home safely. They got to the school to find a group of men there - who turned out to be police officers. The fascists arrived, were allowed to go and all 7 of the lads were arrested.

>From this came the phrase 'Self Defence is No Offence.' We believe the community has a right to organise if no-one is going to protect them. There is a very distinct difference between vigilantism and 'self defence no offence' where you have been forced to say enough is enough - even one attack is too many - but here it was happening day in day out.

The case showed police racism on one side and local racism on the other side of the coin and NMP began to run the first emergency service in England offering immediate practical support and advice to people suffering from police and racial harassment.

We eventually got funding from the council but now have lost it again which, for a lot of people at the beginning, seemed a disaster but now its turned out a lot better. NMP only accepted funding on the understanding that it would continue be a political organisation - and how can you be a pressure group when you've got constraints? We always said we'd refuse funding if it came with constraints and we stepped on the council's toes and the police's toes one too many times which meant we were doing our job - but also meant that the council wouldn't fund us. It's over a year now since this happened and the office was burned down. We now have another office in Stratford and are going strong - the racism from the police and racism on the streets hasn't gone away and nor have we. We have less resources than before - but we're still there doing cases and campaigns. One of the things we are doing is helping to run the Stephen Lawrence campaign together with his family and the Southall Monitoring Group.

BF: Is NMP now all run by volunteers again?

NMP: Yes purely by volunteers which again shows the basis we have in the community. This is the difference between NMP and a lot of other organisations and why we've survived so long. We said look we're not going to parachute in, stay a couple of weeks, get a bit of media attention and then go and let the black community face the backlash. We've maintained that we would be there 24 hours, 7 days a week whatever happened.

BF: Did you have to build up the trust from the community or was it always there from the beginning because the people who started NMP were people who lived in Newham?

NMP: I think the reason why the community got so involved in NMP was firstly that racism was such a big issue and we got things done. NMP's work forced Newham Council to be the first council in the country to adopt a racial harassment policy - unfortunately now the policy simply acts as a buffer and has little effect - black people now get moved out and the racists stay.

A lot of people came to NMP after they'd hit brick walls everywhere else - they'd go to the council and say what was happening and nothing would be done, the same with the police and eventually they'd arrive at NMP. We not only provided practical advice but also said - together we will do something, we will change things. That's why we have such firm roots in the community - what we say is what we do. We try to channel people's anger as a community to achieve change.

For example in Second Avenue there were fascists terrorising a whole community - NMP put the black families in touch with each other - because after all they are there day in day out and if they link up to become a strong unit you know that not only will you be able to solve the problem for that day but you can also solve it for future - that's why community politics is at the core of every thing we do.

NMP have always maintained that the problem isn't a lack of laws - there's a thousand and one laws against racial harassment - but the problem is the implementation - its no use having hundreds of laws if the first one isn't put into practice. Newham councils racial harassment policy is perfect on paper but when it comes to putting it into practice and putting their money where their mouth is you realise that, to them, its just a piece of paper in a drawer and it's just not good enough. Its weird looking back 18 years ago to remember fascists openly walking the streets. It's so different now; now the police are the main problem. A year and a half ago 6 people died in police custody - Ibrahim Hussain died in the police yard at Forest Gate police station, handcuffed on the floor surrounded by 6 police officers and then sprayed with CS gas - you can't talk anymore about one rotten apple in a barrel - your talking about a police force that is rotten to the core. NMP have dealt with hundreds of police harassment cases over the years and not one police officer has ever been sacked for racial harassment. One Asian man was arrested and he had a tape recorder on him - he taped the arrest. The two officers from Forest Gate police station racially abused him and you could even hear them slap him on the tape - they threatened to take him around the corner and shoot him - gave him the whole works. We put in a police complaint and the police officers had to admit what they'd done. Their punishment was to have one day's pay docked from their pay packet! The Police Complaints Authority is a joke - it's police officers investigating police officers - it hardly inspires confidence.

Overall NMP think there are two strains of racism - the racism that discriminates in recruitment, education, the media etc. and in East London you have the racism that kills - that's the difference - that's why NMP is here - it is such an issue.

BF: Can you tell us a bit about the Dray family

NMP: Yeah - to understand this case you need to look at policing in East London. The stations are huge - they are not there to solve crime - they are there to contain, to police, the community. The one in Forest Gate is like a fortress - it's built to say 'here we are; don't mess around' and they drive around in TSG vans and riot vans - as if black people were rioting daily.

The fact that Paul Condon says that say 80% of muggers are black shows that its not just a few police officers on the ground but it goes right the way through. The Home Office's own figures show that black people are 7 times more likely to be arrested than white people; when they get arested they're more likely to be charged; when they go to court they're more likely to get convicted and on conviction the sentences are longer for black people than a white person in exactly the same position.

So this is the sort of policing black people get in Forest Gate - but equally this is the sort of policing that white working class people get in Canning Town and Custom House - they face the same sort of assaults and harassment. We are a black organisation, and the Drays' case was the first that NMP took on for a white family - but it was so, so important. This was a family who were very well known in Canning Town - they were big in their community. A lot of people had reservations - but you can't just go into a community and tell them not to be racist - you'll only get alienated. Policing was an issue that linked both communities - this inroad was well used by us and I think we did a really good job.

The Dray family's case was amazing - it centred around Lee Dray a 17 year old boy. The police had been driving around Canning Town and Custom House harassing local youths. In the same way that black youths are stereotyped as drug users, muggers, illegal immigrants etc., the white working class kids in Canning Town were seen as burglars, drug users, criminals. The police were randomly picking up kids - slapping them around and assaulting them. Lee Dray couldn't even walk from his house down the street to a friend's - he'd been attacked on numerous occasions by police officers. One police officer with 8 complaints of assault against him was still on the same beat.

Eventually one of them took the skin off one side of Lee's face - the pictures we took were horrific - they put his face to the ground and scraped it against the tarmac until the skin had gone - and the police officer responsible, PC John Fortune, is still there at Plaistow Police station. We took the police to court and won - the evidence against the police was upheld. But there's always a price to pay with the police - they charged Lee Dray with assault and disturbing the peace - so not only was he victimised but also criminalised and that's very, very important - they criminalise a whole generation and that's what policing today in inner cities is about - containment. For NMP the case was very successful because we made inroads into the white community and could address issues around fascism - the white community was much more receptive to our ideas after the Dray case and we were able to make links. The same social issues that were effecting the white working class community were affecting us and divided communities don't get anywhere. We needed to be united in order to fight for social justice.

Another important case was the Tower Hamlets 9 defence campaign. Derek Beacon had just been elected, the BNP were rampaging through Brick Lane and this young lad, Quddus Ali, was attacked. These fascists put his head on the kerb and took turns to kick it. He was in a coma on a life support machine and to this day he cannot eat without help. There was a vigil outside the hospital for Quddus and the average age of the kids on the vigil was 14 - 15 yet the riot police attacked them. After the incident they randomly drove around the borough, picked up 5 kids and charged them with riot - only four of them were arrested at the vigil but the police needed 9 defendants to make a charge of riot stick - it's a very serious offence carrying a maximum sentance of 10 years. NMP did the campaign for the Tower Hamlets 9 - highlighting the fact that the police had done nothing to arrest the people who attacked Quddus Ali despite ample evidence of their identity . The problem is that you want to trust the police - that's who you ring when you're attacked but you can't have faith in them. I should have no fears about walking past a police car - but I do - when I walk past a cop car I think to myself 'God I hope he doesn't get out, hope he doesn't stop me, hope he doesn't search me or push me around'. It's no coincidence that 80% of black people and women joining the police leave within a year and that top police officers think Bernard Manning an appropriate entertainer for their staff events.

BF: you talked about the Quddus Ali campaign and the Tower Hamlets 9 - but are there no organisations like NMP in Tower Hamlets or in the rest of the country?

NMP: There is CAPA in Tower Hamlets - a civil rights organisation - which is a good organisation but civil rights can be anything. I think what is needed in Tower Hamlets is a group solely concentrating on racial and police harassment. Also in our 18 years of campaigning the NMP have never sat at the same table as the police - how can you when you have seen injury after injury inflicted by the police on the bodies of the people who come to us for help? But groups like CAPA are part of the "multi agency approach" (where statutory and voluntary agencies including the police meet to deal with racial harassment issues) and we have problems with this. We feel that it's a talking shop and the council and police can use it as a buffer. Newham had an amazing structure for dealing with racial attacks and harassment - but what did they do? They simply employed black race officers - somebody would get attacked, come into the council office, see a black face and they'd become a buffer between the victim and the local authority and nothing changes.

What's worse is that when the council stopped NMP's funding they gave the money to an organisation called ALERT who deal solely with racial harassment issues in Newham and not policing issues. Incredibly, ALERT is run by ex-police officers from Stoke Newington. So the issue was never money - the authority were uncomfortable with our stance on policing. ALERT is a 9-5 organisation with no roots in the community. Three weeks ago I found 2 swastikas painted in white paint outside my house and I rang ALERT to report it. The worker on the other end of the phone didn't even know what a swastika was! Even when I said it was a Nazi symbol this didn't ring any bells with her. She said she'd get someone to phone me back and an hour later a man called me to ask me about some 'frosty stickers' outside my house! I put my head in my hands and thought this is a borough where in the local elections 19 BNP candidates were standing - leafleting every weekend - and the local racial harassment outfit do not even know what a swastika is. It's scary. In a borough where a black single parent could be housed with known fascists as neighbours - the local agency that should be helping her did not have even a basic understanding of what fascism is.

Issues have changed in the last 18 years and racism used to be high on the agenda. It isn't anymore. Local authorities and the police have now learned the language - they've learned to shed crocodile tears but will not do anything. Policing has become a very controversial subject and none of the political parties want to touch it. Law and order is a big vote catcher. Somewhere like Chigwell the style of policing will be completely different - local bobby on the street - but you don't get that in Newham. In Newham black people stopped for a faulty wing mirror will be asked to show their passport. That's what it is to be British for a black person at the moment and only an independent community organisation will speak out about these things.

BF: If someone was to try to set up a group like NMP from scratch, what advice would you give them, particularly as many anarchists are increasingly seeing the need for working in small groups within their local areas.

NMP: Southhall monitoring group is an example of another group like us and there are a few others. NMP has 18 years of experience now and we've made a lot of mistakes, along the way. We've not been perfect but experience is invaluable. We'd be happy for people to phone us or talk to us about setting up their own group. But most importantly you need to be part of the community where you want to work. People like the SWP who go in and leaflet for a week, put up posters everywhere and then piss off achieve fuck all. In fact I think it does more damage than good. As soon as they go away, black people in that area get attacked - they're left to face the backlash.

BF: Yes, I remember friends with black children on the Isle of Dogs during the BNP election campaign who said that they couldn't go out after the ANL had been around. If the ANL had been around on a Saturday then the BNP would be around all night and they would be housebound - they got no support and felt that the ANL acted as if the local community didn't exist - wouldn't talk to them unless it was to recruit.

NMP: Yeah that's true. NMP has always maintained that you have to deal with fascism ideologically, politically and physically. So if they leaflet - we leaflet - it is important to make sure there is no platform for fascists - if they're on the street, we'll be on the street. You can't allow them to have that space. So in Newham, where fascist activity is strong - 3 or 4 years ago they were 66 votes away from getting a councillor - you have to work within the community. The worst thing you can do is walk into a community and say "don't be racist" and walk away - you have to talk and work with them. Of course for me the only good fascist is a dead fascist, fine, but any campaign has to have staying power and has to politicise people. Once a community is politicised they will always be able to fight back.

BF: One of the problems is that, especially in London, it is hard to feel rooted in your local community - you move to a neighbouring borough and you're an outsider! We may feel a part of our own little ghetto but don't even know our neighbours.

NMP: You've got to work from the bottom up - the fascists do this, they're clever - they go to tenants' association meetings and other small community meetings and manipulate them. There is no left any more and people need to start from scratch and make links wherever you can. There is a problem with people becomming more and more isolated from each other and this has to be tackled. BF: So its a question of starting small and tackling things that you can definitely achieve and working from there - the opposite of what a lot of big left groups do which is to start with a lot of razzmatazz and noise.

NMP: Take our emergency service for example - we have 80 volunteers all from the community. They give an evening once a month and will do it. That's where our strength lies - in our volunteers. We only had 3 or 4 workers, but look what we achieved - local and national campaigns and we could only do it because of the support in the community. And of course it took time to build up - NMP were fortunate (if you can put it like that) in that a lot of black people were experiencing the same problems and needed solutions. You're not talking about passive victims. These people had been fighting racism from day one and had the tools - they know what they are dealing with. It's important not to stand in front of people saying "I'll lead you to the promised land", but to say "we'll stand side by side and deal with it together".

BF: If someone phoned your emergency line and said there's five people attacking my home - what would you do?

NMP: We'd phone the police, but also we have a telephone tree which we use to get volunteers down there to support the family. I don't want no favours from the police, I just want them to do their job. You need people there to protect the family from police indifference or worse. Of course, you end up sometimes with the police acting true to form and nicking the NMP volunteers that turn up rather than going for the attackers.

BF: Do you ever get problems with people treating you as experts and expecting you to work miracles? You said that you try to get people to link up and support each other, but do you get situations where people start to treat you like you're the council? Where they ask you to provide the solutions rather than for support in fighting back?

NMP: The basics of everything we do is empowerment and to be honest - none of these people are passive victims, they've all fought back. The stereotype of the timid Asian woman hiding behind the window is bullshit. The problem is that when you do fight back you get nicked. People do ask us what we can do - and we are honest about the limitations of some courses of action. We'll write letters to the Police Complaints Authority or to the council but admit that it is unlikely to result in any action. We say it's important to do it so we can say that we made x number of complaints and nothing was done. Our reputation and history show people who come to us not to expect us to act like the council but to work with them and not for them.

BF: Would you be prepared to come to a meeting of people wanting to set a group up?

NMP: Of course. We'd love for other similar groups to be set up and to make links with them. Its even more important now. Now we've got this Labour government - for years working class people have been waiting for a Labour government to get in and suddenly they've been shat on. We are very worried about a fascist backlash and we know that the government won't do anything for us - they won't provide shit. It's a problem we are going to have to deal with. But policing is, for us, the biggest issue at the moment. Today a case came in where 3 riot vans raided a house, armed with CS gas, and arrested a bloke who had done nothing. Another case that came in recently was a priest that had been raided and assaulted in his home! Most people wouldn't believe this could happen. The Stephen Lawrence case really epitomises the state of policing in this country at the moment. The police are the front line of the state and the state is racist - for me policing is the most forceful manifestation of the state. They are fully armed. Their uniform is a licence to kill. The gap between the community and the police is bigger than ever before. The role of policing in inner cities is to make sure that people stay in their ghettos and are contained.

People in the inner cities are nothing to politician, nothing to the police. Black lives are cheap and working class lives are cheap, that's why NMP has always been a race and class organisation. It is important to make links between working class communities, working class black communities, and anti fascist organisations in the fight for justice. That's NMP's politics and for me, this is where it's at.

NMP can be contacted at PO Box 273, London E7 telephone/fax 0181-555 8151

Interview: Bob Ritchie, former Liverpool dockworker

At the recent Social Justice March in London, we took the opportunity to talk to Bob Ritchie, former Liverpool dockworker, about the War on the Wharfies and any lessons to be drawn from it.

BF: The Liverpool dockers coined the term "the world is our picket line!" and survived as long as you did by tremendous international support. What have you been able to do to help the wharfies?

BR: There were Liverpool dockers out there before the attack on the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA). What's happened there is a carbon copy of what happened to us in 1989, deregulation. The same thing is happening in Japan. The ship owners and stevedoring companies are looking to Australia as part of a move for a global attack on dock industries.

I was in japan to hear Jane Kelsey, a professor from New Zealand, talk about what had happened with trade union laws there. It was if the UK trade union laws had been exported.

Capitalism is global, and there's no reason why workers can't be global. The problem with many Trade Unions is that the bureaucrats at the top aren't prepared to fight. As one of our lads said at a meeting recently, there's a cancer slowly spreading over the world, and the only thing we have to fight with is each other.

BF: What's your opinion of the MUA?

BR: They've been absolutely superb, and even the ITF (International Transport Federation which groups transport unions internationally) in the Pacific Rim have been good, though we couldn't get that kind of response from them for us in Europe. Another thing is that the MUA haven't risen to the intimidation, neither did we. When you see how prepared the police are, like in the recent Reclaim the Streets in Birmingham, you see how one sided a picket line could be.

BF: The MUA has been taken to court over the boycotts happening internationally. What's your opinion of this?

BR: It's nothing to do with the MUA, I would have thought if there was a legal case it would be against he American unions showing solidarity. It's an out and out attack to smash a well organised union by any means.

BF: Could the ITF be attacked?

BR: The ITF should be leading the way. If they had been taken to court here, their head office is in London. They could have moved it to a country not covered by English law. They could move every week if needs be. They need to show more backbone, if you look what happened to the shipping industry, where thousands of jobs were lost.

BF: Do you think it's likely that anti-boycott and secondary action clauses will be put into world trade agreements?

BR: They will possibly use these, we can be sure they'll attack in any way they can. They are out to smash organised workers in any way they can. The whole system is against the working class.

I think the days of mass picketing are over - different ways and directions need to be found, such as what we did in targeting directors homes and trying to shame them. We need to keep control ourselves - all the while our dispute was unofficial we were OK. If it had been official Morris would probably have forced a deal on us within a few weeks. What we need is officials who are elected, not appointed. They should be accountable, and only paid an average wage, it's disgraceful that they're on £40,000 plus a year.

BF: Will the wharfies win?

BR: Yes. It will be very difficult, but they have the will to win and the international support.

BF: What can anyone reading this do?

BR: Anything! The world is our oyster, and if there's a will anything can be done, though at times it may not look that way. Each individual can change things and collectively we can do more.

Interview: IWW Shop Workers

We recently heard of that the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) had managed to establish a job shop in Hampshire, and took the opportunity to interview Ray Carr, the IWW delegate involved, recently.

BF: Can you tell us where the IWW has organised?

RC: I work at the Co-op Retail Services in New Milton. There are 30 workers in all, 6 are now IWWs and USDAW (reformist shop workers union) have about the same.

BF: The Co-op traditionally had a special cosy relationship with the USDAW, who survived from the checkoff of union subs from there. Was this a factor?

RC: It was part of the reason, but although USDAW are very into social partnership, the majority of its members these days are in companies like Tesco.

BF: The IWW is explicitly anti-capitalist, was this an issue for the other workers who joined?

RC: The whole issue took off when management proposed to open the store till 10pm. Myself and one USDAW member opposed it and after speaking to the other workers there, there was 100% opposition. We organised by putting in a collective grievance and holding a meeting. At the meeting it was agreed that nobody would sign new contracts, which we expected they might try to impose on us, and that if any pressure was put on an individual, the others would support them. I took both IWW and USDAW membership forms to the meeting. As things carried on, there was the danger that USDAW (who had done nothing) would take the credit and get members. I explained about the IWW, the major factors in people joining were the low dues, the fact that there are no paid officials and the internal democracy. Five people joined, making a branch of 6 including myself.

BF: What was the response of management?

RC: On the 10pm opening issue we had one meeting with the Human Resources Manager. We told him that the grievance could only be called off by the whole workforce, s it was the meeting of all the workers there who had decided on it. The issue has not been mentioned since.

BF: Do you see more members joining?

RC: I see it as an ongoing campaign, not just in the co-op but in the retail industry generally.

BF: What help could our readers give to support what you're doing?

RC: The best way to help is to promote a different type of unionism as I've outlined above, which is what we all should be doing.

Review: "Parliament or Democracy?"

by Kevin Doyle, published by the WSM, PO Box 1528, Dublin 8, Ireland. £2

This comprehensive, well written pamphlet is one I would recommend. It traces the evolution of the idea of democracy, what anarchists mean by the term and how the State uses it to have a completely different meaning. The roots of modern democracy lie primarily in the 18th century, with the revolt against those born to privilege which was the French revolution, and from where most modern European political ideas and movements can trace part of their ancestry. At school, we are always presented with a straight black and white question whenever there is a great historical moment. In this case, it is the absolute monarch against the people. Obviously, the 'people' are the good guys (no one these days who isn't an absolute monarch or an eastern mystic believes in divine right). But what's never mentioned is that the "people" aren't a homogenous mass, and contain both the would be new ruling class (the bourgeoisie) as well as peasants, artisans, workers and so on. They can all use democracy as a rallying cry, but the bourgeoisie put a number of conditions on it - property ownership and sex being the main ones.

The pamphlet goes on to address how workers organising was sidetracked into Parliamentary politics, and why as anarchists such parliamentary antics are the antithesis of our politics. An examination of Labour Parties records in power shows just how dismal was the failure of early socialists who trod that first step on the chimera of the Parliamentary road to socialism. A quick look at many countries around the world quickly shows that "democracy" as most people would understand it is not practised anywhere at a governmental level.

It would have been very easy to end the pamphlet with that, a survey that shows up how far from democracy Parliament is. However, in closing, Doyle puts forward the anarchist alternative to Parliament, what we can really call democracy, and looks at the mechanisms of democratic control developed during the Spanish revolution.

Review: African Anarchism

Written by two Nigerian anarchists, members of the Awareness League, the book contains a useful potted history of anarchist theory, a sideswipe at the failure of "African socialism" and asserts that "the process of anarchist transformation in Africa might prove comparatively easy, given that Africa lacks a strong capitalist foundation, well-developed class formations and relations of production, and a stable, entrenched state system." Given the comrades' own experience of the vicious resilience of the military in propping up the status quo in Nigeria, this seems more than a little naive, particularly as the book's only suggestions as to strategy in this regard are for a "long term program of class consciousness building, relevant education and increased individual participation in social struggles."

Nevertheless, the book is particularly illuminating in detailing anarchist precedents in African communalism, drawing on past work by such writers as Walter Rodney in How Europe Underdeveloped Africa. In traditional African societies "communities produced surpluses of given commodities which they exchanged, through barter, for those items they lacked. The situation was such that no one starved while others stuffed themselves and threw away the excess." The authors examine the "stateless societies" of the Igbo, the Niger Delta peoples and the Tallensi, based on extended family structures, clan societies and village councils.

They refer favourably to the writings of the Tanzanian Marxist Julius Nyerere and his concept of Ujamaa, "familyhood"- "rural economic and social communities where people live and work together for the good of all, their governments are chosen and led by the peasants and workers themselves." The authors establish that the Ujamaa model "failed because it degenerated into state control over the peasants. Through its bureaucrats and technical assistants, the state started to dictate to the peasants what to do and what not to do, what to produce and what not to produce. Soon, too, the World Bank and other aid donors hijacked the program." Equally, the authors are clear that, contrary to some in the anarchist movement, rural subsistence is not a positive alternative to state socialism; that what African people require is "equality and an end to extreme want." The book is a genuinely provocative and exciting contribution to the development of an anarchist movement in the struggle for liberation in Africa. In welcoming it, however, we should not be blind to its weaknesses. The decolonisation of Africa took place under the banner of the battle for national independence. Given the arbitrary nature of so many African nation states, this was merely a flag of convenience for the comprador bourgeoisie. The book makes brief reference to the way in which ethnic tensions are used to undermine opposition across Africa, and notes that the roots of communal hatred often lie in an arbitrarily created ethnic/state consciousness. It posits class consciousness as the solution without looking at how ethnic consciousness can be drawn down the road of class awareness. In particular the authors give no consideration to ideas of Pan-Africanism, or to the concept of African Inter-communalism as put forward by the Panthers in the 60s and taken up by groups such as Black Autonomy now.

Equally, while scathing about the past failures of state socialism in Africa, the authors are silent about those who don't quite fit the mould. The book gives no consideration to the methods of organisation of Polisario, whose militias and structures, in war conditions, are organised along libertarian lines. Nor does it consider the intiatives of the Eritrean Peoples' Liberation Front, which has managed to cohere a society of nine different ethnic groups, and make genuine efforts towards the liberation of women; has land under community control, dams built, millions of trees planted and civil society slowly rebuilt with minimal centralisation of powers. Unless anarchists (and not just in Africa) are able to develop a critical but supportive relationship (i.e. real solidarity not just words on paper) with libertarian left movements engaged in real struggles - and this applies as much to the EZLN in Mexico as to the EPLF - we will forever be assigned to the roles of holier-than-thou carpers and backbiters, rather than seen as those most stridently engaged in the battle for liberty and equality. The Awareness League, we should remember, began, in their own words as "a leftist coalition composed of marxists, trotskyites, human rights activists, and leftists and radicals of various persuasions, and only cohered as an anarchist current in 1990, following critical analysis and debate over the collapse of Eastern European state socialism." As they moved, so others will follow, but not if we make the precondition for support of ongoing struggles wholesale ideological adherence to our flag above all. As Afuerke Isaras of the EPLF noted, "Third World societies should come out with new theories about their 'socialist' transformation."

Letter: Back to Looking Inwards - again

The notion that anarchist ideas are so hot and the continuing conundrum as how to make anyone give a monkeys changed up a gear this May as the hordes gathered in Bradford to discuss how to get noticed. Maybe it's too much to ask for a summary and conclusion of the events, discussions and rants which took place - the whole four days were massive, with unknown hundreds turning up - however it's perhaps a little too convenient an excuse to avoid giving a personal view of what happened in Bradford.

The build up to Bradford '98, the pre-event debates, saw a lot of unlikely characters sitting down and discussing what they thought to be their differences, the very notion that these people could be found in a room trying to make sense of it must have shocked some into tragic pathos. This possibly was the most exciting part, but to be fair they all speak, or at least understand the same language. The admission from some anarchists that the claim that all is well in the anarchist is in fact a myth, shows a healthy level of critical analysis - something anarchists are good at-although this reality hasn't hit home for some, and the myth goes on.

London Smoke

With arguably the most anarchist activity and the strongest concentration of self-aware anarchists in the country, London is home to the perpetuation of this myth. With enough numbers and smart-arses in each camp to keep a sectarian war going, the rest of the anarchist groups around the country have to make sense of their disenfranchisement from the ordinary people, whilst attempting to peddle pages of bitter infighting included in anarchist propaganda all of which is based in London. The very fact that in London the two closest aligned libertarian organisations, the ACF and SolFed, seem to spend every opportunity in putting each other to the test, or chastising for some ideological wrong doing, speaks volumes.

Perhaps one benefit of not having as many people in the libertarian communities outside London is being able to step back and examine the real differences and what is actually being said to each other. It may strike people on the periphery that it's just a case of language and attitude as the greatest obstacles.

Into the ghetto

The eighties were blighted by individualism and arguably inconsequential single issue campaigning, sometimes a thousand years form most people's interests. Political correctness was rife, for some people everyday conversation changed forever. Anarchists were found taking up the cause for the likes of veganism and using it as a moral club to beat , and to score points against fellow comrades. The 90s backlash against all that pointless hot air was harsh, though overdue. And although too much could not have been expected of Bradford 98, some of those attitudes were inevitably present. It's not that libertarian ideas are crap, it's the libertarians. If they're not beating each other up with words they're jumping down other people's throats for sounding un-PC. But to be fair, the past ten years have seen interest in class struggle libertarian ideas progress in leaps and bounds, though not at the expense of the ever busy DIY attitude. Recently there have been attempts by class struggle anarchists to claim the direct action eco movement as a prodigal son returning to its roots and embracing class consciousness. Possibly true for some, though an awareness of genus over class seems to be de rigeur for most eco activists. The argument that there have been recent examples of association between everyday people's struggles and eco activists holds very little water. The DIY scene is presented by hopeful anarchists as radical, united and collected, one step away from joining a class struggle federation. Anyone can pass on views on pieces of paper on behalf of the eco movement in just the same way anyone can form opinions about that movement by the people from within it they speak to, and there's some would have you believe the Liverpool dockers were nothing bar manure for trees. Language. (?? -Ed.)

More hot air

Rather than set up any list of people who libertarians, especially class strugglers, should be speaking to, let's just enjoy speaking to each other for a while; smaller miracles like speaking to people outside anarchist circles may one day happen. Go Bradford!

In Solidarity Arthur T.S.Jackson

Comment: While we found some of these points valid, it's not true that all the anarchist press is centred in London. Direct Action is based in Sheffield, Subversion in Manchester, Counter Information in central Scotland, Taking Liberties has recently moved to Sheffield. Similarly, the description of the behaviour of London ACF and SolFed in London leave at least this writer bemused.

Anarcho-Quiz

1. In 1904, the French psychologist Alfred Binet was asked to devise a way of measuring which children needed special help in French schools. He rejected the view that his test could identify the cause of those special needs, and was particularly scathing of those teachers who used an assessment of irremediable stupidity as an excuse to avoid the “special effort that such students require”. What happened to his test when they were imported into the English speaking world?

Answer Choices:
a: It was used to justify racial discrimination.
b: It was used to allocate resources in a fair and equitable way.
c: It was used to filter applicants to 'The Price is Right'
d: It was used to determine the IQ of people applying to join

2. In what way might the British royal family be descended from elves?

Answer Choices:
a: The queen mother is an elf.
b: The family name was changed from Elvenberg (meaning 'of elves') to Windsor (when being German was not fashionable).
c: They are related to a medieval Italian political faction, the Guelph from which the word 'elf' derived.
d: In the 15th Century, people used to believe that the King had god-given powers, known then as 'elvine'.

3. There are two individuals whom some claim are anarchists who have been commemorated on British stamps. Who are they and for what were they commemorated?

Answer Choices:
a: Mohandas Gandhi and Guy Faulks.
b: William Blake and William Morris.
c: Mohandas Gandhi and William Morris.
d: Guy Faulks and Albert Meltzer.

4. Which fictional character, which far more claim to anarchism, and whose creator is an anarchist, was featured on a British stamp in 1990?

Answer Choices:
a: Dennis the Menace.
b: Minnie the Minx.
c: Rhubarb
d: Midge (The mouse from Mary Mungo and Midge)

5. Why do the grammarians in the anarchist movement get annoyed when younger comrades write about celebrating Mayday?

Answer Choices:
a: They need to get out more.
b: Because it should be marked, not celebrated (until all authority has been overthrown).
c: It should be spelt 'May Day'.
d: It should be spelt - M'aidez!

Correct Answers:
1: a

They were vulgarised as the Stanford-Binet test in the United States, and were used to assign places in society, i.e. blacks at the bottom, followed by recent immigrants from Latin and Slav countries and with white Northern Europeans at the top. Apologists for the tests claimed that someone’s position in society was a “natural” effect of their intelligence, rather than to do with racial and social discrimination. Similar arguments were used in Britain as a justification for selective education.

2: c

Dr Johnson quotes the derivation of the word elf as being from Guelph, a political faction in medieval Italy (and the word goblin from their rivals the Ghibellines). The names of the factions originated in Germany, and the Guelph dynasty reigned in Hanover until 1866. The British royal family is descended from the House of Hanover.

3: c

Mohandas Gandhi was featured on a stamp in 1969 to celebrate the centenary of his birth. While the likes of George Woodcock claim Gandhi was an anarchist, they are really confusing anarchism with pacifism, and at best Gandhi was only a tactical pacifist.
The libertarian communist William Morris explicitly stated he was not an anarchist, even though he worked very closely with anarchists in the Socialist League. He was recognised in 1982 for his contribution to textile design. The Post Office refused to commemorate the centenary of his birth in 1996.

4: a

Dennis the Menace was featured in a book of “smiles” greetings stamps.

5: c

It gives them a chance to show off their pedantry by making the point that May Day is the First of May, celebrated as International Workers Day, while Mayday is the international distress call derived from the French “M’aidez!”, meaning “Help me”.

A Brief Interview with an IWW organiser, 1998

Black Flag interviews Ray Carr, an IWW delegate at a job shop in Hampshire.

We recently heard of that the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) had managed to establish a job shop in Hampshire, and took the opportunity to interview Ray Carr, the IWW delegate involved, recently.

BF: Can you tell us where the IWW has organised?
RC: I work at the Co-op Retail Services in New Milton. There are 30 workers in all, 6 are now IWWs and USDAW (reformist shop workers union) have about the same.

BF: The Co-op traditionally had a special cosy relationship with the USDAW, who survived from the checkoff of union subs from there. Was this a factor?
RC: It was part of the reason, but although USDAW are very into social partnership, the majority of its members these days are in companies like Tesco.

BF: The IWW is explicitly anti-capitalist, was this an issue for the other workers who joined?
RC: The whole issue took off when management proposed to open the store till 10pm. Myself and one USDAW member opposed it and after speaking to the other workers there, there was 100% opposition.
We organised by putting in a collective grievance and holding a meeting. At the meeting it was agreed that nobody would sign new contracts, which we expected they might try to impose on us, and that if any pressure was put on an individual, the others would support them. I took both IWW and USDAW membership forms to the meeting. As things carried on, there was the danger that USDAW (who had done nothing) would take the credit and get members. I explained about the IWW, the major factors in people joining were the low dues, the fact that there are no paid officials and the internal democracy. Five people joined, making a branch of 6 including myself.

BF: What was the response of management?
RC: On the 10pm opening issue we had one meeting with the Human Resources Manager. We told him that the grievance could only be called off by the whole workforce, s it was the meeting of all the workers there who had decided on it. The issue has not been mentioned since.

BF: Do you see more members joining?
RC: I see it as an ongoing campaign, not just in the co-op but in the retail industry generally.

BF: What help could our readers give to support what you're doing?
RC: The best way to help is to promote a different type of unionism as I've outlined above, which is what we all should be doing.

This interview was conducted on a march in 1998 for Black Flag #214.

An open letter to the IWA from SAC, 1998

An open letter from a member of the Malmö local of the SAC to members of the IWA about their relations as well as anarcho-syndicalism more generally.

An open letter to all members of the IWA.

The 1997 Spring issue of Black Flag (BF) carried an ambitious article written under the pseudonym "Peter Principle" (PP) titled "What is anarcho-syndicalism?". One of the main threads running through the piece was the threats to anarcho-syndicalism posed by what he termed anarchist vanguardism on the one hand and libertarian reformism on the other. It also contained an in depth analysis and criticism of the IWA and of certain decisions of it's 20th congress held in Madrid December 1996. The effort to deal critically with the subject deserves much respect and praise. Although BF is not a house journal of the IWA or any of its sections there are obvious close couplings as shown in the text and it is the nearest thing to open in-house criticism, by that I mean the greater house where IWA, like the SAC, is also a dweller. It must be mentioned that syndicalism in Sweden is synonymous with revolutionary syndicalism. There are few who deny that our roots share the same soil as anarchism, which in itself is at face value deceptively simple and difficult to define.

The article also contained judgements and sweeping conclusions regarding the SAC that I felt needed to be clarified. But I also felt that it wasn't enough just to refute misconceptions about the SAC but what was, and still is, needed is an effort to start a dialogue that will hopefully lead to an end of tensions and the beginning of co-operation between all syndicalist organisations, both inside and outside the IWA.

Peter Principle's article can serve as a starting point and I hope this contribution will carry it forward despite my present personal frustration with our collective legacy.

But first some thoughts on black Flag itself. I remember BF as a spitting, irreverent, puerile rag. An anarchist paper "with an attitude", smug, muckraking and a spreader of malicious gossip and lies about the SAC and anybody else who fell foul of it's editors. BF itself was part of the seemingly eternal problem of rampant sectarianism.

Without Borders
I had moved to Sweden early in the 80's, joined the Malmö LS (Lokala Samorganisation) of SAC and, years later, met with two members of BF at the SAC's 1990 international meeting "Without Borders" in Stockholm. I had recently become more involved in international questions and together with comrades in the Southern District of SAC had started our own international committee. The legacy of SAC-IWA problems was something we saw as crucial to resolve if syndicalism was to grow internationally. One of the BF observers (who was also an active member in DAM) was invited to the podium. What he had to say had a subtle but significant effect on many of us in the SAC, not least those of us from the south. He started by offering an apology, not for the shit that BF used to spread but for the fact that he had come loaded with prejudice and preconceptions that he sought to verify. His apology was met with honest applause and he confessed if not to a change of attitude but at least to a nuanced picture of the SAC. In light of the concern we had for the future of international syndicalism we felt it was a quiet but non the less significant change that presented itself. Afterwards in the coffee-break I fell into conversation with an elderly Englishman who also started to apologise for having said things that he now regretted. Bewildered I had to ask him who he was, Albert Meltzer was the reply and the penny dropped. Here he was, the man behind the poisoned pen. Our conversation finished with him promising to set the record straight in the next issue of BF. This I felt was concrete progress and that now there was some hope of moving international relations forward. Nothing ever came of it though as BF's next issue came three years later. I suppose though Albert did make some amends in his autobiography where he has favourable things to say about us.

A door opens....and closes
Another opportunity to bridge the gap was when the SAC received a letter from Pepe Jiminez, the IWA secretary, early in 1994. Here, in my opinion, the SAC fumbled the ball. The letter came to SAC's international committee asking them to explain the form of SAC's involvement with the unemployment benefit scheme, if we employed "officials" and our view of the background when SAC and IWA parted ways in the 50's.

The committee was puzzled and even suspicious as they had answered time and time again those same questions from the Spanish camp and wondered if it was yet another stage of a slander campaign. I felt more inclined to interpret his letter as an effort to raise the (IWA's) discussion on the SAC to a factual and objective level and that this offered an opportunity to move things forward. I had been elected as International secretary at our 1994 congress and by the time I, as international secretary, answered his letter and signalled our wish to bridge the gap the moment had passed. Pepe was no longer in the arena and the new people were rabid anti-SAC. (Although I never received an acknowledgement of my reply some individuals in the SF later referred to it, terming it "inadequate", but then nothing short of sackcloth and ashes would do for some).

During my work as international secretary in the SAC (late summer 94 to summer 98) I have written to counteract some of the wildest possible allegations published the CNT paper, some so absurd that I was even embarrassed on their behalf. Not one of my letters was ever even acknowledged let alone published. A formal greeting to the IWA Madrid congress was never mentioned, this contained a clear wish that the IWA congress should drop the prohibition against contact with the SAC and that we were open to deal with any and all issues of contention with any appointed body of the IWA congress. I strongly suspect the CNT and the IWA have a special wastepaper basket with our logo on it.

As I understand it though the IWA congress decided to appoint a commission to "investigate" the SAC. Well no matter what the wording it would offer an opportunity to create some forum for dialogue. An invitation to the SAC's congress (June 1998) offered the chance to come and see us at work, talk to SAC activists and get a first hand impression but again it seems that this is not a high priority.

Same old attitude?
Peter Principle tones down at least the former "in you face" style that used to be the hallmark of the BF but the stripes are hard to wash out all he same.

While he doesn't define "libertarian reformism" in the beginning of the article he later states and I quote "....the SAC now firmly established as a reformist union dispensing welfare to workers of behalf of the state in the Swedish mould". He further states that"... SAC's pluralist political policy leads it to seek international relations with any union or political group who will deal with it and plead innocence when it causes offence". Such sweeping statements insinuates a refined and fiendish nature.

PP "strongly suspects" that if the SAC had offered assistance to only one side in the Spanish conflict i.e. those who eventually retained the initials CNT then "the original dispute would have been regarded as an irrelevance". This flatters neither the SAC or the CNT, as if the real problems can be resolved by the buying and selling of favours and graces. The problems are at bottom differences in ideological and applied syndicalist praxis and not a question of who is friends with who.

Neutrality
The SAC's position on the split in Spain is one of neutrality, we hold that they both should join together. In the present bitter circumstances this seems unlikely and from a quick perusal of "cnt" and "rojo y negro" it is the former that acts as the mud-slinger, based on simple observation.

When Franco left the scene and literally hundreds of thousands of potential members of CNT rallied in Barcelona the SAC was one of the first to take the entire contents of its Spanish solidarity fund down to Spain to aid in the reconstruction of the union, a fact conveniently forgotten.

When after the de-facto split we were approached for a loan to aid organisation in the workplace by the "renewers" it was granted after much discussion in the SAC. One of the provisos being that a loan would also be made available to the other group if the need arose. It didn't change our policy of neutrality. I will admit that it muddied the waters as PP states, no less than the actions of others in this whole sad story. PP's labelling CNT-R as the "the phoney, reformist organisation is equally ludicrous as the definition as the other group as being entirely "Leninists"

If you get close to dog-fight you invariably get bitten and there are few who haven't been scarred by these events.

The Spanish conflict casts it's shadow on syndicalism internationally as PP rightly points out but the negative effect is greatest on the domestic front. The split in the syndicalist movement into CGT-CNT followed by further breakaways and exclusions have caused tens upon tens of thousands of potential members to shun the arena altogether. The growth of the CGT must be ascribed to their pragmatism and organisation and not superciliously written off as "reformism and class collaboration". The diminishing numbers and shrinking workplace presence of the CNT cannot be continually blamed upon enemies, saboteurs, the police or alleged international conspiracies instigated by the SAC. Of course the Spanish establishment has no wish to see a strong syndicalist organisation in it's midst and it would be naive to ignore it's capacity and willingness to upset its' efforts to re-consolidate. But the CNT's/IWA's degree of fear, conspiracy theorising and what can only be termed as outright paranoia is out of all reasonable proportion and is in itself the greatest hindrance to organisational development.

Beep and Drive
It must be remembered that one of the bones of contention between the IWA and the SAC in the 50's was the ban on tactical freedom which the SAC did not accept and still holds to be an important element in any true con-federal agreement. The system of works councils are unknown here in Sweden (the reformist unions partake in compromising bodies though) and the SAC lacks a coherent analysis of this growing European phenomena. The Swedish establishment has it's own recipe to include and disarm or exclude and demonise militant workers. To counteract rank and file militancy in the 70's and the diminishing control the reformist unions had over it's membership new labour legislation was introduced, the classical bone to the hungry dog trick. The bosses were now obliged to inform before introducing major changes and hiring and firing procedures were regulated granting more job security to waged workers. The SAC were not alone in calling this the Beep and Drive legislation. Previously the bosses just drove over you now they had to beep the horn first. The introduction of legislation covering labour relations caused a shift in the role and work of the SAC officials, the so called ombudsmen, away from studies, agitation etc. to concentrate more on giving legal expertise.

Anyway what I am getting at is that the SAC by using negotiations and legal paragraphs to push for better wages, conditions can hardly be accused of class collaboration. It is an accusation that should be reserved for just class collaboration and not as a fancy slogan to sling around willy-nilly. Relying on legislation is often the only alternative when you are a single syndicalist on a work-place. Furthermore because of our numerical weakness and the lack of our own structures for mutual aid, the state often offers some defence against the arbitrariness of the bosses, this is for the whole of class. This is not said as a defence for the existence of the state apparatus, it remains the evil twin of capitalism. The preoccupation in some IWA circles of classical anarchist anti-state actions clouds the fact that it is capitalism at the workplace we as syndicalists have chosen first and foremost to combat. The abolition of the State as we know it will come about subsequently as we build our own institutions to distribute wealth and welfare

Goals and tactics, offence and defence
Quite simply is it not so that if we are numerically strong, well organised and motivated we can gain ground with or without legislation, based on our own strength. When we are weaker we are forced into defensive manoeuvres that are covered by a different set of rules.

The SAC has an ultimate revolutionary goal, to change society through the workers take-over of the means of production. Or as it reads in our declaration of principles the "SAC, is a syndicalist workers movement whose goal is the realisation of libertarian socialism in which the means of production are the property of all, and are administered by the workers, thereby creating the conditions for a classless society". Noble, modest but clearly revolutionary.

We do not reject reforms as such and this stance cannot be construed so as to define the SAC as inherently reformist as PP argues. Rather we are inherently revolutionary but on the defensive. As soon as SAC sections establish themselves on a workplace they have constantly shown a degree of militancy and, even more important, a flair for imaginative combative actions, that often attract more timid work-mates to their ranks. I also challenge any section of the IWA to claim that they have a higher degree of democratic culture and transparency than the SAC, no matter what their size. All employees and elected functionaries enjoy the same wages and their roles and responsibilities are clearly mandated and all are answerable to the congress. We don't have any privileged garnishing, golden handshakes or informal hierarchies. In fact a mention of SAC activity in a job application is definitely no advantage. That said the SAC is not a perfect organisation, much always needs to be done, that is part and parcel of the project. This sounds unnecessarily self-righteous but is not meant as such, its just an ill concealed pride in an organisation that the world would be a poorer place if it didn't exist.

McCarthyism
The growth from small propaganda groups to gaining a foothold in the workplace is the most important and long-awaited event for IWA sections in modern times. It is something to be welcomed. Glitches and teething problems need to be nurtured and helped along. The behaviour of the IWA regarding the CNT-F and USI-It. is unfathomable. PP would agree that the IWA is it's own worst enemy pure and simple. An internal atmosphere of fear that can only be called a form of McCarthyism is rampant and destroying the democratic processes and inner culture that is a prerequisite for any solidarity organisation. It is the greatest tragedy since the crushing of syndicalism by the Fascists. It is vital that the IWA sets its house in order and joins the upswing for revolutionary syndicalism where it is sorely needed and not locked up in some ivory tower.

The SAC itself has it's own set of problems, a passive membership or rather members that choose to be active in other ways other places in society, daily union chores that are far from the romantic utopia we all long for. Mauled by or excluded from the mainstream press and dogged by a slowly diminishing membership. This in itself increases the burdens on those who active.

Some relevant points
The terrain between the SAC and the IWA is littered with twisted theories that prevent us from coming to grasp with the real problems facing revolutionary syndicalism in a changing world.

Let me try and make clear SAC's position regarding the relationship to the IWA.

Firstly we do not seek to form a new International. This is reaffirmed time and time again at our congresses.

Secondly, the SAC does not lie still but actively seek co-operation with libertarian socialist, direct democratic or otherwise fighting trade unions which work independently of political parties, nothing at all odd in this, at best we serve a good example and this only strengthens syndicalism. We are especially concerned with having good relations with ideologically related organisations. There is no conspiracy behind this wish but a firm belief that if revolutionary syndicalism is to have a future we must all learn to deal with our problems and differences in an open and mature fashion. This is a precondition for all co-operation.

The SAC does not propose itself to be the perfect workers organisation and we continually seek to improve the democratic structure so that it might serve as a tool in the shaping of a future libertarian socialist society. We do not propose to dictate our way upon others nor do we engage in defaming our libertarian sister organisations.

There is the palpable risk that sooner or later the continued false allegations, like a self-fulfilling prophesy, will force the SAC membership to write off the IWA further paralysing the future of syndicalism. let us tackle the points at issue in an open fashion.

Dialogue
The vacuum between the IWA and the SAC serves as a hot bed for malicious rumours. This vacuum is our common and at present greatest enemy. It prevents dialogue and the mutual enrichment of all.

We all have a responsibility as individuals, as groups and as organisations, to actively work for some kind of normalisation in communications that will allow us to eliminate false conflicts and allow us to clearly define and deal with what just might be real differences.

There is no one true path, no single formula, dogma or model which limits our struggle for emancipation. The very idea of practical and direct action includes the possibility of wrong steps. The dynamism and pragmatism of revolutionary syndicalism leads to the possibility of learning from our mistakes and of course from our successes. Let us create a forum for dialogue and eliminate malicious rumours. Let us make a serious effort to resolve our more real and difficult problems and show that both we can meet the challenge and shake this stone from our backs and get on with the work of changing society. For this end I am always ready.

Yours in solidarity

Kieran Casey

member of Malmö LS of SAC
and formerly SAC's international secretary (1994-1998)

C/o Malmö LS, Box 175 75, 200 10 Malmö, Sweden.
Fax: +46-40- 30 61 76. e-mail: malmo.ls@sac.se

PS

Running the risk of finishing on a sourer note it but would be less than honest of me to omit the following. I have noticed new allegations directed against the SAC from the IWA secretariat itself, not, as before, from some influential individual. The accusations concern a conference on something called municipal libertarianism (or Libertarian municipalism?) in Portugal. I have never heard of the term nor is the SAC involved in this initiative. The SAC has no position, neither positive nor negative on this matter. Why the IWA secretariat writes as it does in an accusatory fashion is beyond me. I leave the matter in your, the readers, hands. KC

Review of "African Anarchism"

A review from Black Flag 214, published in 1999.

Written by 2 Nigerian anarchists, members of the Awareness League, the book contains a useful potted history of anarchist theory, a sideswipe at the failure of "African socialism" and asserts that "the process of anarchist transformation in Africa might prove comparatively easy, given that Africa lacks a strong capitalist foundation, well-developed class formations and relations of production, and a stable, entrenched state system." Given the comrades' own experience of the vicious resilience of the military in propping up the status quo in Nigeria, this seems more than a little naive, particularly as the book's only suggestions as to strategy in this regard are for a "long term program of class consciousness building, relevant education and increased individual participation in social struggles."

Nevertheless, the book is particularly illuminating in detailing anarchist precedents in African communalism, drawing on past work by such writers as Walter Rodney in How Europe Underdeveloped Africa. In traditional African societies "communities produced surpluses of given commodities which they exchanged, through barter, for those items they lacked. The situation was such that no one starved while others stuffed themselves and threw away the excess." The authors examine the "stateless societies" of the Igbo, the Niger Delta peoples and the Tallensi, based on extended family structures, clan societies and village councils.

They refer favourably to the writings of the Tanzanian Marxist Julius Nyerere and his concept of Ujamaa, "familyhood"- "rural economic and social communities where people live and work together for the good of all, their governments are chosen and led by the peasants and workers themselves."
The authors establish that the Ujamaa model "failed because it degenerated into state control over the peasants. Through its bureaucrats and technical assistants, the state started to dictate to the peasants what to do and what not to do, what to produce and what not to produce. Soon, too, the World Bank and other aid donors hijacked the program." Equally, the authors are clear that, contrary to some in the anarchist movement, rural subsistence is not a positive alternative to state socialism; that what African people require is "equality and an end to extreme want." The book is a genuinely provocative and exciting contribution to the development of an anarchist movement in the struggle for liberation in Africa. In welcoming it, however, we should not be blind to its weaknesses. The decolonisation of Africa took place under the banner of the battle for national independence. Given the arbitrary nature of so many African nation states, this was merely a flag of convenience for the comprador bourgeoisie. The book makes brief reference to the way in which ethnic tensions are used to undermine opposition across Africa, and notes that the roots of communal hatred often lie in an arbitrarily created ethnic/state consciousness. It posits class consciousness as the solution without looking at how ethnic consciousness can be drawn down the road of class awareness. In particular the authors give no consideration to ideas of Pan-Africanism, or to the concept of African Inter-communalism as put forward by the Panthers in the 60s and taken up by groups such as Black Autonomy now.

Equally, while scathing about the past failures of state socialism in Africa, the authors are silent about those who don't quite fit the mold. The book gives no consideration to the methods of organisation of Polisario, whose militias and structures, in war conditions, are organised along libertarian lines. Nor does it consider the initiatives of the Eritrean Peoples' Liberation Front, which has managed to cohere a society of nine different ethnic groups, and make genuine efforts towards the liberation of women; has land under community control, dams built, millions of trees planted and civil society slowly rebuilt with minimal centralisation of powers. Unless anarchists (and not just in Africa) are able to develop a critical but supportive relationship (i.e. real solidarity not just words on paper) with libertarian left movements engaged in real struggles - and this applies as much to the EZLN in Mexico as to the EPLF - we will forever be assigned to the roles of holier-than-thou carpers and backbiters, rather than seen as those most stridently engaged in the battle for liberty and equality. The Awareness League, we should remember, began, in their own words as "a leftist coalition composed of marxists, trotskyites, human rights activists, and leftists and radicals of various persuasions, and only cohered as an anarchist current in 1990, following critical analysis and debate over the collapse of Eastern European state socialism." As they moved, so others will follow, but not if we make the precondition for support of ongoing struggles wholesale ideological adherence to our flag above all. As Afuerke Isaras of the EPLF noted, "Third World societies should come out with new theories about their 'socialist' transformation."

Black Flag 215 (1998)

Issue of the London-based anarchist magazine Black Flag from the 1990s.

Contents

IWW Organising

On 20th August I got a call from Mark Harper to say that he had quit his job 3 seconds before being fired. He said it was a spur of the moment thing.

I drove over to Wrafton, a village on the edge of Barnstaple on the coast of rural north Devon ahead of the meeting and talked with Mark.

We arrived at the church hall just before 4 p.m. to be met by fws Veronica Clanchy and Ray Carr from the South Coast, and also met the President of the local trades council who had been giving Mark some support but who turned up to the meeting with the intention of recruiting to TUC affiliated unions (he had already been to IWW members homes to persuade them to join TUC unions rather than the IWW). Just before the meeting was about to start there was a bit of a commotion outside - we had the spectre of the factory owner (and local Conservative Party big wig) and his personnel officer seeking entry to the meeting. We told them they were not welcome to attend a private workers' meeting and escorted them from the premises. (No violence or restraint techniques were used). However they hung around the hall and this stopped a number of workers from coming to the meeting out of a sense of fear. We decided to turn the screws on them by photographing their pathetic attempts to bust our union.

When I told the meeting what had happened I got a cheer and applause! Not something I am used in an IWW meeting. Anyway there were 40 workers at the meeting despite Mark's dismissal making advertising difficult.

The TUC rep went first saying how important it was for workers to be in unions so that they could get individual legal representation and support in the event of an accident. He went on to say that the workers should join one of three unions MSF (Manufacturing Science and Finance - a supervisors union), AEEU (Amalgamated Engineering and Electrical Union - skilled maintenance workers) and TGWU (Transport and General Workers - for production workers). He said that being in an affiliated union was very important, but didn't say why and then said that the IWW offered some opposition to the TUC. First thing I did was point out the absurdity of the workers in one factory being split into three unions. I then explained how the IWW was indeed different from the TUC in respect of membership control, cheaper dues, with half remaining with the local branch, no political affiliation, all three TUC unions are affiliated to the governing party, no paid officers, with volunteers carrying out all the work of the union, including negotiations, individual representation, and taking cases to industrial tribunals no insurance and benefits how we were based on industrial unionism, transnational, and mentioned our organising efforts in the US, Canada, Australia, Germany, etc, and that we believed that bosses and workers had nothing in common. I asked a couple of times if the workers controlled their own factory would they run it like it was run?

I also said that as a union we would not abide by this country's crushing anti union laws and that if members wanted to break the law collectively that is what we would do.

There followed a lively question and answer session and the meeting finally broke up after an hour. Everybody there took an application form and many took multiples to distribute around the plant. A couple of workers came to the meeting on their day off and some had travelled many miles to get there.

We agreed to organise a training course for those who wanted to become union delegates and shop stewards. A couple after the main meeting and said that there had been a slow down in the plant after Mark's termination and, rather than put people off they had been galvanised.

We waited till 6.30 just in case any night shift workers wanted in but no one else came, however it transpired that someone had been signing up twilight and night shift workers anyway.

The next day Mark phoned with some good news. The workers had decided collectively to go IWW - They will become the Wrafton Pharmaceuticals branch of the Chemical and Pharmaceuticals Industrial Union 430. They have elected delegates to get things going and are already working on a set of demands to put before the boss. The first is outright recognition and they want to get membership up to 50% (200 workers) quickly. They have pages of grievances and at the moment seem very buoyant.

A very successful time was had by all and it certainly has given me a lot of inspiration for the future. If nothing else it proves that we have the right message and can organise even where there is TUC opposition.

Why am I so surprised that we can be this successful? I don't know. I read over the weekend that only one in five UK workers in the private sector were unionised and that the trade unions were having a hell of a lot of trouble convincing workers of their relevance. Having seen the TUC presentation I can see why. Maybe just maybe we are on the verge of something good.

Kevin Brandstatter IWW -UK

Send solidarity greetings to: Mark Harper 17 Barn Park, Wrafton, near Barnstaple, Devon EX33

The Barrel of a Gun

In his 1998 analysis of the US financial system, "Wall Street" (VERSO), Doug Henwood gives us a brief tale of his experiences as a worker in a Manhattan brokerage; "One morning, riding the elevator up to work, I noticed a cop standing next to me, a gun on his hip. I realised in an instant that all the sophisticated machinations that went on upstairs and around the whole Wall Street neighbourhood rested ultimately on force. Financial power, too, grows out of the barrel of a gun."

August 1998 gave us three illustrations of how gun law capitalism works.

The collapse of the Russian economy caused a ripple of panic amongst Western financiers when the Russian Central Bank suspended conversion of the rouble into dollars and declared a 90 day moratorium on paying $10 billion of short term debt. A surprisingly nervous editorial in The Economist (surprising because Russia has such little economic weight anyway) noted "the sickness that started in Asia is spreading still, claiming victims far beyond its source. Investors cannot find time to count their mounting losses, so busy are they trying to guess where the plague will strike next. The recent (and mainly downward) gyrations in stockmarkets bear witness to the new surge of fright and confusion - and to mounting concern that the turmoil in emerging markets will end in world-wide depression."

The dismantling of state capitalism in Eastern Europe heralded a new order of low wages, mass unemployment and corporate asset stripping. Integration of the former Soviet economies into the global economy meant the expropriation of land, labour and resources and the reduction of living standards to Third World levels. Eastern Europe became a playground for speculative capital. Multinational corporations have rushed in to take over Russia's reserves of oil and natural gas. A 1994 Guardian article noted "The hundreds of millions of dollars spawned by Western aid programmes have mainly benefited the Western companies which headed East to board the aid gravy train." A 1996 International Monetary Fund loan of $10 billion was linked directly to the privatisation of agriculture and the ending of human service and fuel subsidies. The Guardian's economic editor, Larry Elliott, interviewed by Tribune, summed the mess up: "they've been told to stick with free-market "reforms" when workers and pensioners have not been paid for months. Output is about half of what it was when communism collapsed. Things are much worse in rural areas and large chunks of the economy are operating on the basis of barter. They were told "just get on top of inflation, shut down all your inefficient factories, throw loads of people on the dole and when you've done all that we might give you some money."

Russia does almost no trade with the United States, and precious little with the European Union. So why the panic? Simple. As the Canada-based economist Michel Chossudovsky observed (The Globalisation of Poverty-Third World Network 1997) "The movement of the global economy is "regulated" by "a worldwide process of debt collection" which constricts the institutions of the national state and contributes to destroying employment and economic activity. In the developing world, the burden of the external debt has reached two trillion dollars; entire countries have been destabilised as a consequence of the collapse of national currencies, often resulting in the outbreak of social strife, ethnic conflict and civil war." IMF sponsored reforms are used to regulate labour costs to establish a "cheap labour economy." Debt has become the prime medium for the transfer of wealth from poor to rich, whether through servicing external debt from Third World to First, or the use of tax revenues to service public debt, while handing out, at the same time, tax breaks and subsidies to big business. The end result, as Larry Elliott comments, is "all market constraints have been taken off. The ability of a shock in one country to affect another and ricochet round the world has become immense over the past 20 years.".

As capital becomes more voracious in its pursuit of global profits, so it becomes more exposed. It is this that has made the financial pundits start to panic. "As for the sentiment that it is not merely the international capital market but the basic principles of capitalist economics that need to be questioned, one can only despair that the thought has even surfaced." (The Economist 5/9/98) The threat of Russia's proposed moratorium on short term debt and Malaysia's leader Mahathir Mohammed announcing controls on cross border flows of capital, "a kind of financial autarky", as the Economist put it, made the penny drop. The bubble won't burst if no-one bursts it!!!

In August 1998 the US launched air strikes against targets in Sudan and Afghanistan. The ostensible justification was retaliation for bombings of US embassies allegedly carried out by Muslim activists under the direction of Osama Bin Laden. This is bullshit. There is no clear evidence of any link between Bin Laden and the embassy bombs. Support for Bin Laden grows with every US action. Even accepted on its own terms, the military strike reeks of hypocrisy given that the US is the main defender of Israeli aggression in the Middle East at the United Nations. (In 1996, when Israel attacked a civilian refugee camp the US blocked any attempt at condemnation by the UN Security Council.)

The real basis for US military sabre rattling against the "threat of Islam" is neither defence of secular virtues nor of its territorial integrity. It is the fear of "financial autarky"- that the nature of Islamic regimes such as the Talibhans is such that they are likely to attempt to resist incorporation into the global economy on the terms set out for the Latin and Eastern economies. The cruise missile strikes were a shot across the bows for any government in the region considering the option of doing anything other than rolling over and playing dead for the IMF.

Similarly, in the aftermath of the Omagh bombing by the Real IRA, Tony Blair moved to pass "emergency legislation" which amounts to the backdoor introduction of internment. Part of the reason for this was to show a clenched fist to the nationalist community should they consider rejecting the dubious carrots of the Belfast Agreement. The legislation, however, went much further, by including provisions for convictions of groups conspiring to commit "terrorist acts" abroad. Obvious targets for this arm of the legislation include dissident groups in the UK who dare to oppose "friendly states" in the Middle East - such as the Egyptian oppositionist Arab Observation Centre and the Advice and Reformation Committee which aims to expel the US from Saudi Arabia. The demonisation of Islam dates from the 1970s oil crisis, when the Arab oil producers asserted their economic clout against the US. The new legislation is part of the same process.

Whenever and wherever someone rocks the boat, the "sophisticated machinations" of capital disappear and the gun barrel is produced. The panic of the last few weeks should serve to show us how easily the boat can be rocked. Moreover, the increasing globalisation of capital has left it vulnerable and over exposed. Chossudovsky has, correctly argued that there are "no technical solutions to this crisis" - that the globalisation of poverty requires co-ordinated international resistance by our class. "What is at stake is the massive concentration of financial wealth and the command over real resources by a social minority...The "globalisation" of this struggle is fundamental, requiring a degree of solidarity and internationalism unprecedented in world history. The global economic system feeds on social divisiveness between and within countries. Unity of purpose and world-wide co-ordination among diverse groups and social movements is crucial." We have, still, a world to win.

Knowle West Riot

Coming only weeks after the massive police mobilisation brought out to prevent "mob violence" at the Reclaim the Streets demonstration at Easter, Bristol police were thrown into complete disarray when Broadbury Road police station in Knowle West was attacked by a huge crowd of rioters.

Bottles, bricks and petrol bombs were rained down on police lines and the station following a protest over released child killer Sidney Cooke.

Only days earlier residents in St Pauls had protested angrily at the idea that Cooke should be housed in a bail hostel there. When it was alter rumoured that he had been taken to Broadbury Road, local residents came out to voice their objection.

After receiving no hint of confirmation or denial form the police that Cooke was being held there , tempers boiled over when officers in riot gear started lining up outside the station. Heavy handed police tactics coupled with their unswerving arrogance was all that was needed to tilt the protest into full scale conflict.

Residents from all parts of Knowle converged on the station and gave full vent to their anger. The arrival of police reinforcements along with dogs and more vans served only to inflame the situation . Local residents were having none of it. In the ensuing riot 46 officers were injured, windows in the station smashed and several cars set alight.

Police had plainly forgotten how quickly a community can react against them. The following day police spokesmen moved swiftly to lay the blame upon "outsiders" and the catch-all rentamob. Failing to explain just who these "outsiders" and "mob" were. The same mob they vowed but failed to stop at the Reclaim the Streets demo perhaps ?

By the large number of Knowle West residents choosing to riot a number of messages were delivered. Particularly that out on the council estates there is still a genuine hatred of the police that can be ignited at any moment: That places like Knowle can only be dumped on for so long before reacting. That there are common links between the black working class of the inner city and the white working class of the estates. That the liberal bleaters calling for "calm" and "tolerance" are hypocrites in that none of them are offering child sex killers a place to stay in their homes and communities. And amongst the dross of the media reportage- the sparkle of class war summed up by one resident's quote: "Why doesn't he go to Clifton or Sneyd Park- but I don't suppose there is any chance of that ?"

[ Bristle Box 25,82 Colston St, Bristol BS1 5BB ]

Prisoners: London Class War

From 1995-96 Class War subscribers in prisons rose to around 200. Issue 67 was banned by the prison service and prisoners often had to fight to receive copies. Good contacts were built up by many of the CW groups. With the "review process" this stopped and, with no paper coming out, contacts inside prisons have been lost. London Class War are trying to build up the class war prisoners network .Class War is still free to prisoners. They want to work with ABC and others, including ex-class war members, who believe in the ideals of prisoner support work. All class war prisoners, those interested in, or breaking, the law can contact Class War Prisoners at PO Box 467, London, E8 3QX

Gandalf Three, the state nil

On 23rd July 1998 the Gandalf Three had their conviction for conspiracy to incite persons unknown to commit criminal damage contrary to section 1 (1) and (3) of the Criminal Damage Act" quashed by Court of Appeal.

It was ruled by the court that the original charge was badly worded as it said "Criminal Damage" but quoted the section of the act that refers to Arson and where a charge of arson is made the specific word arson may be used.

The Court also ruled that because the original trial judge did not tell the jury they had to be sure we had incited people to carry out arson as well as criminal damage there had been a fundamental misdirection. The convictions were quashed unconditionally.

Hopefully this will hasten the collapse of the charges that continue against Robin Webb and Paul Rogers.

This is a real victory for the three defendants but because the convictions were quashed on a technicality suing the police is not a real option. The court did, however, not rule that reporting direct action cannot be an offence. The absurdity of this is that if, for example, we reported that on 8/8/98 the words "Scum" and "Class War" were painted on the London HQ of the Countryside Alliance this could, in the terms of the original charges be incitement. So everyone's learnt their lesson then.

Decline and Fall of the First International

This text comes from the book "Bakunin: The Philosophy of Freedom" by Brian Morris, published by Black Rose (but we believe out of print). In this chapter Morris looks at the decline of the International and Bakunin's conflict with Marx.

Between the Basel congress of the International in 1869 and the end of 1871 there had been a great growth of the International in both Italy and Spain, largely due to the influence of Bakunin. In 1870, at a general congress in Barcelona one hundred and fifty societies from thirty-six regions constituted the Spanish Regional Federation and adopted as their statutes those of the Jura Federation (drawn up by Bakunin). Thus, while the International was experiencing a marked decline in membership in the industrial countries, particularly in Britain where Marx lived, it was expanding in the Latin countries in leaps and bounds. And, wherever it was spreading it was doing so, as Paul Thomas writes, "under the mantle of Bakuninism." 1 Thomas even hints that Marx's "The Civil War in France" was a calculated move, using the symbolism of the Paris Commune to reunify a disparate movement. But there was little awareness at that time among most adherents of the International of the doctrinal differences separating Bakunin and Marx - except in Switzerland. And it was in Switzerland that the latent schism between two very different concepts of socialism - Marxism and collectivist anarchism - first began to be articulated in institutional terms.

At the end of 1869, Nicholas Utin arrived in Geneva and in January 1870, as Bakunin was leaving for Locarno, Utin established himself as an editor of L'Égalité. Utin had an intense dislike for Bakunin and soon took every opportunity to denounce him as an advocate of Pan-Slavism - though Bakunin had long since abandoned his nationalist tendencies. A Russian exile like Bakunin, Utin also began to spread the old rumour that Bakunin was a Tsarist agent. Later that same month, January 1870, Utin organised a Russian section of the International in Geneva - in direct opposition to Bakunin's Alliance - and applied to the General Council in London for recognition. He also asked Marx, who he addressed as the "Venerable Dr Marx", to become the representative for Russia on the General Council. Marx found all this rather strange but seems to have accepted the proposal especially as Utin mentioned that it would be among the tasks of the new section to publicly "unmask Bakunin." Thereafter, Utin continued to supply Marx with a steady flow of information, or misinformation, about Bakunin and played a considerable part in poisoning relations between the two men, although Marx had long harboured quite unfounded suspicions that Bakunin was simply a political intriguer out to "wreck" the International. If anything, Bakunin did far more to expand the membership of the International than did Marx himself, who had little influence on the English trade unionists. Significantly, after having helped to destroy the International, Utin made his peace with Tsarism, returned to Russia and ended his days as a wealthy government contractor. 2

In April 1870, the annual congress of the Federation Romande, consisting of sections of the International in French-speaking Switzerland, was held in the little town of La Chaux-de-Fonds in the Jura. Utin took the opportunity, in Bakunin' absence, to launch a bitter personal attack on him, quoting from Nechaev's "Revolutionary Catechism" to imply that Bakunin recognised neither justice nor morality and that he was essentially a nihilist. This all arose in the debate regarding the application of the Geneva Section of the Alliance for admission to the Federation. Guillaume spoke in defence of Bakunin and the Alliance was admitted by a majority vote. This led to a virtual split in the International in Switzerland with the Geneva sections under Utin following Marx and the General Council, while the Jura sections became fervent supporters of Bakunin. James Guillaume and Adhemar Schwitzguebel were leading members of the latter group, which became known as the Jura Federation. The General Council eventually agreed to accept both the Geneva Federation and the Jura Federation as affiliated bodies of the International. It is important to stress that this split represents a genuine disagreement within the International between the libertarian and State socialists. G.D.H.Cole expressed this cogently. He wrote:

"This conflict of views was not the outcome of any "conspiracy" either on Bakunin's part or on that of Marx. It arose out of real differences both in attitude and in the character of the movements of which the International was made up. Bakunin and Guillaume, and the Spanish and Italian leaders, did carry on increasingly active propaganda against Marx and the General Council; but there was nothing particularly conspiratorial about it, unless one counts Bakunin's habitual tendency to give his most commonplace activities a conspiratorial tone. Marx for his part, intensely irritated by what he regarded as the unrealistic folly of the anarchists, had developed an aggravated form of conspiracy-mania which led him to see the entire anti-authoritarian movement as a sinister conspiracy directed against himself. 3

The conflict between Marx and Bakunin, however, came to a head in the sham conference of the International held in London in September 1871. Given the widespread support for Bakunin and his anarchism among the Internationalists in Spain, Belgium, Italy and the Jura, it was clear that Marx and the General Council could only defeat him by upstaging him. 4 The London conference was therefore largely a private and secret affair. It consisted only of the General Council and invited guests, almost entirely partisans of Marx. Two delegates were invited from Switzerland - Utin was one, but none fro the Jura Federation, only one from Spain and none from Italy. Because of the war, Germany had no delegates and France was represented only by refugees, mostly Blanquists. The dice, as E.H.Carr put it, were well and truly loaded against Bakunin. Besides implying that anarchism was almost a heresy and forbidding the formation of separate sections, one of the most important decisions taken by the conference was to declare the necessity for workers to form their own political party, independent of bourgeois parties. With the complete absence of the anarchists and the support of the Blanquists, this was easily carried.

The Swiss groups of the International, all Bakuninists and hostile to Marx, immediately organised their own conference at Sonvillier in the Jura in November 1871. Bakunin could not attend, and the leading spirits of the meeting were Guillaume, Spichiger and Schwitzguebel. They immediately repudiated the London decisions, refusing to recognise that the London conference was a properly constituted organ of the International. They denounced the autocratic powers assumed b the general Council and called for the reaffirmation of an International that was composed of a free federation of autonomous sections rather than one governed by a General Council. The congress produced the "Sonvillier Circular", which demanded an immediate congress of the International to debate its structure. The circular was sympathetically received not only in Span and Italy, but also Belgium. As a result, the General Council was obliged to announce a congress at the Hague in September 1872. It was clear that this meeting would prove to be an important encounter between the Marxist and anarchist (i.e. Bakuninist) sections of the International. as it turned out, it proved to be the last real meeting of the First International.

The Sonvillier Circular was a critique of the basic doctrine formulated by the General Council of the International, namely the importance of the "conquest of political power by the working class." The circular counterposed this doctrine with the notion that a social revolution should involved the "emancipation of the workers by the workers themselves" and that:

The future society must be nothing else than the universalization of the organisation that the International has formed for itself. We must therefore strive to make this organisation as close as possible to our ideal. How could one expect and egalitarian society to emerge out of an authoritarian organisation ? it is impossible. The International, embryo of the future society, must form now on faithfully reflect our principles of federation and liberty, and must reject any principle tending toward authority and dictatorship. 5

Bakunin enthusiastically welcomed the Sonvillier Circular and devoted his energies to actively propagating its principles. Marx responded to it by issuing, as a circular from the General Council, a pamphlet entitled " Fictitious splits in the International." it was printed in Geneva and sent out to all sections of the International. It outlined Marx's own views on Bakunin, and his opinion of events surrounding the formation of the International Alliance of Socialist Democracy. Marx was critical of Bakunin on a number of grounds : his advocacy of total abstention from politics; his attempt to create and "international within the International" thereby creating confusion between the programme of the International Working Men's Association (identified with Marx's own ideas) and Bakunin's makeshift programme; his assertion that making the International an embryonic egalitarian society would only weaken the organisation in its fight against the exploiters. Marx seems to have seen Bakunin's Alliance as a kind of sectarian organisation like those of the early utopian socialists, which could only inhibit the formation of the International as a "militant organisation of the proletarian class of all countries." He also saw the various radical manifestos by Bakunin as "verbiage" which would be useful in promoting the aims of the reactionaries, the implication being that one shouldn't publish radical manifestos in case they upset or helped the bourgeoisie. Yet Marx's pamphlet indicates an underlying ambivalence, for he wants to believe that the splits in the International are all of a "fictitious" nature and that the Bakuninist groups are "sham sections" that have either no reality or are small cliques composed not of real workers but of "lawyers, journalists, and other bourgeois doctrinaires". This coming form a man who studied law at university, earned a living as a journalist (as well as being supported by Engels) and whose whole lifestyle was thoroughly bourgeois. Marx was also obsessed with the idea that Bakunin was an intriguer who intended to replace the General Council with his own personal dictatorship. Guillaume and other supporters of Bakunin found Marx's pamphlet full of personal slander. Bakunin is said to have described it as a "heap of filth".

The all-important congress at the Hague was duly held in early September 1872. Sixty four delegates attended the congress, the majority of whom were supporters of Marx, for the Italians had decided to boycott the meeting. In August 1872 , the first national congress of Italian Socialism was held in Rimini and there formed an Italian Federation of the International. The congress denounced the "slander and mystification" of the General Council, and Marx's "lust for authority". and therefore resolved to break all solidarity with the General Council. It proposed "to all those sections who do not share the authoritarian principles of the General Council to send their representatives to Neuchatel in Switzerland for the purpose of opening..... (an) anti-authoritarian congress". 6

Bakunin, who could not attend the congress, lost much of his support at the congress, and only six delegates, two from the Jura and four from Spain, were supporters of Bakunin. The General Council made up largely of Marx's followers and Blanquists and the German state socialists formed the bulk of Marx's support. Again Marx had engineered a conference that was packed with his own supporters. But it was clear that Marx aimed to defeat Bakunin- and the ideas he propagated- not only by weight of numbers, but also by destroying his personal reputation. To this end, Engels drafted a long report at the request of the General Council aiming to demonstrate that Bakunin had founded a secret society, the Alliance, (the main organ of which was the Central Committee of the Jura Federation), whose aims whose aims were incompatible with those of the International which it sought , it said, to disorganise and dominate. Engels therefore proposed that the congress should expel Bakunin and all present members of the Alliance of Social Democracy (including the Jura Federation) from the International Working Men's Association. On the last day of the congress- after one third of the delegates had already gone home- this proposal was put before congress and by a vote of twenty seven for and seven against- with eight abstentions- Bakunin (along with his friend Guillaume) was expelled from the International.

Although there was little evidence that the Alliance had existed as a secret society after 1869, Bakunin was nevertheless condemned. What seemed to have swayed the committee of inquiry that had been set up to examine the allegations was that Marx produced-behind closed doors- a copy of the letter that Nechaev had written to Bakunin's publishers regarding the translation of Marx's Das Capital.

Bakunin was therefore unfairly dismissed from the International on two grounds:

1. That he had tried to establish and perhaps succeeded in establishing a society in Europe named "the Alliance" with rules , social and political matters entirely different from those of the International.

2. That Bakunin had made use of deceptive tricks in order to appropriate some portion of another person's fortune, which constitutes fraud. 7

It was clear that Marx was determined to remove Bakunin from the International even if he had to use the most underhand methods to do it.

But the bombshell at the 1872 Congress was the startling proposal, presented by Marx and the General Council, that the seat of the General Council of the International should be transferred to New York. It came as a complete surprise to most of the delegates, although they voted for the proposal nonetheless. What Marx's motives were for such a move has been debated, but it effectively killed the International. But at least, by removing it to New York, he had saved the International from the influence of Bakunin.

Immediately after the Hague Congress, the anarchist members of the International held their own congress in the Swiss town of St Imier. It comprised delegations from Spain, Italy and the Swiss Jura. It was a small gathering and the delegates unanimously rejected the decisions of the Hague Congress and the powers given to the new general council. They constituted themselves into a free union of federation of the International, bound together not by an autocratic council, but by solidarity and mutual friendship. For a while, two rival Internationals continued to exist, but by the end of the decade the First International Working Men's Association had essentially ceased to function. The International congress held in Geneva in September 1873 was perhaps the last viable meeting. The congress dissolved with the General Council and declared the International a free federation of autonomous sections each with a right to reorganise itself as it saw fit.

Notes

1. Thomas, P. 1980 Karl Marx and the Anarchists. London RKP, p319

2. Cole, G.D.H., 1954. History of Socialist Thought, Vol.II, Marxism and Anarchism 1850-1890. London, Macmillan, p.197

3. Cole, op.cit., p.193

4. Thomas, op. cit., p.320

5. Guillaume in Dolgoff, S., ed., trans., introd., 1973 Bakunin on Anarchy, New York; Knopf, p.45

6. Hostetter, R. 1958. The Italian Socialist Movement. Princeton, NJ: Van Nostrand, p.284

7. Guillaume in Dolgoff, op. cit., p.47

They Call It Suicide, We Call It Murder

On 5 March 1998 the Italian police arrested 3 anarchists on serious charges of “subversive association for the purpose of constituting an armed gang”. They were accused of various actions linked to the popular struggle against the construction of the high speed railway through the Val di Susa in Piemonte. Now only one of the 3 arrested anarchists remains alive.

Edoardo Massari, a 38 year old anarchist from Ivrea, died in the Vallette prison in Turin on 28 March 1998. The authorities said he hanged himself with a bed sheet.

Maria Soledad Rosas, a 22 year old Argentinean hanged herself on 11 July. At the time she was under house arrest.

Silvano Pelissero, the third prisoner, went on a hunger strike before being transferred from prison in Novara to house arrest on 22 July.

The anarchist and grass roots opposition movements have reacted to the deaths angrily and forcefully. There was a several thousand strong demonstration in Turin on 4 April and a street blockade following Maria’s death. On 18 July there was a picket of Novara prison demanding the release of Silvano.

The charges against the three anarchists were not based on hard evidence. A much-publicised “arsenal” supposedly found in their home has never been shown in public. Along with the charge of “subversive association” the charges included accusations of actions against the building works for the rail link, the town hall in Caprie and the building site for a new court in Turin. The high speed rail project is opposed by all in the area.

The arrests of the three on 5 March were accompanied by police raids on two self-managed social centres in Turin. These resulted in street protests in Turin and the press responded with a campaign against anarchists, squatters and the social centres.

All of this is in the context of a major assault both on autonomous social centres elsewhere in Italy and a series of attempts to frame up militant anarchists with charges of “subversive association”.

Following Edoardo’s death on 28 March demonstrators came to Turin from all over Italy for a demonstration on 4 April. Anarchists, autonomists and people from the social centres participated in a demonstration 5-8000 strong. As the march came to the prison and court house there were scuffles with the police and stones were thrown.

In reaction to Maria’s death over 100 protesters gathered in the centre of Turin on 12 July, and blocked the road with a barricade of furniture wood and mattresses. A barrage of Smoke bombs and flares transformed the scene while paint sprayed messages appeared on the walls. The anarchist radio station Radio Blackout, silent for the day before, broadcast the action declaring “this is the first reaction to the death of Soledad”.

Caught unawares by the action the police were slow to react and only after half an hour had the numbers to charge the demonstrators. At this point the barricade went up in flames and the demonstrators disappeared in the smoke with no arrests.

On 28 July, in a customary display of solidarity, anarchists in Athens, Greece, burnt out two cars at the Italian embassy. An hour later 8 more cars at showrooms of Fiat and Alfa Romeo were burnt out. A message to the Greek paper Eleftherotypia stated that the attacks were “a demonstration of international solidarity for the murdered anarchists Edoardo Massari and Maria Soledad Rosas in a context of persecution and terror that the Italian state has recently launched against anarchists. Our common struggle against the state and authority knows no frontiers....Freedom for the imprisoned Italian anarchists.”

In London 20 people had picketed the Italian Tourist Office on June 19 in solidarity with all anarchists suffering state repression in Italy.

An anarchist from Carrara wrote in the anarchist weekly Umanita Nova: “Edoardo proclaimed himself an anarchist, he was active in the struggle against the high speed railway: this movement was an obstacle to the restructuring process which has as its results the destruction of the environment of the area, the sackings of thousands of workers, the super-exploitation of the railway workers, to benefit a clique of businessmen and speculators.

To protect the right to exploitation the government forbade the right to strike to the railway workers. The scumbags of the state criminalise the most combative sections of the movement against the high speed train.

Edoardo is a victim of the reaction of the institutions to popular opposition, he is a testimony to the struggle for the defence of the region and to the right to oppose those in power.”

The Turin Anarchist Federation said, “We know that everyone will talk about suicide. We prefer to call things by their right name. Suicide in prison is murder, a murder for which responsibility surely cannot be avoided by those who, like the magistrate, decided that Edoardo Massari should stay in a cell by himself and therefore, in substance, in isolation. Our concept of anarchism was certainly different form that of Edoardo, nevertheless his memory and his extreme choice of freedom will be spurs in the daily struggle of the exploited and oppressed for a society without the state and without prisons. The new world that every anarchist carries in their heart cannot ever be suffocated by the walls of a prison cell.”

At the beginning of August politicians and prosecutors received a number of letter bombs. The first was to a prosecutor, Maurizio Laudi and was defused. A journalist who had given evidence against Massari in 1993 and had been beaten up at his funeral also received one and was hospitalised for six weeks: the only casualty. Three more were sent to politicians from the green party and the Communist Refoundation. The fascist Alleanza Nazionale are calling for the closure of 12 social centres as a response. As unemployed protests in Naples and elsewhere in the South intensify the state is faced with the prospect of a hot September.

Nikos Maziotiz: communique from an 'anarchist urban guerilla'

Strymonokos Bay in Halkidiki, Northern Greece is the site of a proposed gold mine. Local people opposing the mine mine have confronted blockades by riot police and a curfew.

--

Solidarity actions against the government and TVX Gold, the mining company, have taken place in Athens and Thessaloniki. On 6/12/97 a bomb was placed at the Industry Ministry. Raids and arrests of anarchists, along with a hysterical media campaign followed. One of those arrested was Nikos Maziotis, a well known anarchist militant. Following his arrest there were a huge number of solidarity actions in Athens, arson, demonstrations and clashes with the police. On 13th of February, Maziotis admitted in a letter to the press that he had put a bomb in the Ministry of Industry and Development, and explained why he did it. This is the first time in Greece that someone has claimed responsibility for the actions they are accused of.

"With the attempt against the ministry of Industry and Development on the 6th December 1997, my purpose was to send a message to the political, business and police circles of this country that their plans, either economic or repressive, are not going to pass without resistance. My purpose was also to send a message of solidarity to the just and dynamic struggle that the residents of Strymonikos Bay carry out, against the installation of gold mining in north-east Halkidiki by the Canadian multinational TVX GOLD.

So, I take complete responsibility for my actions. The "Anarchist Urban Guerrillas" is me. I, alone, made and placed the improvised mechanism in the ministry of Industry and Development on 6/12/97. What was found in the house in 13 Spartis St is exclusively mine. I don't consider myself as an armed guerrilla, but a social guerrilla. I struggle, according to my individual strength, for the subversion of the state and of the State and of the existing social regime, without either rejecting any form of action or considering one as superior to another.

During my political action, I have written and distributed leaflets, posters, I have participated in mass demonstrators and marches, in occupations and conflicts with the repressive forces of the state. In a specific moment of my struggle, I chose this way to send my political message, the message of social solidarity. My past certifies the multiplicity of my revolutionary activity. In 1991 I was convicted for refusal to serve the army, and was detained for eight months in military prison, there are still charges against me for desertion. I was convicted in August of '94 along with 51 other comrades of mine, for the occupation of the economic university, as an expression of solidarity with the anarchist prisoners on hunger strike Odysseas Kampouris and Giorgos Balafas. I was also convicted for my participation in one of the most serious social events of the political reform period, the revolt of the Polytechnic in November of '95, that was an expression of solidarity with the Koridallos jail revolt and also with the political prisoners of that period, anarchists K. Kalaremas, who was on hunger strike, S. Dapergolas, Od.Kampouris, Chr. Marinos, G. Balafas,with the 4 anarchists arrested in a demonstration in Salonica, and also with the objector of military service N. Karanikas.

I am an anarchist and I aspire the total destruction of the State and of the capitalistic regime and its replacement by anti-authoritarian Communes. The only charge I can accept, and it's my honour, is that of subversive activity. If freedom is a crime for my enemies, then yes I admit I am a criminal. So, I recognise as my class enemies those who belong in specific social classes and are responsible for the sufferings of this world, poverty, exploitation, oppression, drugs, prisons, wars, environmental destruction. These social categories are those of state officials, politicians, technocrats, mandarins of capital, bureaucrats, uniformed murderers of the Security Forces and the militarists. These social castes will never disappear from the stage of history and will never give up their power or privileges voluntarily or by persuasion. This is why the social and class war is inevitable. And I am nothing but a political prisoner, a prisoner of the social and class war that is simmering and many times it spreads as a blaze in society.

There has been a lot of talk in the media (which broadcast the organised lie) that I belong in the "second generation of terrorists" I consider these interpretations, rather misinterpretations, ridiculous. I have to say the following about these kind of comparisons. There are three kinds of political violence. Terrorism of the state, which is the most usual and most organised, as the state possesses the monopoly of violence; the "revolutionary terrorism" of organisations with Marxist-Leninist ideology, that through their hierarchical structure reproduce the structures of the state and are a state in miniature; and there is the liberating violence. Social revolutions and revolts are mostly driven forward by fighters who act inside an open mass movement, rather than from "Jacobin" clubs and isolated military organisations of Marx-Leninist ideology. So, I send back the characterisation of "terrorist" to my accusers. More than twenty years of bourgeois parliamentary false-democracy can prove that.

In July of 1976, during conflicts in the centre of Athens between construction workers and the police, a police armoured vehicle murdered a woman aged 66, Anastasia Tsivika.

In 1978, men of MEA (special police units) murdered doctor Tsironis in his home in N. Smyrni, when he declared that his house was a dominion autonomous from the Greek state.

On the 16th of November 1980, during the demonstration from the polytechnic to the American embassy, Iakovos Koumis and Stamatina Kanelopulou were beaten to death by the MAT (riot police).

On the 17th of November 1985, during clashes around the polytechnic, riot-policeman Melistas murdered 15 year old Michalis Kaltezas.

In 1986, in Kessariani, during clashes between strikers of the EDOK-ETER and the MAT, the worker Agelos Mavroudis was killed.

On the 9th of January 1991, the teacher N. Temponeras was murdered by right-wing thugs who wanted to stop the students' occupations of school in Patras.

On the 10th January, 1991, during clashes after the students' demonstration after the murder of N. Temponeras, tear-gas thrown by the MAT set fire to a shopping centre and four citizens died. On the 27th of the same month the death after torture of the Turkish political refugee Souleiman Aknar was announced. He was detained in the Public Security Building.

On the 10th January 1994, officer Lagogianis, who belongs to the police station of Moschato, with 5 shots executed Th. Giakas, during a simple identification.

In December of 1995 an Albanian prisoner was murdered during an attempt to escape from Stavrakiou Ioanninon prison.

In July of 1996, in Piraeus, on the ship Pegasus, inside cabin 53, anarchist Christoforos Marinos was executed.

The same year, in a police blockade outside the city of Livadia, policeman murdered Tasos Mouratis a Roma.

In December of 1997, an Albanian prisoner was murdered by policemen in his effort to escape Diavaton prison in Salonica.

The list of murders by the "democratic" state and the "democratic" police has no end. None of the murderers ever paid for their actions.

The blame was always on the victim who "committed suicide", or the police guns "accidentally shot", or the policeman was under the state of "legal self-defence". "Justice" has found the murderers either innocent or had simply dropped the charges.

So, who are the terrorists and dangerous ones for society and for the citizens ?

I belong to a political and social milieu that in many cases has proved the danger of its action for the state's and regime's security, as it has repeatedly been an example for the oppressed social parts, about the forms of fight and resistance against the generalised attack of the state. We can take a look at the social events of the last twenty years to prove how true that is. During the 80s, when the social-democratic administration of capitalism was dominant, along with a model of development fed by the state and grants from the EEC, the only social conflicts against the mood of social peace and submission, were those caused by anarchists, with the occupations of the period '84-'85 the march against Le Pen in '84, the occupation of Chemistry University in May of '85, and the occupations of Chemistry and Polytechnic universities because of the murder of Kaltezas. Some years after, in the 90s, occupations, as a dynamic form of struggle, resistance and self-organisation that was inspired by anarchists, became appropriated by other oppressed social parts, workers, students, farmers.

In 1989-90, when social democracy collapsed and the attack of neoliberalism began, workers in industries occupied many factories in Patras, Piraeus, Lavrio, Mantoudi in an attempt to stop the bankruptcy of the enterprises and their privatisation that led thousands of workers to unemployment. In 1990-91 the movement of university and mostly high-school occupations erupted, with the riots and the occupation of the polytechnic. In fact it is this movement that led to the collapse of the right-wing government in the next elections, as it forced it to show its inhuman and anti-social face, through the murder of teacher N.Temponeras and of the 4 citizens burned inside K. Marousi by the tear-gas thrown inside by the MAT.

In August of 1992 the wildcat strike of workers in EAS (public transportation) begin with clashes in Votanicos. Mass expressions of people's violence, like the occupations and arsons of prefectures (Chania-June '90, Iraklio-August '91), blockades and occupations of national roads by farmers in the period 1995-97, or by citizens of local societies against the environmental destruction of their place (Kalamas '87, Aravisos '89, Pouri 93-'94, Avlonas-Keratea '96, Strymonikos '96-'97) prove that when the oppressed people react to the hurricane of the state and the attack of neoliberalism, they, many times instinctively, appropriate forms of action with insurrectionist characteristics. Anarchists have a great part of responsibility in that, as they keep always alive the purpose of resistance and social subversion, even in lulls of the social war.

So anarchists, who never seek authority positions, can rightly feel proud that they have left their own fingerprints on this whole period of social and class struggles.

I send greetings to all my comrades.

Solidarity with K. Kalaremas, S. Dapergolas and G. Vlassopoulos. Solidarity with social and class struggles. Solidarity with all those in revolt."

Koridallos Prison 11/2/1998 Nikos Maziotis

Maziotis was sentenced to ten months for desertion and other charges connected with the military. He was taken back to Koridallos Prison, where he is detained, charged for the bombing attempt at the ministry and guns and explosives found in his house. The comrades who were gathered outside the military courthouse chanting slogans of solidarity with N. Maziotis and against the state and the army, attacked the riot police who didn't let them go inside the court.

Policemen were beaten up and injured and forced to run inside and close the gate, as stones fell on their heads, cars and inside the yard of the court house.

The Black Panthers

Issue 213 of Black Flag carried two articles, touching on arguments about anarchism and spontaneity, and anarchist involvement in community politics. If we want to move our politics forward, we can’t allow such debates to exist only as abstractions, or run back to arguments about 1917 or 1936 as safe ground from which to consider our sidelining since then. Real struggles NEVER conform to a prepared agenda, and learning how to develop our ideas as part of what goes on around us, and in relation to movements that don’t conform to our expectations and ideals in every aspect, has to be part of engaging with how we’ve ended up here.

We live in a society where increasing numbers of “working class” people are without work (around 4 million at the time of writing). A 1997 London School of Economics survey, “Literacy, Numeracy and Economic Performance” observed that 40% of all jobs, and around 80% of unskilled jobs require reading skills no better than those achieved by most primary school children. The welfare state as a universal safety net is being dismantled, leaving whole communities to collapse in on themselves, with informal economies of theft and drug dealing developing as means of survival. Too often, we approach the circumstances most people deal with today with a political method developed during a period of industrial growth, high levels of workplace organisation, educational self-organisation and working class self-identification. Bluntly, the methods we embrace are pretty much irrelevant to the lives large numbers of people lead now. Strike calls, leaflets, papers, talk of "Communes", "Soviets" etc. mean nothing if you've not worked in five years, are more concerned about being robbed, or how to feed your kids.

In October 1966 Huey Newton and Bobby Seale organised the Black Panther Party in Oakland, USA, in response to police violence, and inspired by Malcolm X's call to "freedom, by any means necessary." Newton and Seale met at Merritt College and worked at the North Oakland Poverty Centre. Disillusioned with middle class cultural nationalism they decided to try and respond to the lessons they’d learned from Malcolm X’s formation of the Organisation of Afro-American Unity. Huey Newton wrote that Malcolm “knew what the street brothers were like, and he knew what had to be done to reach them.”

In determining the aims and objectives of the new party they knocked on people’s doors in the Oakland ghettos and asked them what they wanted. “We’re going to draw up a basic platform,” Newton explained, “that the mothers who struggled hard to raise us, that the fathers who worked hard to feed us, that the young brothers in school who come out of school semi-illiterate, saying and reading broken words, and all of these can read...”

The Panthers’ Platform and Program (the 10 point program) was straightforward, and, for poor blacks in the US ghettos, inspirational:-

1. We want freedom. We want power to determine the destiny of our black community.

2. We want full employment for our people

3. We want an end to the robbery by the white man of our black community.

4. We want decent housing, fit for the shelter off human beings.

5. We want education for our people that exposes the true nature of this decadent American society. We want education that teaches us our true history and our role in the present day society.

6. We want all black men to be exempt from military service.

7. We want an immediate end to police brutality and murder of black people.

8. We want freedom for all black men held in Federal, State, County and City prisons and jails.

9. We want all black people when brought to trial to be tried in court by a jury of their peer group, or people from the black communities, as defined by the constitution of the United States.

10. We want bread, housing, education, clothing, justice and peace. And as our major political objective, a United Nations-supervised plebiscite to be held throughout the black colony in which ant black colonial subjects will be allowed to participate, for the purpose of determining the will of black people as to their national destiny.

The Panther program was about black control of the black community of every aspect of it’s politics and economy. the Panthers in the ’60s tried to pull off what Lorenzo Kom’Boa Ervin, in “Anarchism and the Black Revolution” described as turning “our communities into dual power communes, from which we can wage a protracted struggle with capitalism and it’s agents.” The Panthers were hit with all the force of the US state machine, they carried with them a Leninist political baggage that meant when their leadership were targeted by assassination, jailings, and counter-intelligence operations they did not have structures in place to manoeuvre; their aims though, should be the aims of all of us, in our own communities, their means of struggle should be ones we should learn from and adopt.

Before his death, Malcolm X stated: “We should be peaceful, law abiding, but the time has come to fight back in self-defence whenever and wherever the black man is being unjustly and unlawfully attacked.” It was the Black Panther Party’s emphasis on self-defence, leading to armed confrontations with the state, that made it headline news and an inspiration to a generation of militants. One US sociologist observed: “The cop’s trigger finger is the gavel of justice in blacktown.” The BPP met this head on, with armed patrols, ** and the BPP as an armed association for community protection against the police. Whenever black people were stripped by the police, armed Panthers would be on the scene, making sure their constitutional rights were not violated. Why the BPP counts, though, is not just for it’s stand against police brutality. A Wall Street Journal article noted in 1970: “...a sizeable number of blacks support the Panthers because they admire other, less well publicised activities of the Party such as it’s free-breakfast programme for ghetto youngsters, it’s free medical care program and it’s war on narcotics use among black youth.” “The news media never say how strong the Panthers are against narcotics,” says Mr. Conner (?) of the Yonkers anti poverty centre. “You take the kids, in Harlem, they sort of envy hustlers - guys who take numbers, push dope. But the Panthers are telling kids from grade school level: Don’t mess with dope. It works.” The labour historian Philip S. Foner describes the Panthers as “deeply involve din a wide variety of other work. The party was protesting rent eviction, informing welfare recipients of their legal rights, teaching classes in black history, and demanding and winning school traffic lights. The installation of a street light in South and Market Streets is an important event in the Party’s early history. Several black children had been killed coming home from school, and the community was enraged at the indifference of the authorities. Newton and Seale told Oakland’s power structure that if the light was not installed, the party would come down with guns and block traffic so the children could cross in safety. The traffic light was installed.”

Crucially, the BPP was part of the community t claimed to serve. Newton and Seale were working class black men who felt at ease with street kids. They didn’t share either the middle class assumptions of the cultural nationalists, or the liberalism of the white left. When the California Assembly at Sacramento moved to pass a gun control bill designed as an attack on the BPP, 30 armed Panthers went to the Capitol building to protest. Bobby Seale said afterwards: I’m going to show you how smart brother Huey was when he planned Sacramento. He said ‘Now the papers are going to call us thugs and hoodlums... But the brothers on the block, who the man’s calling thugs and hoodlums for 100 years, they’re going to say “Them’s some out of sight thugs and hoodlums up there! Who is these thugs and hoodlums?” Huey was smart enough to know that the black people were going to say: “Well, they’ve been calling us niggers, thugs and hoodlums for 400 years, that ain’t gon’ hurt me. I’m going to check out what these brothers is doin’”’

Newton made it clear that the BPP was “The People’s Party” and was “like an oxen to be ridden by the people and serve the needs of the people.” If black children were being harassed in schools, the Panthers organised mothers to patrol the halls while armed party members stood guard outside.

Community organisation and community control were the basis of everything the BPP tried to do. In 1969 alone, 28 of it’s members were killed by the police. the state’s strategy was to push the BPP into an armed confrontation it could not win. Members were jailed, harassed, set up and gunned down. FBI agents, under the COINTELPRO program, were sent in to destabilise the Panthers. In consequence, much of the BPP’s energies were sucked into defence campaigns, and chapters across the US were set against each other. Yet the Panthers’ community-based work remain models of how revolutionary organisations should work with non-revolutionary groups to meet the needs of the communities they are part of.

The breakfast for children programme involved the BPP working with community volunteers to distribute food to the black community. The food was distributed primarily through a network of black churches. “Hunger is one of the means of oppression and it must be halted.” The BPP set up liberation schools, teaching everything from basic literacy to black history. “We recognise that education is only relevant when it teaches the art of survival.”

An article in the ‘Daily World’ (16/5/70) reported on the BPP’s establishment of a People’s Medical Centre in Chicago, regularly treating 100 people every week:-

“We have 10 doctors, 12 nurses and two registered technicians who officially serve in the free Medical Centre. We also have a large number of interns who come and help regularly, from medical schools around the city. Part of the centre’s work includes training community people to perform services wherever possible. Foe example, we are training some of the young people to do laboratory analysis and blood tests, and teams of people from the community are organised to canvas the neighbourhood and bring the Centre to the people. Most of the people in Lawndale are so poor they never go to a doctor unless they are practically dying. Our teams take their blood pressure, medical histories and in general determine if there are people suffering from illness. If illness is discovered, whether chronic or just simple ailments, the person is urged to visit the centre, where an examination, treatment and prescription are all free.”

The BPP cracked under the force of jailings, assassinations and infiltration. Huey Newton, Bobby Seale, Eldridge Cleaver and David Hillyard were all jailed at various points and played off against each other by the state, so as to cripple their ability to lead the party. Their Leninism was a fetter on their chance of survival. As Lorenzo Kom’Boa Ervin had it: “because of the over-importance of central leadership, the national organisation was ultimately liquidated entirely... Of course, many errors were made because the BPP was a young organisation and was under intense attack by the state. I do not want to imply that these internal errors were the primary contradiction which destroyed the BPP, the police attacks did that, but if it were better and more democratically organised, it may have weathered the storm.”

The BPP were unlike most political organisations of their time, and no organisation has been as focused, nor embraced any of the best aspects of the Panthers’ method with any consistency. The Panthers’ starting point was: “What does our community need?” They were drawn from the class they claimed to represent, and saw themselves (for all Huey Newton’s proclamations of the BPP as “the vanguard”) as a means to facilitate the needs of their communities, by revolutionary means- by contesting the state’s right to control our food, clothing, shelter or justice. In their demise the BPP were also an illustration of how not to operate politically within a working class community. At the end, Newton, isolated, with the BPP split and feuding decided to push to make US blacks a political force in the way that Italians, Irish, etc. were. David Hillyard recalls coming out of jail to find BPP members being told to read “The Godfather” as a guide to strategy. At the end, Newton saw “community politics” as being about organising the black community to compete effectively against other ethnic groups for resources. Given the violence the BPP was subjected to, none of this should surprise us.

The BPP succeeded because they saw that it was necessary to have something practical to offer to those communities they worked in. They succeeded because they put working class communities actual needs above theory. At the time, some of the left denounced this as armed reformism. As a lesson for today, I’d rather see on anarchist group responsible for stopping one eviction, feeding one child than dribbling on about hunter-gatherer societies, primitivism, etc. It’s time to stop the bullshit. The BPP succeeded; they were judged on what they did by the audience so many of us say matter to us. How many of us now would be judged the same way?

In the UK the number of “working poor” has risen by 300% since 1979. In the same period the amount paid to DSS claimants through income support has been cut by £435 million. Free school meals have been restricted; in some areas there is no free school meal system at all. In the last 15 years a million people have lost their right to housing benefit; over 5.5 million have had their benefit cut. Between 1979 and 1995, council house rents have risen by 100%, with a consequent rise in evictions. Up to 1987, the Thatcher government had saved £12 billion through cuts in the welfare state. Under New Labour, the process has continued. as the journalist Nick Davies put it: “There is no crusade against poverty in Britain. No leading politician demands full employment for the country’s workforce. No prominent public figure insists that the wealth which was taken from the poor and given to the rich during the Conservative years should now be returned. There is only the immense jabber of the powerful who are surrounded by the victims of their affluence and yet continue to know nothing of the undiscovered country of the poor.” (Dark Heart, Chatto & Windus, 1998)

Whole estates have become battlegrounds over heroin and crack cocaine. If a politics based around working class self-determination is to have any meaning at all, it has to have meaning in the lives of those who have suffered most under the last two decades’ steady redistribution of wealth from the poor to the rich.

In the US, the Black Autonomy group has raised the call for a Black Survival programme, building a “Socio-political infrastructure to intervene in every area of black life: food and housing co-operatives, Black Liberation schools, people’s banks and community mutual aid funds, medical clinics and hospitals... Building consciousness and revolutionary culture means taking on realistic day-to-day issues, like hunger, the need for clothing and housing, joblessness, transportation and other issues. It means that the commune must fill in the vacuum where people are not being properly fed, clothed, provided with adequate medical treatment, or otherwise deprived of basic needs.”

In the next few years, New Labour will attempt to suck out the remaining resources allocated to our communities - we, in turn, need to battle to keep those resources, obtain community control of them, and organise to replace them when the battle is lost. This means anarchists, libertarian communists dirtying their hands in helping to occupy closed schools, playgroups etc., to either 1, keep them open or 2, restart them under local community control. It means looking at setting up food distribution schemes, trying to set up community centres to give housing and benefit advice, helping stop evictions, setting up prison visit transport - whatever is needed, wherever we can.

Black Autonomy’s call for a Survival Programme based around community control of food, education, health, housing is as relevant to the estates of the UK as the ghettos of the US. As they say: “We have to do it ourselves if we are ever to get on the road to freedom.” In doing so, we can learn more from the history of the BPP, their actions, their methods,, and the critique of their history from groups like Black Autonomy, than we can from the mindless student drivel of the likes of Green Anarchist or Hakim Bey.

“If we can understand Breakfast for Children, can we not also understand Lunch for Children and Dinner for Children, and Clothing for Children, and Education for Children, and Medical Care for Children? And if we can understand that, why can’t we understand not only a peoples’ Park but Peoples’ Housing and Peoples’ Transport and Peoples’ Industry and Peoples’ Banks? And why can’t we understand a Peoples’ Government? This is liberation in practice...” Eldridge Cleaver, 1969.

Captain Jack White

Organise, the Irish section of the IWA have reprinted "The Meaning of Anarchism" by Captain Jack White.

White was an Ulster Protestant whose father was a field marshall and landowner. He met Conolly and was "converted" to socialism. In 1913 White proposed the formation of a workers militia, which became the Irish Citizen Army but always rejected nationalism.

This pamphlet is an explanation of anarchism, in the context of the Spanish revolution where White went with Ryan's International brigade. In itself it is a clear explanation of the differences, and the common ground, between Anarchism and Socialism. Its most important for its preface and as a part of Irish anarchist history

[£1 from Organise PO Box 505, Belfast, BT12 6BQ, N Ireland]

Omagh Bombing

The August 15 bombing of Omagh City Centre ,claimed by the “Real IRA” ,which took 28 lives,cannot be justified on any terms.The bombing has been condemned by Republicans and socialists who support the peace process and by many of the groups who oppose it.In its aftermath both the Real IRA and the INLA declared ceasefires.

Not everything about the bombing makes sense.Omagh has a predominantly nationalist population.It makes little sense for a Republican group which has yet to claim any real political ground within the nationalist community to carry out such an action.Given that,prior to the Omagh bomb,the Orange Order was fragmenting under pressure of its involvement in creating the climate of bigotry which led to Loyalists burning to death three Catholic children,the bombing gave the forces of reaction a breathing space.Further,it allowed the British and Irish governments an excuse to rush through legislation which amounts to selective internment of any organisations which oppose the Stormont agreement.

It is certainly the case that British and Irish intelligence forces have penetrated the Real IRA.It is likely therefore that they would have known in advance of the likelihood of a bomb being placed in Omagh city centre.-Previous police operations against the organisation have indicated that the British and Irish states have been able to anticipate Real IRA actions .Conveniently,on 15th August,such intelligence was not in place.

Moreover,Britain’s argument that the Real IRA failed to give accurate warnings of the Omagh bomb is not borne out by evidence actually released-particularly details of a third telephone call which stated that the bomb was located 200-300 yards from Omagh courthouse.Armed with this information,the RUC herded people into Market Street,where the bomb was located,rather than evacuate everyone down to the Dublin Road,as had been their normal practice in such situations.

It has long been the contention of Republican militants that the British deliberately ignore bomb warnings,to gain political credibility from the maximisation of civilian casualties.Such a strategy would bring real rewards in the case of Omagh-principally the alienation of the nationalist community from anti Stormont forces.

In the aftermath of the bomb,the Irish government rushed through the Offences Against the State (Amendment)Act 1998,which provides for the effective criminalisation of any opposition to the status quo :-:-

*refusal to answer police questions will be regared as corroborative evidence

*the creation of a new criminal offence of directing an unlawful organisation-with a maximum penalty of life imprisonment

*a new offence of collecting,recording or possessing information which could be useful for anti-government purposes Necessarily,this charge could apply to political activists,trade unionists and journalists.

Extension of the period of detention in custody under the Act from 48 to 72 hours.

*An accused person on a membership charge must reveal all defence witness details to the prosecution in advance of trial-giving licence to the state to harrass and intimidate witnesses

The Brits rushed through their own amendment of the PTA-the Criminal Justice (Terrorism amd Conspiracy) Act which allows

* Conviction for membership of an illegal organisation on the “opinion” evidence of a senior police officer

*A new offence of conspiracy within the United Kingdom to commit offences outside the UK.

We ahould not allow our horror at the slaughter at Omagh to blind us to the need to oppose the actions of the British and Irish states in their harrassment of Republicans oppossed to the Stormont settlement.It is not necessary to share the analysis of the 32 County Sovereignty Committee to seek to defend its right to put its arguments and organise in pursuit of its politics.It is our duty also to ensure that Republican Sinn Fein-which has demonstrable electoral support in the 26 Counties-remains able to have its voice heard without censorship and criminalisation.Omagh is being used as a justification for smashing all opposition to Stormont.Twenty nine percent of the nationalist community in the 6 counties,and 5% in the 26 Counties do not support the Agreement.Is the new era in Irish politics to be one where nationalists who hold the “right” opinions are accorded meaningful citizenship,while those who do not have no rights at all?

Irrationalism: Steve Both Against "The Machine"

In Green Anarchist issue 51, Steve Booth, one of Green Anarchist's editors, published "The Irrationalists", his views on "resistance in the new millennium." According to Booth, we are entering "the Age of the Irrationalists", who "commit acts of intense violence against the system with no obvious motives, no pattern." We are told by Booth that "The Oklahoma bombers had the right idea. The pity was that they did not blast any more government offices."...The Tokyo sarin cult had the right idea. The pity was that in testing the gas a year prior to the attack they gave themselves away."

In issue 52, both GA and Booth himself, attempt a retreat from the position initially expressed. In a letter to the Scottish Anarchist Federation, who pulled a speaking tour by the London Gandalf Support Campaign in protest at the content of the article, GA accuse the SAF of "intolerance, credulity and conformism", presumably for treating Booth's rantings with the contempt they deserve. Apparently, Booth only wrote the article to "express his anger" at the Operation Washington raids, and GA concede that "maybe Steve goes too far affirming certain desperate acts, rather than just acknowledging them as inevitable reactions to an ever-more organised and repressive society". Booth also tries to escape the logic of the positions he'd earlier put forward, by arguing that "irrationalism" is a product of despair, and that we need to develop "the capacity of revolutionary action to enlarge our hope."

This won't do. Booth's original article blatantly endorses the actions of the Aum and the Oklahoma bombers. We are told "they had the right idea." To this we can only echo the comments of Larry O Hara, Dave Black and Michel Prigent that the Oklahoma bombing was "fascist mass murder" and that "we have as little sympathy (zero) for those carrying out a sarin attack on the Tokyo underground as we would anybody carrying out a similar attack on the Newcastle Metro or London Underground." In his initial article, Booth contends that "The question is asked "What about the innocent people?" How can anyone inside the Fuhrerbunker be innocent?...Why should Joe and Edna Couch Potato derive any benefit from what the Irrationalists do? They can either join in somewhere, or fuck off and die, it's up to them, it's up to you." For Booth, the enemy is not any longer capitalism, technology, or (whatever the fuck it means) "The Machine"- it is anyone who doesn't embrace his particular view of the world, or his particular Utopia as an alternative. Some alarm bells should now be ringing for those familiar with the history of " Green Anarchist". GA's original editor, Richard Hunt, now edits a fascist, misanthropic rag called "Alternative Green". Booth appears to be following a similar trajectory.

So, is it that everyone who gets involved in the GA collective develops a personality disorder or is there something at the heart of the "anarcho-primitivist " project that engenders the rot?

Whenever the "primitivists" are pushed to define their agenda in comprehensible terms, we are told that "there's no blue print, no proscriptive pattern." The closest we get to a point is the US journal Anarchy's statement that they aim for a future that is "radically co-operative and communitarian, ecological and feminist, spontaneous and wild." Fifth Estate churn out mystical babble about " an emerging synthesis of post-modern anarchy and the primitive (in the sense of original) Earth based ecstatic vision". In his "Primitivist Primer", GA's John Moore endorses this definition. Primitivism, so far as anything about it is clear, looks back to the primitive communism of hunter-gatherer societies as an alternative to the "multiplicity of power relations" of "civilisation." All of which is fine, as far as it goes. Even the US science writer Carl Sagan, in his book "Billions and Billions" states that hunter gatherer existence was more democratic and egalitarian than contemporary society, and writers as diverse as Engels, Levi Strauss and Maurice Godelier have articulated an anthropology of primitive communism. The problem for contemporary primitivists is not whether such societies were "better" than our own, but how their legacy can be incorporated in a politics of the here and now.

We live in a society that edges ever closer to the brink of ecological destruction. Capitalism sees Nature as one more commodity. As the US writer Michael Parenti puts it, the "capital accumulation process wreaks havoc upon the global ecological system....An ever expanding capitalism and a fragile, finite ecology are on a calamitous collision course. It is not true that the ruling politico-economic interests are in a state of denial about this. Far worse than denial, they are in a state of utter antagonism towards those who think the planet is more important than corporate profits." The problem for the primitivists is that their politics leave them unable to effectively resist.

Primitivism abandons any notion of a class-based analysis of the structures of "control, coercion, domination and exploitation" and replaces them with a rejection of "civilisation" and an idealisation of a period of history superseded by the development of agriculture, and the relations and means of production which have led us to our present state. The problem is - you can't wish such developments away, or wind the historical clock back. The primitivist project fails on two counts. The first is the question of agency. Every social transformation - from feudalism, to the bourgeois revolutions, has been based upon the material interests of a particular class, who act as conscious agents of transformation. The primitivists have not been able to identify any positive agent for the "destruction of civilisation" and so their politics becomes a counsel of despair. As GA concede, it is this despair which is at the root of Booth's "Irrationalist" tantrums. What they fail to concede is that such despair is fundamental to the hopelessness engendered by their politics in and of itself. With no rational agent for primitivist change, GA are left with the Utopian babble of "One day soon, very soon, the whole system will perish in flames, and where will your designer clothes and Mercedes 450SLs be then?" and the Aum and the Oklahoma fascists as vehicles for "the absolute physical destruction of the machine".

Moreover, even if a positive vehicle for the primitivist project could be found, should we then embrace it as a viable alternative to the immiseration of millions under the rule of capital? In his book, "Beyond Bookchin", David Watson, of 5th Estate, argues that aboriginal society represents a viable Utopia. He quotes favourably the anthropologist Marshall Sahlins; "We are inclined to think of hunters and gatherers as poor because they don't have anything, perhaps better to think of them for that reason as free." (Perhaps, then, Watson, in the relative comfort of the middle class anarchist scene in Detroit, envies the "freedom" enjoyed by the 1.5 million currently starving to death in the Sudan?) He tells us that aboriginal societies are in reality "affluent" because "everyone starves or no-one does." What a miserable vision the primitivists - even at their most reasoned - are trying to hawk - at a time when the wealth produced under capitalism is sufficient to eliminate want, at a time when radical ecologists are engaged in a battle for planned, environmentally sustainable production in the interests of and under the control of those currently at the bottom of the production process, all the primitivists have on offer is the communism of want!

It is our contention that the nature of the primitivist project is such that the "irrationalisms" of Steve Booth are, within the context of GA's project, perfectly rational; that the GA project results in, faced with the age old choice of socialism or barbarism, the election of barbarism as the chosen alternative.

Booth contends that "Only the ability of a given group to create facts really counts. 11 million people not paying poll tax. That was something. The Oklahoma bombing. Unless you can create facts, you are nothing." Booth is fond of sending out "propositions" to his opponents. We have a few for him (and it would be nice to get a straight answer, instead of the usual thought disordered rant). If the Oklahoma bombing "creates facts", does also the election of the FN in France or their equivalents in Austria and Germany? If the Aum got it right - if Joe and Edna Couch Potato don't count - if "the only question could then be - so where was your bomb and why did it not go off first" would Booth endorse, say, the fascist bombing of Bologna railway station, or a far right militia using poison gas on a black community in the US? If not, following your own logic, why not? Go on surprise us; give us a considered reply.

Letters

Dear BF,

Good you support the Gandalf Defendants but bad we have to write critical GA editorials to ever get you to show it. Good too that the principles at stake around the Gandalf case are more important to you than the unconditional approval of the cop-sucking Searchlight + Leeds/Bradford mafia. As Noel Molland has also written his apologies to the Neoist Alliance's Fabian "Fuckwit " Tompsett- who continues to denounce him as a supposed "anarcho-fascist" in his usual deranged manner- and as all GA's editors disassociated themselves from him in October 1997 for grassing to the court in an attempt to get me banged up for contempt, his opinions hardly count for much. His continuing to smear me in print- despite his own experiences of conspiracy legislation- and his clandestine correspondence with you prior to this just goes to show that once started tale-bearing is a hard habit to break.

Immature Noel seeks to trash me as his grassing undermines his status as a former animal rights prisoner, all he's in it for. By labelling me paranoid he hopes to discredit my defence even before I come to trial in November. Then, in part, it'll be argued that what's published in GA is justified as self-defence against State attacks on basic freedoms, and that the activities of spooks directed at society generally and GA particularly is evidence of this. Noel got involved in GA in 1994 after reading about the Tim Hepple affair and all his early RATs featured army intelligence provocateur, Final Conflict editor and patriotic vegan Stuart McCullough, so he knows the score. Doesn't that make him paranoid like me -and show up what a malicious lying little shit stirrer he is ? His claim the Gandalf prosecution "just about Robin Webb" depoliticises this issue and implies it's about nothing else whatsoever. That fails to explain why Robin is being prosecuted alongside GA rather than anyone else - and why Operation Washington CO Des Thomas admitted at committal that MI5 were involved because of us not Robin. For more info on this I refer your readers to The Law (#13, pp16-17, PO Box 3878, London, SW12 9ZE) and when published my response to Noel's Arkangel 19 piece and Larry O'Hara's forthcoming pamphlet on the Gandalf trial.

Our open letter to the Scottish Anarchist Federation (GA 52) makes my position on Steve Booths article quite clear. On the subject of cults, though, I call on Black Flag to publicly condemn the Neoist Alliance, whose arse-licking of fascists and poncey bourgeois publishers must disgust genuine anarchists far more than Aum Shirikio's bygone bad behaviour.

Yours for the destruction of civilisation.

Paul Rogers, Gandalf Defendant.

[No we still think that writing arty crap will never be as stupid as killing tube passengers. Perhaps that's what makes us liberals.]

Dear Liberals,

I doubt whether you'll print any of this letter, but I disagree with your description of me as misanthropic. As to Noel Molland, he doesn't need to apologise for anything said in GA because he repudiated GA in the box in Portsmouth Crown Court, and described Paul, the general editor of GA in very strong terms. What is said in GA is nothing to do with Noel.

More importantly- you have obviously not read and not considered what was said in my irrationalists article. You call for people to condemn it but you do not engage with the contents of it- your comment is a knee jerk reaction. I still await a refutation of my Irrationalist article by such as yourselves, Feebledom and all other abusive fluffies. Your comments are symptomatic of the total weakness of the so-called revolutionary movement. Armed struggle is OK for somewhere far away, like the Zapatistas, or long ago, as with the Spanish Civil War, but not for now, not for the moment, not for Basingstoke. You know full damn well that a revolution (ie armed struggle) against the system is necessary, but people like yourselves, Feebledom and other fluffy bullshitters and anarcho-merchandisers denigrate anyone who says this out loud.

When people mouth rhetoric like "By all means necessary", they are making a call to armed struggle, but when it comes down to it all their talk is just so much wind and piss.

Enough abuse from me: In the spirit of constructive debate here are 24 propositions for you to consider

Steve Booth, community resistance editor GA.

[accompanying this were 23 (one repeated) points along the lines of "the machine must colonise everywhere" and "generally, with few exceptions the masses are passive". I'm not typing these in. If anyone really cares we'll send you a copy. Fucked off liberal typist BF.]

BF COMMENT: For a refutation of Steve Booth's Irrationalists article, which is presumably still endorsed by GA, see IRRATIONALISM (this issue). The fact that Steve is a philosophy graduate is testimony to how crap our education system is.

As an anarchist militant within the Swedish SAC, I read with great interest Kieran Caseys piece in Black Flag # 214. In a rather unusually, for comrade Casey, pedagogic and sensible form he has given a brief description of his version of SAC's positions in the numerous questions concerning SAC's relations with the IWA. Comrade Casey's article, in combination with Peter Principles earlier piece, paint a generally accepted picture of the situation.

There are however, a few points made in comrade Caseys article that I would like to comment upon as well as a few points in regards to the SAC which comrade Casey has unfortunately forgotten to mention.

First up is his claim that no section of the IWA has a "higher degree of democratic culture and transparency than SAC, no matter what their size." I can only giggle at such organisational chauvinism! It must be obvious to any sensible person that a small affinity group, of which I suppose some IWA sections consist no more of, have a better democratic culture than an organisation of circa 9 000 members in which only circa 300 partake in member referendums on a regular basis (such as the SAC)!

Comrade Casey further claims that there are no "informal hierarchies" within the SAC. I must give comrade Casey some credit on this point in reference to his own four year term as the duly elected International Secretary, and thereafter employee, of the SAC. His term in office was sufficient enough to convince SAC's members that his responsibilities were better off being taken care of by a committee of interested members rather than by a paid official. The recent 26th Congress of the SAC dismantled comrade Caseys former post. But, the fact remains that the SAC does suffer from informal, as well as formal, hierarchies. To claim that any organisation in today's society, no matter what size, were free from such is simply plain folly.

In regards to the claim that all SAC employees and functionaries enjoy the same wages - that is a truth in modification. SAC currently owns three judicial corporations, connected to its union activities in various degrees, and the employees of those enjoy differing wages and benefits, ranging from housing to well paid salaries. Indeed, some of these employees are not even members of the SAC but of the social democratic Lands Organisation, LO!

Comrade Casey also refers to SAC as a revolutionary syndicalist organisation and I assume that he sets that term in juxtaposition to anarcho-syndicalism as well as "ordinary" syndicalism. Although I should not assume things, this is relevant in the fact that he does not define what revolutionary syndicalism is. SAC's brand of revolutionary syndicalism however, allows for political party functionaries and members, not only into its rank and file (which does not necessarily have to be a problem), but into central posts of trust. At least one member of the central working committee of the SAC is a member of the left party, former communists (Vänsterpartiet) and one member of SAC's highest instance between congresses, the central committee, is a member of the bourgeois agrarian party (Centerpartiet)!

I would like to end this on the positive note that, as comrade Casey has written, the "SAC does not propose itself to be the perfect workers organisation and that (SAC) continually seeks to improve (its) democratic structure so that it might serve as a tool in the shaping of a future libertarian socialist society." SAC has also continually become increasingly radical for every congress in the last sixteen years and the current influx of societally-disposed youths from the independent Syndicalist Youth Organisation, SUF, as well as different anarchist networks, are the spear-point in a continued radicalisation of the SAC. For all its shortcomings, SAC does deserve to fly that red and black flag high.

With anarcho-greetings,

Kurt Svensson member of Stockholms LS of SAC

Black Flag 216 (1999)

Issue of the London-based anarchist magazine Black Flag from the 1990s.

Contents

Editorial

As the twentieth century draws to a close, things are looking shaky for the New World Order and its supporters. The economic crisis in South East Asia indicates a deeper problem with the rule of finance capital, as well as the hypocrisy of capitalism's rent-a-quote army of "experts." Before the crisis, investors rushed to the region and all proclaimed its commitment to "free market" principles. After it began, the "statism" which made these regimes the (economic) envy of the world was suddenly discovered by the right and their old positions placed in the Memory Hole.

With the collapse of SE Asia, the supporters of capitalism have redoubled their claims that America is the model for the rest of the world, ignoring the fact that its current economic upturn is the weakest since the Second World War. In Britain, the lowering of interest rates indicates that the Thatcherite/Blairite economic order is less secure than they used to claim. Across the world, the effects of the rule of finance capital are being felt more strongly. Reality is over-coming the hype but it seems unlikely that the world's ruling elites will do anything about it until it's too late. The religion of the market still has its hold over the minds of many, removing possible solutions from the hands of capital in case they strengthen working class power (still the bogey of capital, even after all these years).

What has this to do with anarchism? Simply, if we are facing an economic crisis, anarchists may just as well make use of it and redouble their activities in presenting real, practical alternatives to both state and capitalism. The publishing of Daniel Guerin's No Gods, No Masters by AK presents the constructive nature of anarchist ideas and theory, showing us all that we have a rich and powerful body of ideas and experiences to build upon. They just need to be put into practice. This issue of Black Flag contains many articles on people doing just that. Hopefully they will inspire more resistance and activity elsewhere. Guerin's book also indicates the importance of theory and reading the works of past theorists of anarchism, which also is the theme of Gary Hayter's article on Kropotkin's classic The Conquest of Bread. We need to combine theory and practice, ensuring they inform each other.

This may seem like we are stating the obvious to fill up space, but it is not. We have been facing difficult times for the past 20 years and it's easy to forget that anarchism is a practical and powerful set of ideas. Given that the left is either stuck in the quagmire of Bolshevism or embracing the discredited neo-liberalism of our rulers, there is a golden opportunity for anarchist ideas. We may fail, but if we do nothing we definitely will!

News from Africa

IMF INTERVENES IN KENYA TEACHER'S STRIKE

Teachers in Kenya found out they were fighting a bigger force than the government after a 15 day strike last October. The Financial Times (13/10/98) revealed that the IMF would not approve an urgently needed new loan facility if the government acceded to the teachers demands.

Teachers in Kenya currently receive an average basic salary of US $150 per month. The Kenyan National Union of Teachers argued that most teachers this is not enough to live on. Last July they negotiated an agreement with the government for a 200% increase over a five-year period. The strikes, supported by 70% of the population, were in response to the government defaulting on that agreement.

Kenya is heavily indebted, and 25% of government revenue goes to service debt, compared to 2.7% of GNP on health and 6.8% on education. Over half of the debt is owed to multilateral institutions, including the World Bank and IMF, and last year Kenya paid US $208 million in debt service to these institutions. A reduction in Kenya's debt burden would release funds that could be used for social spending including teacher's salaries. However the International Financial Institutions do not consider Kenya eligible for debt relief.

Fascists hound asylum seekers

Since our last report on the situation of asylum seekers in Dover, the attacks on them in that town have become more physical. Fortunately, the hate-mongers have not had things all their own way.

Firstly, the fascist National Front planned a third march in the town on 5th December. They had been getting steadily smaller, and this one didn't happen at all. The coach company which brings them from the West Midlands came under pressure from anti-fascists and cancelled the booking. A well-attended anti-fascist march was left alone by the police and leafleted the town centre. Instead, 29 NF turned up in Dartford, to try to capitalise on hostility to Romanian asylum seekers who had arrived in the town earlier. The men had all been detained, but the women and children were held in a disused ward at Joyce Green hospital. After hounding from the local press and racists, they were moved, first to a supposed "luxury" hotel in Gravesend (first time I've ever heard Gravesend and luxury in the same sentence), then to Sittingbourne and then on to a secret location, all the while being chased by the NF and the press. Unsurprisingly, some of them decided this was exactly the sort of treatment they were trying to escape and opted to return to Romania. National papers like The Sun and the Mail have stirred the pot of bigotry, but most prominent among the local hate-rags has been the Dover Express. Its incitement to racial hatred has got so bad the editor, Nick Hudson, has been interviewed by the police. He has also complained that he was set up by the BBC after he was the only racist on a Radio 4 programme and that there "were a lot of black people in the audience."

Undeterred, the NF tried again to march in Dover in January. About 30 Nazis came down from London, and despite there being only three days notice, local anti-fascists mobilised a bigger contingent and hampered the NF march all the way. Unfortunately, three of them were nicked (one on an outstanding charge) as Kent police stopped doing anything else in the rest of the county for the day. Send messages of support to Dover Residents Against Racism, c/o Refugee Link, PO Box 417 Folkestone, Kent CT19 4GT

Communique from ABC Barcelona

[NB: this was missing from the https://web.archive.org/web/20160816045426/http://flag.blackened.net:80/... version and so is missing from here]

Anatomy of an economic miracle

With Pinochet's arrest, the usual slime of the right pronounced that his dictatorship created an economic "miracle." Here we concentrate on the facts of the "miracle" imposed on the Chilean people. The actual results of the free market policies introduced by the dictatorship were far less than the "miracle" claimed. The initial effects of introducing free market policies in 1975 was a shock-induced depression which caused national output to fall by 15%, wages to slide to one-third below their 1970 level and unemployment to rise to 20%. This meant that, in per capita terms, Chile's Gross Domestic Product (GDP) only increased by 1.5% per year between 1974-80. This was considerably less than the 2.3% achieved in the 1960's.

Supporters of the "miracle" pointed to the period 1978 to 1981, when the economy grew at 6.6% a year. However, this is a case of "lies, damn lies, and statistics" as it does not take into account the catching up an economy goes through as it leaves a recession. If we look at the business cycle as a whole, rather than just the upturn, we find that Chile had the second worse growth in Latin America between 1975 and 1980. The average rate of growth in GDP was 1.5% per year between 1974 and 1982, lower than the Latin American average of 4.3% and lower than 1960's Chile's 4.5%. Between 1970 and 1980, per capita GDP grew by only 8%, while for Latin America as a whole, it increased by 40% and for the years 1980 and 1982 per capita GDP fell by 12.9%, compared to 4.3% for Latin America as a whole. In 1982, after 7 years of free market capitalism, Chile faced yet another economic crisis which, in terms of unemployment and falling GDP was even greater than the shock treatment of 1975. Real wages dropped sharply, and bankruptcies skyrocketed, as did foreign debt. By the end of 1986 GDP per capita barely equalled that of 1970. Between 1970 and 1989, Chile grew by a lacklustre 1.8 to 2.0% a year, slower than most Latin American countries. The high growth, in other words, was a product of the deep recessions that the regime created.

The working class

The working class was by far the hardest hit by the Pinochet "reforms", particularly in urban areas. By 1976, the third year of Junta rule, real wages had fallen to 35% below their 1970 level. Only in 1981 did they come close to the 1970 level, only to fall again to 86.7% by 1983. Unemployment was 14.8% in 1976, falling to 11.8% by 1980 (this is still double the average 1960's level) only to rise to 20.3% by 1982. By 1986, per capita consumption was actually 11% lower than the 1970 level. Between 1980 and 1988, the real value of wages grew only 1.2% while the real value of the minimum wage declined by 28.5%. During this period, urban unemployment averaged 15.3% per year. In other words, after nearly 15 years of free market capitalism, real wages had still not exceeded their 1970 levels. Moreover, labour's share of national income fell from 52.3% to 30.7% between 1970 and 1989. In 1995, real wages were still 10% lower than in 1986 and 18% lower than during the Allende period! The real "Miracle"

However, the other main effect of the Pinochet years was increased wealth for the elite, and this is what has been claimed as a "miracle." Between 1970, the richest 10% of the population saw their share in the national income rise from 36.5% in 1980 to 46.8% by 1989. In the words of one of the best known opposition economists, "the Chilean system is easy to understand. Over the past twenty years $60 billion has been transferred from salaries to profits."

Thus the wealth created by the economic growth Chile experienced did not "trickle down" to the working class (as predicted by "free market" capitalist dogma) but instead accumulated in the hands of the rich. Just as in the UK and the USA.

The proportion of the population below the poverty line (the minimum income required for basic food and housing) increased from 20% to 44.4%. On the other hand, while consumption for 80% of Chilean households dropped between 1970 and 1989, it rose from 44.5% to 54.6% for the richest 20%.

State Aid

The Pinochet regime's support for "free market" capitalism did not prevent it organising a massive bail-out of the economy during the 1982 recession - yet another example of market discipline for the working class, welfare for the rich. As was the case in the USA and the UK.

The ready police repression (and "unofficial" death squads) made strikes and other forms of protest both impractical and dangerous. The law was changed to reflect the power property owners have over their wage slaves. The total overhaul of labour law between 1979 and 1981 aimed at creating a perfect labour market, eliminating collective bargaining, allowing massive dismissal of workers, increasing the working day up to twelve hours and eliminating the labour courts. Little wonder, then, that this favourable climate for business operations resulted in generous lending by international financial institutions.

Of course, supporters of the Chilean "Miracle" and its "economic liberty" did not bother to ask how the suppression of political liberty affected the economy or how people acted within it. They maintained that the repression of labour, the death squads, the fear installed in rebel workers would be ignored when looking at the economy. But in the real world, people will put up with a lot more if they face the barrel of a gun than if they do not. And this fact explains much of the Chilean "miracle." According to Sergio de Castro, the architect of the economic programme Pinochet imposed, dictatorship was needed to introduce "economic liberty" because:

"it provided a lasting regime; it gave the authorities a degree of efficiency that it was not possible to obtain in a democratic regime; and it made possible the application of a model developed by experts and that did not depend upon the social reactions produced by its implementation." In other words, "economic liberty" required rule by technocrats and the military. The regime's pet "experts" used the Chilean people like laboratory rats in an experiment to make the rich richer. This is the system held up by the right as a "miracle" and an example of "economic liberty." Like Thatcher's "economic miracle", we discover a sharp difference between facts and rhetoric. And like Thatcher, it made the rich richer and the poor poorer, a true "miracle."

So, for all but the tiny elite at the top, the Pinochet regime of "economic liberty" was a nightmare. Economic "liberty" only benefitted one group in society, an obvious "miracle." For the vast majority, this "miracle" resulted, as it usually does, in increased poverty, unemployment, pollution, crime and social alienation. The irony is that many on the right point to it as a model of the benefits of the free market.

The Viability of Libertarian ideas in Colombia

Colombia - the very mention of the name conjures up images of violence and narco-trafficking, but the country is rather more than this, in spite of her turbulent recent history and the absence of any indications of change therein. For instance there are at present five armies active there: on the guerrilla side, there are the FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia), the ELN (National Liberation Army) and the EPI (People’s Liberation Army) which, altogether may number as many as upwards of 20,000 members according to the official estimates and these draw the bulk of their funding from kidnappings, trafficking in drugs and extortion of the big oil companies with holdings in the area. On the other, the government side, there are the Colombian National Army (seemingly powerless to stamp out “subversion”) and the increasingly active paramilitary groups which, having declared their independence from their sponsor (the Colombian government) operate as an independent force, carrying out numerous despicable massacres among the civilian population whom they may suspect is giving any sort of help to the guerrillas.

For its part, the government suits itself economically; no matter whether it is the liberals or (as in the current case following the recent victory of Spanish prime minister Aznar’s corrupt buddy Andres Pastrana) the conservatives who are in power, the upshot is always the same; a neo-liberal policy strictly obedient to the dictates of the World Bank and the IMF, eagerly pursuing that annual endorsement from the USA in drugs affairs that will guarantee their access to the plentiful American funding that goes with it. The result is that Indian lands are brazenly confiscated and the common people plunged into a crisis of long standing from which there seems to be no imminent escape. Surprisingly, the Colombian people lives on hope, to the sounds of vallenato music and on their great passion for life, weathering the storms as best they can. At one time there was a solid libertarian presence in these lush lands. Right now, decades later, an effort is being made to revive and spread it.

Anarchism in Colombia

The earliest properly libertarian signs were detected in the mid-19th century with the arrival on the coast of Proudhon’s writings. this was just about the time that the young Elisee Reclus arrived with the intention of setting up a colony there, a scheme that came to nothing in the end. By the end of the 19th century important strikes by artisans had a distinguished libertarian involvement and for a time there was a self-managing commune set up by J. Albarracin. 1910 saw publication of the first edition of Ravachol, a newspaper that was to become comparatively influential among the artisans and workers. Other publications of that time with some sort of libertarian involvement included Trofeos (1908), Crepuscolo (1910-1911), El Obrero (1912-1916), and Paz y Amor (1913). In 1918, the Atlantic coastal area was to be the arena for a number of strikes displaying unmistakable anarchist practice: direct action, sabotage, delegates effectively under the control of the rank and file, solidarity strikes, etc. In the 1920’s this burgeoning activity was multiplied by the influx of lots of anarchist immigrants from Europe and three significant labour congresses with a telling libertarian presence were held and new groups emerged: groups like the Antorcha Libertaria in Bogota, Via Libre in Barranquilla, Grupo Libertario in Santa Marta and the important FOLA (Atlantic Coast Labour Federation) which came to embrace sixteen trade unions from that area. Among others, the leading publication of this time included La Voz Popular, La Antorcha, El Sindicalista, Pensamiento y Voluntad, etc.

In an age of great activism, there were strikes and protests galore. We ought to single out Raul Eduardo Mahecha here, a committed libertarian fighter who was to be the driving force behind quite a few such protests and whom we might regard as the leading Colombian labour personality of his day. Other figures of note would be Vargas Vila and the little known and misunderstood Juan de Dios Romero. the “anarchist and adventurer” (as he described himself) Biofilo Panclasta deserves separate consideration; he saw the inside s of many jails in many countries and page after page could be written about his life and the legends surrounding it even today. Suffice to say that the story goes that in Pamplona (Biofilo’s native city) mothers would threaten their kids over lunch to “eat up your soup or I’ll send for Biofilo”.

The great retreat that libertarian ideas suffered in the 1930’s throughout the continent was also evident in Colombia which slid into several decades of libertarian “sluggishness” from which she has not recovered until quite recently.

The present position.

It is no easy undertaking to spread anarchism in the polarised Colombia of the present day (where one is either for the guerrillas or for the government). Non-aligned opposition groups are not welcomed and the situation facing local libertarians is reminiscent of that of our comrades in Euskadi. The decades of war endured by the country has also left its mark on the anarchists who sometimes find it hard to stand aloof from it. The most “mature” option to be found among the local anarchists is represented by the Alas de Xue-AIT grouping, a collective that strives to marry a libertarian discourse and libertarian practices with the cultural traditions of the original inhabitants of the country. The work done by several of its members in conjunction with Indian communities afforded them a familiarity with native organisational preferences and prompted them to salvage (like the Flores Magon brothers did in Mexico before them) quite a number of native traditional forms that come very close to anarchism (community living, their concept of authority, mutual aid and reciprocity etc.) which they have complemented with (let us say, classical) libertarian ideas imported from Europe. The very name of the collective mirrors this synthesis: Alas (wings) symbolising freedom in western anarchism, and Xue, a Muisca term for the sun, one of the deities of the Andean peoples of Colombia.

Alas de Xue emerged towards the end of the 1980’s out of the protests mounted against the commemoration of the 500th anniversary. These protests came together into what became known as the “Self-Discovery Campaign of Our Americas. 500 Years of Native, Black and Popular Resistance”, a movement upon which they managed to stamp a libertarian seal. Later they were behind the organisation of two important nation-wide students’ encounters - again from an anarchist angle - managing to imbue a post-graduate organisation with a libertarian approach. Another of its tasks has been to rescue the history of the Colombian libertarian movement from oblivion (especially as it relates to the first two decades of this century), something previously approached only from a marxist angle, and we all know what that would entail. This historical research resulted in publication of the book “Biofilo Panclasta, the Eternal Captive”. After putting out feelers internationally, they joined the IWA, later mounting joint campaigns like the campaign in defence of the lands of the Uwe people against oil company trespasses. The motley political make-up of the collective (albeit for the most part libertarians) has led to a situation where, in recent years, several of it members have decided to pursue a different line and this has curtailed the collective’s activities somewhat. With an eye to recovery and in order to establish effective co-ordination of the different groups in Colombia, they decided to organise a festival last May under the name of “May 68-69, the relevance of libertarian thinking”. It drew anarchists from Bogota, Cali and Medellin, plus a presence from elsewhere in South America and from Europe.

The festival was mounted on some university campuses with a high degree of politicisation, where political meetings and demands are common currency and where some of the students openly support the guerrillas which is why campuses are the targets for paramilitary attacks. The young anarchist Humberto Pena Taylor and numerous human rights activists were among the victims of paramilitary groups which also threatened to attack the National University while the libertarian festival was in progress. There are libertarian sympathisers among the Law Library of the National University (who helped organise the festival) and among many individuals who participate from time to time in violent acts. There are improvised collectives such as the Anarquistas al Combate group.

Another of the collectives who shared the organisation of the festival in May was the Mujeres Libres group which operates in the anarcha-feminist area. There are also anarchists among the membership of the superb La Libelula Dorada theatre troupe, some of the members of which helped with the stunning and now resurrected libertarian publication Biofilos. In Medellin city there is the Vargas Vila Libertarian Collective whose activities focus on the music scene, trade unions and discussion, whereas in Cali there are various individuals who mount sporadic campaigns, such as fielding a dog called Walter as a candidate in the elections in order to bring them into disrepute.

Other areas in which libertarians are to be found are conscientious objection (with groups in Bogota and Medellin) and the music scene related to the punk and hardc