Black Flag 219 (2000)

Black Flag 219 (2000)

Complete contents in PDF. Some contents also available as text below (taken from A work in progress.


"Capitalism? No thanks! We will burn your fucking banks!" So chanted a group of black-clad anarchists in Seattle. A slogan of immense theoretical power and clarity, it sums up well the promise and power of anarchism! We have the politics to understand the world and, more importantly, the tactics (direct action), the ideas (a free and libertarian socialism) and ideals (liberty, equality, solidarity) to change the world for the better.

Needless to say, after the event, the hordes of self-proclaimed vanguards will publish articles trying to "educate" us poor, thick, anarchists of the errors of our (petty-bourgeois/ lumpen proletariat) ways. Of course it never enters their minds that we are anarchists not because we have never heard of (or mis-understand) Marxist-Leninism. We are anarchists because we understand Leninism. We reject the ideas of vanguardism and embrace the lessons learned by people actually active in the class struggle. Kropotkin was right, Anarchism "originated in everyday struggles" and draws its ideas and ideals from those struggles. Struggles such as those in Seattle and the organising and organisations that preceded it.

That is why Seattle is so important - it was an expression of the class struggle which inspires and informs anarchism and from this struggle anarchist ideas will grow. Black Flag congratulates all involved! Well done! One in the eye of capitalism and the state! Direct action gets results, yet again!



  • Reclaiming the Railways London's N30 Mini-Riot
  • Close Campsfield Down! Sixth Anniversary Demo & John Ouaquah's Victory
  • Solidarity with West Papua - Direct Action Across UK
  • Massacre in West Papua - 300,000+ Killed Since 1962
  • British Nazis in Spain - ITP Buys a Village
  • Mayday 2000 Festival of Resistance
  • ABC Network UK Folds But Local Groups Continue
  • Rat Thrown Off... Nick Hudson Sacked
  • Death Control? Spanish Peace Activism


  • Butchery in Chechnya - Russia's Diversionary War
  • Blood for Oil - Colombian Resistance
  • iViva Las Mujeres Creando! - Bolivian Anarcha Feminists
  • Swedish Activist Murdered - Fascist Violence Exposed
  • The Zlin Ten - Czech Anti-Fascists On Trial
  • In the Ghetto - Roma in the Czech Republic
  • Rioters Greet Clinton - Greek Anarchists Strike
  • Social Exclusion in Colombia - Civilians Respond to 'Peace Talk' Exclusion
  • Raid at Mehringhof - Berliner Autonomists Hit
  • Crackdown in Indonesia - State Terror Against FAF
  • The Class War Kills Again - Death at NZ Picket Line


  • Stateless in Seattle - N30 Eyewitnesses' Report
  • Global Capitalism, Global Protest - N30 Around the World
  • Clinton - Champion of Labour Standards? N30 Workers' Mobilisation
  • On to Davos - Swiss Militant Protest
  • After Seattle '99 - Where We Go From Here
  • Shooting to Kill - New Politics Of Punishment
  • Talking In Their Sleep - The 'Affair' With Democracy
  • Health, Wealth & Inequality – It's Official – Poverty Kills!
  • Anarcho-Quiz
  • The Murmuring Volcano - Ecuador's Economic Crisis
  • Technology, Capitalism and Anarchism - Dehumanisation of Labour


  • Nikos Maziotis
  • Ron Easterbrook
  • Mark Barnsley Update
  • Amelia Johnson
  • J18 Prisoners


  • Evolution & Environment Kropotkin's 11th Volume
  • The Last Flight Of The Ornithocheirus - Walking With Dinosaurs
  • More Reviews
  • Letters
  • Peter Miller Obituary
  • Contacts

Blood for oil

Colombia has, like many poor countries, the misfortune to possess oil. The oil is to be found in forest regions which also become vulnerable to exploitation as the roads to exploit the oil reserves are built. And the money from the oil (that the politicians claim will make everyone better off ) goes into the pockets of the elite, while the poor get poorer. Oil companies have had people killed in Latin America, just like they have in Nigeria and elsewhere. For years BP were the stalwarts of the oil murderers in Colombia, funding and training death squads in a way that Shell surely learnt well from in the Niger delta.

In neighbouring Ecuador, Texaco devastated parts of the Oriente, and locals opposing the drilling were killed. The Cofan tribe of that region are now suing them in the US for $1billion. But the latest saga in oil capitals' rape of the continent is being enacted in Colombia, where the Los Angeles based company Occidental has been granted a permit for drilling on U'wa land. This is the culmination of a long campaign, and the U'wa, who number 5000, have threatened mass suicide if Mother Earth's blood (i.e. the oil) is spilt. Their view of the land might be a bit different to ours, but their words resonate even here. "We are seeking an explanation for this 'progress' that goes against life. We are demanding that this kind of progress stop, that oil exploitation in the heart of the Earth is halted, that the deliberate bleeding of the Earth stop...we ask that our brothers and sisters from other races and cultures unite in the struggle that we are undertaking...we believe that this struggle has to become a global crusade to defend life." - Statement of the U'wa people, August, 1998

The U'wa explain they prefer death by their own hand than the slow death of their environment and culture that oil production will bring. A core tenet of U'wa culture is the belief that the land that has sustained them for centuries is sacred. In March 1999, three indigenous rights activists, Terence Freitas, Ingrid Washinawatok and Lahe'ane'e Gay, were murdered by leftist guerrillas while working with the U'wa. These murders and the intimidation the U'wa have already experienced are a taste of the wider physical violence the oil project will bring. Throughout Colombia, oil and violence are inextricably linked. Occidental's Ca¤o Lim¢n pipeline, just north of U'wa territory, has been attacked by leftist guerrillas more than 600 times in its 13 years of existence, spilling some 1.7 million barrels of crude oil into the soil and rivers. The Colombian government has militarised oil production and pipeline zones, often persecuting local populations they assume are helping the guerrillas. Oil projects have already taken their toll on many other indigenous peoples of Colombia, including the Yarique, Cofan and Secoya.

The drilling plans threaten the survival of both the U'wa and their environment. The U'wa's cloud forest homeland in the Sierra Nevada de Cocuy mountains near the Venezuelan border is one of the most delicate, endangered forest ecosystems on the planet. It is rich in plant and animal life unique to the region, and the U'wa depend on the balance and bounty of the forest for their survival. Where oil companies have operated in other regions of the Amazon basin, cultural decay, toxic pollution, land invasions and massive deforestation have followed. Occidental first received an exploration license in 1992. Since then, the U'wa have voiced their consistent opposition to the oil project. They have taken a variety of actions including the filing of lawsuits against the government in Colombia, petitioning the Organisation of American States to intervene, appealing directly to Occidental's top executives, and lobbying company shareholders. Last April U'wa representatives came to Los Angeles to directly confront Occidental. Along with several hundred supporters the U'wa marched on Oxy's HQ and demanded a meeting with CEO Ray Irani. When they were refused, activists occupied the street in front of the building and held a rally on Oxy's front steps. Two days later on April 30th while the U'wa spoke at Occidental's shareholder meeting there were demonstrations at Colombian consulates and embassies around the world.

The US has very strong ties with Colombia. Not only does Colombia sell most of its oil to the US market but under the auspices of the "War on Drugs" US military aid to the repressive regime in Colombia continues to grow. This year Colombia received $289 million in aid making them the third largest recipient of US military aid in the world. The US already has hundreds of military advisors in Colombia and the Clinton administration is proposing to give Colombia an additional $1.5 billion dollars. In August the Colombian government expanded the U'wa legal reserve. However, the expansion is only a portion of their traditional territory and most significantly the new borders were drawn so as to place Occidental's first drill site just outside of the reserve.

The U'wa are asking for support in their struggle. They have linked it explicitly to the fight against the World Trade Organisation and other forms of corporate dominance. On last October 12th, solidarity events were held in 20 cities in 10 countries around the world to demand that the Colombian government and Occidental Petroleum cancel their plans to drill for oil on the U'wa people's land. In Toronto, protesters included Owens Wiwa, brother of Ken Saro-Wiwa, murdered by the Nigerian dictatorship for opposing Shell in Ogoniland. In Vancouver, forest activists got together with the Native Youth Movement and the Nuxalk First Nation to protest. In the Narmada Valley, representatives of 60 villages affected by the ignominious Sardar Sarovar Dam, gathered from different parts of the Valley to review this year's resistance against submergence and to corroborate and reinforce their continuous struggle for life and livelihood, began their programme with a solidarity message to their U'wa brothers and sisters in Colombia. Protests also happened in Prague, Geneva, Amsterdam, Santiago and numerous US cities.

Contacts: Rainforest Action Network Rainforest Action Network can provide hard copies of materials (they can also be downloaded from the website at ). Additional information can be found at and . Dr. Ray R. Irani, President and CEO Occidental Petroleum 10889 Wilshire Blv. LA, CA 90024
fax 310.443.6690 ph. 310.208.8800 email : +
Presidente Andres Pastrana Casa Presidencial Bogota, Colombia fax +571.334.1940 (direct) E-mail:
Environment Minister Juan Mayr can be reached at : Juan_Mayr_M@Hotmail.Com or Jmayr@Minamb.Gov.Co

Amelia Johnson

Ali Khalid Abdullah of the Political Prisoners of War Coalition informs us of the case of Amelia Johnson, aka Bahiya Shakur, an Afrikan American woman serving life in Texas. She allegedly kidnapped and murdered her husband, Darius Leon Powell. She was convicted on circumstancial evidence. The Court-appointed lawyer didn't interview any of the witnesses who could testify on her behalf. Other alleged witnesses were compromised by the District Attorney's office. Amelia believes that the DA knew she was not guilty but were desperate to obtain a conviction. The third prosecution witness was Amelia's son, who was accused of being involved in the crime and threatened with a life in jail unless he implicated his mother. Amelia advised him to blame her, if only to spare himself from a lifetime inside.

As well as trumping up charges, the DA gave out negative press statements about Amelia, which the reporter involved later apologised for printing. Amelia is continuing to fight to clear her name, and would appreciate donations and letters.

Attorney Myrtle J McDaniel, c/o Amelia Johnson Legal Defense, PO Box 2032, Temple, TX 76503 USA
Bahiya Shakur (Amelia Johnson #640983), 1401 State School Rd, Gatesville TX 76503 USA

The Murmuring Volcano

Ecuador's history is perhaps not as turbulent as its neighbours, but it shares with them a common heritage of resistance to oppression and the exploitation of its people and resources. The neo-liberal model that has been so enthusiastically adopted in many parts of Latin America is designed to make the poor pay - with higher prices, lower wages and increased social costs. The underlying causes of the economic crisis in the country lie in the country's corrupt and fragmented political classes.

The government of Jamil Mahuad was inaugurated in August 1998. His predecessor, Alarcón, was arrested for corruption. He in turn had replaced Abdala Bucaram, called "El Loco" fled the country after people surrounded the Presidential Palace. The political classes, such as the financial and export elites of Guayaquil, Ecuador's largest city, are so neo-liberal in outlook they have been criticised by the IMF! Among other thins, they got income tax abolished and have rigged bailouts for a series of banking scandals, all of which they have profited from.

Ecuador is heavily reliant on oil and banana exports and the national currency, the sucre, has long been prone to hyper-inflation. Mahuad's solution has been to try to pass the costs onto the poor. In early 1999, an attempt was made to increase the price of gasoline, which prompted widespread strikes and blockades by taxi and bus drivers, until the price hike was removed.

In October, the crisis deepened and the country suffered two volcanic eruptions, Pichincha near the capital, Quito, and Tungaragua, which caused the resort town of Baños to be evacuated.

In January this year, Mahuad answered the deepening crisis by freezing bank accounts, announcing the privatisation of the oil fields and decreed that the US dollar would be the nation's currency. This "dollarisation" did not just mean the end of the sucre, but increased spoils for the rich who could speculate in dollars. This measure was immediately met with calls for a uprising by the main Indian organisation, CONAIE (Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador) on January 15th.

CONAIE launched an "Indian and Popular Parliament", going for a conscious strategy of dual power, with talk of forming a Council for National Salvation.The oil workers and students struck.

A long-term resistance struggle was planned. As CONAIE's vice-president, Ulcuango, noted, if they resisted 500 years of oppresion they can very well resist several months more.

Their goal is a new economic and political order, far from neoliberalism and based on the Parliament of the Peoples of Ecuador. By the 20th January, between 20 and 30 thousand Indians were in Quito. The Indians managed to assemble outside the National Congress but were dispersed by the police and army, using tear gas.

CONAIE appealed to the army, many of whom are Indians themselves, to support them. An offer to negotiate with Mahuad was rejected, as they didn't recognise his legitimacy. The Parliament of the Peoples of Ecuador demands included the suspension of the state of emergency, the abandonment of "dollarisation", the resignation of Mahuad , actions against corruption, and a freeze on public transport fares and the restoration of a Council for National Salvation. Though not demands an anarchist would make they were designed to appeal to the majority of the Indians and the urban poor. The Ecuadorian Constitution allows for the people assuming such powers when the authorities are incompetent and act against the national interest. There were riots in other cities and troops took over an oil refinery in Esmereldas that had been occupied by striking workers. In the province of Chimborazo, 50000 Indians blocked the Pan-American Highway. In a desperate attempt to back-pedal, Mahuad announced a pay rise for private company employees from $47 to $60 a month. But as the basic cost of living for a family in Ecuador is $200 a month, this was an insult.

On Friday 21st January, the Indians took over the Congress backed by junior and middle-ranking officers. They established a provisional government, the Council for National Salvation, headed by Colonel Lucio Gutierrez, with the President of CONAIE, Antonio Vargas, and Carlos Solerzano, formerly of the Court of Justice.

The official military leader, General Carlos Mendoza, arrested Gutierrez, and forced Mahuad to resign. Vice-President Noboa was initiated as President, pledging the same policies. The faces changed, but the economic misery remained.

The indigenas tried to continue the uprising in Quito, but lacking the support of the army, they decided to leave the city. They were evicted from the Peoples Parliament by the army, which officially dissolved it. According to Ecuadorians United in Montréal, Canada, General Jaime del Castillo led 400 soldiers to massacre the Indians at El Arbolito in Quito, but fortunately the soldiers refused to obey.

The indigenas said that they would watch the new government and the struggle would continue. The new government started to purge the military and arrest prominent leftists, Indian leaders and people from the Co-ordination of Social Movements.

While not as libertarian in character as some other indigenous movements in Latin America, CONAIE has several tendencies, explained here by an activist at an alternative news agency in Quito.

"Not all the indigenous people are for a change of goverment, the big capitalists among them, for example, who are large exporters of handcrafts. They are happy with the idea of dollarization and neoliberalism.

And so, within the organized indigenous movement there are various factions.
(O)ne that holds the indigenous position ... excludes anyone who is not indigenous. They are purists and call for the return of Tahuantinsuyo (the Inca Empire.)
... The democratic faction for a New Ecuador is the most structured politically and has the great majority. The various uprisings and taking over the main churches has been their work. Theirs is the design for the Parliament (and) the proposed political reforms.

The bad thing about this faction is that when they allied themselves with the democratic party line, they lost 40% of what they had gained before. They formed the Pachakutik movement and let themselves become taken in by the siren song of "democracy", though it seems, luckily, that they are beginning to resist. Nowadays they are saying that they have shown that with the current democracy the people have no alternatives, so a takeover of power is the only solution.

The utilitarian position includes those who are selling the indigenous movement as a mendicant movement, those who ask you for money at every turn, even for the air they breathe... This faction is into the world of NGOs (Non-Governmental Organizations).

They talk of a New Plurinational and Democratic State in order to make room for all the anti-neoliberal factions that don't want to be classified as orthodox or leftist. The idea is to attract the small and medium-size producers, who have been seriously hurt and who have recently played a significant part in the development of the national economy. There is nothing to discuss with big business.

We're not thinking about an autarchy, nor in the total destruction of what is in the country in order to start all over again, an idea that is not acceptable. It is believed that the middle and lower class sectors of society can foster a new Ecuador.

Politics by alliance should be this way. Remember that the movement of the indigenous and rural people is not one of armed conflict but it is political and this is the world of ideas. For this reason, proposals are accompanied by protests."

Though their immediate aim of a more popular government was thwarted, the uprising is not over and the indigenas are discussing new strategies. The local and regional plenaries remain, and already one in Quito has demanded the release of the detainees and repeated the demands of the Peoples' Parliament.

For updates: has the most update reliable information in Spanish.

Ron Easterbrook on Hunger Strike

Ron Easterbrook is 69 years old and serving a life sentence for defending himself against a police ambush (see Shoot to Kill article in this issue). He has been on hunger strike since Thursday 11 November 1999, in protest at the refusal of the Criminal Cases Review commission (CCRC) to refer his case back to the Court of Appeal. Ron is in very poor health and there is a strong possibility that he will die before the CCRC make their final decision.

Ron has written from prison about his reasons, "I have decided to go on to hunger strike as I can find no other way to protest about my treatment by the judiciary, the Home office and the Prison Service. I was convicted of offences of armed robbery and wounding a police officer in 1988. The offence was set up by a police informant and my co-defendant was shot dead by the police. The whole incident was filmed live by Thames television. I was denied legal representation at my trial. My defence was that I had fired on the police in self defence as when they opened fire, I was aware that my life was in danger as a result of the police's policy of 'shoot to kill'. My defence team withdrew as they said that this was a political defence which they could not put forward. I was found guilty and given a life sentence even though there was no attempt by the trial judge to follow the normal procedures for imposing such a sentence. I tried to appeal the conviction and sentence and had to do this without legal representation. The Court of Appeal simply affirmed the trial judge's decision. After conviction, my prison file wrongly stated that I had murdered someone. I was told that I had a whole life tariff and was made a category A prisoner. During my time in prison I tried to protest my case. Although I did not resort to violence, I was faced by violence from prison staff. As a result of the continual abuses I faced, I undertook a lengthy hunger strike. Eventually, the Home Office agreed to reconsider my case. My 'tariff' or prison sentence was fixed at twelve and a half years. Although I was pleased at this recognition of the earlier injustice, I was still angry that it was too long and that I should never have received the life sentence in the first place. I applied to the CCRC to have my case referred back to the Court of Appeal but they refused. They have taken the view that even though I never had legal representation, that my case is listed in criminal textbooks as not following the normal law and the strong arguments I have that my sentence is illegal, that I have no grounds for even my sentence to be reconsidered. I have no further avenues to take in the legal process. I am not prepared to apply for parole as I do not recognise the legality of my sentence and I believe I should be released automatically from prison. I have therefore commenced a hunger strike as I can see no other option available to me."

Please write to the: Criminal Cases Review commission (CCRC) Alpha Tower Suffolk Street Queensway Birmingham B1 1TT FAX number 0121 633 1823 marking letters for the attention of Ms. Lee. Please make the point that Ron is elderly and in poor health, and urge the CCRC to make a prompt decision and refer his case back to the Court of Appeal without any further delay.

Messages of support for Ron should be sent to: Ronald Easterbrook HMP Highdown, Sutton Lane Sutton, Surrey SM2 5PD Messages of support e-mailed will be forwarded to Ron:

In the Ghetto


Unhindered by the Czech government, a town in the Czech Republic has been able to build a wall round an area occupied by Roma, confining them to a Ghetto. The town of 'Usti and Labem' began to build its two metre high wall of breeze blocks and steel around buildings on one side of Maticni Street at about 4 am one morning in early October. It was completed by the evening.

The builders were protected by an 80 strong force of police. With grim echo's of Nazi occupation, Roma people from the new ghetto were not allowed out of their houses while the wall was built. The wall has three brown steel doors to allow access to the block. It is intended that these will be locked at ten at night. The creation of the Ghetto, probably the first in post war Europe, was fought all the way by Roma activists and Human Rights institutions. Yet the Czech Government has displayed extraordinary complacency in its handling of the crisis. The proposal for the wall first appeared in May 1998 and the international community warned that the wall would be a violation of international law.

In March 1999 The UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination warned that the Czech government was not doing enough to prohibit this unlawful act of racial segregation. More recently, in June, Ramiro Cibrian, the EU envoy to the Czech Republic, said that the Czech Republic could not be considered for EU membership if the wall was built. In May 99, and again a week before the wall was built, the European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC) called on Czech authorities to halt the municipal plans to build the wall.

The first attempt to build the wall took place on October 5th, when builders put up a series of pillars, a gate, and three sections of wall before Roma, acting peacefully, blocked further construction. The next day Romani activists from around the Czech Republic came to Usti and Labem and dismantled sections of wall. By 7th October Romani activists had taken down the rest of the wall. Protests against the wall continued throughout the week both in Usti and around the Czech Republic.

It was not until two days after the first parts of the wall had been built and pulled down, that the Czech Prime Minister, Milos Zeman stated , "The wall in Usti divides the Czech Republic from the European Union."

However, other high ranking Czech officials down-played the importance of the wall and, although legally empowered to do so, Czech authorities entirely failed to prevent its construction. Indeed The Czech parliament didn't get round to annulling the original resolution of the Usti and Labem town council to build the wall until the afternoon of 13th October, two hours after the wall was completed.

Taxing times in France

In response to a call by four mining unions for action, on November 30th, in Lorraine, East France, hundreds of miners demonstrated against a pay freeze and a £50 end of year bonus. They set fire to police cars and government offices. In Forbach, 400 miners broke through a cordon of riot cops and ransacked a tax office, pulling furniture into the street and setting it (and the building) on fire. Earlier, in Metz, other miners set fire to 3 police cars and smashed the ground floor offices of another tax office. Furniture and files were dragged into the street and trashed.

Death Control?

Four Spanish war-resisters may face up to two years in prison after being judged by a military court (consejo de guerra). Their crime? - putting giant condoms on cannons! Of course, in order to do this, they had to get into the military installations, and in the process violated military safety rules under which they are being charged despite being civilians. The action was part of a larger campaign which aims to take civil disobedience and non-collaboration with all aspects of the war machine into the military institutions. It is a new strategy developed by the Spanish and Basque war resisters and the Army is fighting back with their own laws. International solidarity with the war resisters may be needed as the case progresses.

Contact Daniela CNT-Gipuzkoa (address?)

Free Trade benefits all?

Faced with the protests in Seattle, the Economist opined that the benefits of Free Trade included faster economic growth. Is this true?

The Brazilian economy is often pinpointed as an example of the positive effects of neo-liberal change. However, here the evidence does not support the Economists assertions. Over the last decade, Brazil's per capita GBP growth averaged approximately 2.5 per cent a year. By comparison, according to UN data, it averaged 4.7 per cent during the period 1960 to 1980 when it followed a more inward-looking path to development.

It could be argued that reform in Brazil has not progressed enough, that Brazil is still a relatively closed economy. If we look at Mexico, a nation much more integrated into the world economy, we discover that, according to data from the IMF, over the last 15 years its per capita GBP growth per year has averaged approximately 1.0 per cent.

Of course, both countries have seen the rich grow richer and inequality increase, proof that neo-liberalism works, only for those who matter in a capitalist economy - the capitalists.

Social Exclusion in Columbia

Parties in Columbia are in the middle of peace talks to deal with two armies trying to seize power. FARC thinks it's winning but so does the army and both sides are negotiating for privileges before they are ready to talk about peace. Civilian society has been systematically excluded from these peace talks and from every single decision that is made in Colombia, only those in power (including the guerrillas and paramilitaries who have got to the negotiating table by the gun, and union leaders who represent no-one but themselves) can be included. ELN said they would include civil society in the negotiations and brought in a couple of friends and some representatives of big economic conglomerates but didn't ask a single peasant or poor person to join. So civilians are suffering the effects of war but aren't given a say when it comes to finding a solution.

Everybody thinks they represent the people and all talk as if they did. They ask the government for solutions, the guerrillas for peace, the paramilitaries to stop slaughtering peasants, but they can't do anything, or at least don't think they can. The problem with the authoritarian tradition of the left here is that it has reproduced the myth of the necessity of a vanguard to represent and make decisions for the people, thus spreading the problem of social exclusion to the political arena.

The response has been massive civil disobedience campaigns that reflect people’s need to have a say about their own situation. There have been strikes everywhere, highway blockades, hunger strikes and riots in prisons. People are beginning to find their own way and to distrust their leaders. They now know that following leaders, including so called ‘revolutionary’ ones - leads to yet more exclusion.

The indigenous movements have been very influential in this process as they have always had alternative - more democratic and horizontal - forms of organisation here. As their lives and interests have been affected by the current situation, they have stimulated alternative ways of responding and direct action which had seldom been an option in the past.

If peace talks are to achieve anything, the common people must be included and the only way of achieving this is through direct action. The armies sitting at the negotiating table do not represent anyone, people have to break into the peace talks and they're doing it now. Those movements which espouse direct action and civil disobedience are the ones to watch. The essential work now is to find a way to confederate and articulate these movements. They had, until recently, been isolated from the rest of the political arena, mainly by the powers in control, but partly by the lack of experience of this kind of organisation in a political arena dominated by an authoritarian tradition, a tradition that is finally beginning to break apart.


On 12 December anti-war activists took action against the war in Chechnya on one of the main streets in Moscow "Tverskaya". The idea was to declare "Tverskaya" as an area autonomous from the state and the Russian army. 27 people (mostly anarchists and people from Rainbow Keepers) took part but the action lasted only about 10 minutes until 7 people were arrested. TheTransnational Radical Party, Russian Democratic Union, Movement against Violence (Ekaterinburg), Tatarian Muslim party "Vatan" and Revolution Contact Committi (a new group) have organized several actions but usually with only 3-20 people each time. Anti-war stickers have been put up in the underground with slogans like "The state is the main terrorist", "No war", "Bring the army home", "War-money-war" on the walls. But it isn’t easy: Moscow is full of police and there is a pre-election campaign with the usual attendant propaganda. Most people don't support the protests against the war and the media won’t report anti-war actions.

Butchery in Chechnya

Overseeing the aerial bombardment of Yugoslavia, Tony Blair justified NATO's actions in the name of a "new internationalism where the brutal repression of whole ethnic groups will no longer be tolerated." Those of us who condemned this "military humanism" (as Noam Chomsky has dryly termed it) as the same old imperialism in post-Cold War guise were denounced by the state department socialists of today. The slaughter of thousands of Chechens by a resurgent Russian military, though, has roused neither the ire of the NATO "internationalists" nor their "humanitarian" cheerleaders. Beyond token condemnation of the "excesses" of the Russian military, the butchery in the Caucasus has become an "internal" matter for Yeltsin and his generals to deal with as they see fit.

Moscow's ultimate aim, as in its ill-fated 1994-6 war, is to install a puppet regime in Chechnya. The government-in-waiting consists of the 48 members of the previous pro-Moscow parliament, in exile since 1996, "loyal to the Russian constitution and Russian laws". The likely leader of the new government is a convicted fraudster released from gaol to head the imposed regime.

In the run up to the 2000 presidential elections, a war in Chechnya is a useful distraction from the economic chaos and corruption of daily life in Russia. Anatoly Chubais, a key Kremlin insider, has remarked that "the Russian army is being revived in Chechnya and any politician who doesn't think so is not fit to be seen as a Russian politician." Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, Boris Yeltsin's preferred candidate and the man who calls the shots (literally) whenever Yeltsin is "unwell" (and Yeltsin is more often than not "unwell" in the way Jeffrey Bernard was "unwell"), clearly relishes the opportunity to use a popular war to underwrite his claim to the presidency. It should be remembered that the pretext for the invasion of Chechnya was the battle against "terrorism" in response to the recent apartment block bombings which killed 300, and which Moscow blamed on Chechen militants. Not a scrap of evidence has been produced to demonstrate a Chechen connection to the bombs and given Putin's KGB links and the level of premeditation involved in the Chechen invasion, we should be cynical as to the real source of the bombings.

In 1994-96, Russian soldiers were slaughtered in their thousands in combat in the region, culminating in the April 1996 humiliation when an armoured regiment was ambushed in a mountain pass near Yarysh-Mardy. The Chechen triumph was videotaped and broadcast in Chechnya and Afghanistan as a recruitment aid to the multi-ethnic Islamist guerrillas. This time, inspired by the NATO campaign in Yugoslavia, the Russians have decided to raze the region through aerial bombardment before risking engagement on the ground. Thousands of refugees have attempted to flee the region, only to be held in camps at the Ingushetian border, where they freeze or starve. Over 300,000 have been displaced by the Russian onslaught.

Russia has fired tank shells at teenage boys in Novy Sharoy, pummelled the village of Samashki with aircraft, rocket-launchers and tanks even though they know the village is empty of rebels, and signalled its intention to destroy the city of Grozny. "The city of Grozny cannot be restored", Nikolai Koshman, Russia's viceroy in Chechnya announced. "Grozny must be blocked from all sides and its civilians should leave. Following Grozny's destruction, the city of Gudermes would become the new Chechen capital. Russian bombers are flying more than 100 sorties a day over Grozny. The mayor of the City, Lecha Dudayev, reported that over 500 died in the capital over the weekend of 27th-28th November.

It has been suggested that the West's apathy in the face of the slaughter of the Chechen people (in greater numbers and with greater force than Milosevic's forces used against the Kosovars) is a result of its having no strategic interest at stake. In fact, the opposite is true. As Fergal Keane has observed, "Having long ago decided that Mr Yeltsin was the Russian with whom we could do business, we have turned a blind eye to his drunkenness, to the corruption of his state and now to the brutality being inflicted on the Chechens. It is all part of the implicit bargain of keeping Yeltsin on our side." The Russian elite and the politicians of the West have a common agenda, the looting of the wreckage of the USSR. Since 1991, over $200 billion has left Russia, with both legal and illegal currency finding its way to Western banks. On August 19th the New York Times reported that up to $10 billion may have been laundered through the Bank of New York since 1998. The asset stripping of the USSR has been cheered on by the IMF, the World Bank and the US Treasury.

Meanwhile, some 70% of Russians now live below the poverty line, and capital investment is one-tenth what it was a decade ago. Those denounced as "corruptionalists" when they're caught out are the liberal reformers Washington, Bonn and London have kept in power. They remain the West's first choice, and the impoverishment of the Russian people, and the massacre of the Chechens cannot be allowed to stand in the way of business as usual.

At some point the Russians will have to engage with Chechen fighters on the ground. Faced with a prospect of a repeat of the 1994-6 humiliation and with a long winter ahead, the Russians may yet lose face. Certainly the ease with which the rebel forces of Khattab and Shamil Basayev occupied a number of Daghestani villages in August 1999 suggests that the Russians have no stomach for a prolonged engagement in the region. Whatever happens, though, the "new internationalism" suggested by Blair has proved itself quite content to watch while Moscow seeks to drown in blood the Chechens' right to independence. Yeltsin, Putin and "reformers" like Anatoly Chubais (who supervised the give-away of the USSR's oil, metal and telecommunications assets) are worth money tot he West. Chechen lives have no value at all. The rules of war in the era of "military humanism" seem clear enough. As Umar Vitayev, a Chechen refugee, observed; "Everything has been destroyed; our factories, our industry. We're going to have to remain dependent on someone, because we don't have anything left.

Close Campsfield Down

Three hundred people, from Kent, Bristol, Bradford, Leeds, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Coventry, Birmingham, Brighton and London, marked the sixth anniversary of the opening of Campsfield Immigrant Detention Centre. Despite a heavy police presence and constant police harassment, (two pigs for every protester, backed up with police horses and a police helicopter), protesters kept up a noisy protest for two hours before dispersing.

On arrival at the detention centre all transport carrying protesters was forced by the police to park half a mile away from the camp. Every protester was photographed and videoed by the police as they arrived at the gates of the camp and the surveillance continued throughout the demonstration only stopping for ten minutes when police attacked the protesters.

Campsfield is surrounded by a 20 foot high, half inch thick metal wall. Protesters banged on it with their hands to let the refugees in the camp know they were there. Police decided this was causing "criminal damage" to the fence and ordered the protesters to desist. This only encouraged people to bang even harder. The police then charged the demonstrators and pulled people away from the fence dragging them through a hedgerow and physically throwing them into the field adjacent to the camp. A line of police was then formed at the fence to keep protesters away.

Demonstrators let off multicoloured helium balloons that tangled above the fence, their strings caught on the razor wire. Paper planes flew over carrying messages of support to the detainees. Protesters played drums, flutes, guitars and makeshift drums with pots and pans.

Group 4, who run Campsfield for the Immigration Service, were clearly nervous of the protest. Bolts along the fence had been welded solid. Detainees were locked indoors until the demonstration finished. The government need to understand that these protests will continue until they stop imprisoning people without trial, without reason and without time limit. Punishing people for seeking asylum.

At the end of the demo protesters agreed to continue opposition to existing detention centres Campsfield (Oxfordshire), Harmondsworth (Heathrow), Tinsley (Gatwick), Haslar (Portsmouth), Rochester Prison (Kent) and against the new detention centres planned at Oakington (Cambridgeshire), and Aldington (Kent).

National Coalition of Anti-Deportation Campaigns (NCADC)
110 Hamstead Road
Birmingham B20 2QS
Phone: 0121-554-6947 FAX: 0870-055-4570
E-mail: x
Web site:

Mujeres Creando

Mujeres Creando are, in their own words, "a group of affection and defects, creativity and proposal." Set up with "the intention to be a transforming movement.. a movement of cultural space, art and social proposals where we paint, we tell stories, we dance them, we cook them, subverting the patriarchal order." They draw from their Andean heritage, from feminism, and anarchism to fight patriarchy, power, the State and militarism. "Along with other Latin American sisters," they have "managed to separate what is the feminism of technocracy from the historically useful struggle against patriarchy." The group only has 15-20 members, including the only openly lesbian activists in Bolivia. They run a small cultural centre, as well as publishing and agitating. The group is best known for its graffiti, always signed Mujeres Creando (which means "Women Creating". Favourite targets include neo-liberals, smug macho leftists, and mainstream feminists ("gender technocrats")).

A website about them describes them as "the country's only organisation that publicly, consistently and clearly speaks up for the oppressed, no matter who they are."

Reach Mujeres Creando at Casilla 12806, La Paz, Bolivia;
There is a website about them at:

Crackdown in Indonesia

[bRreport from Front Anti-Fascist (FAF) Bandung[/b]

Last August, workers went on strike at the PT Rimba Aristama factory in Bandung. One of the strikers, Juju Juliyah, went on hunger strike because she and several other workers had been fired by the factory owner for their activities. Several day later Juju Juliyah died. She died for her beliefs, yet neither the factory management, the government nor the media has shown any concern over the tragedy.

On September 4th, FAF organised a demonstration in solidarity with Juju Juliyah and her fellow workers' struggle. SBI(Indonesian Labour Solidarity) a labour organisation, GMIP, and FMD the radical student organisation also attended. The demonstration began outside the university building in Bandung with speeches. When enough people had gathered they marched through the slum districts, handing out leaflets in the streets. They then made their way to the national radio station headquarters to demand (amongst other things) that they cover Juju's case. But the radio station called in the army and the police to remove the demonstrators. One army truck parked up behind the building together with two trucks full of armed riot cops.

The demonstrators decided to march on to the city hall, only to find the building closed in anticipation of their arrival. Thirty or so demonstrators responded by trying to break down the doors. Again, the cops arrived and prepared to attack the demonstration. The demonstrators responded by making speeches in front of the building, managing to attract enough people's attention to avoid a beating from the cops.

On 13 Sept. about 100 people occupied a local government building to demand abolition of new laws (due to be signed up to on 28th September) that legitimise the use of military force against resistance movements opposed the government and the state. The law legitimises kidnapping, violence, even murder as tools to deal with resistance movements and their members. Demonstrators also made speeches outside the building and handed out leaflets. Those inside stated that they would refuse to leave until the government responded to their demands but that evening more than 500 anti-riot cops entered the building to forcibly evict the occupation.

The next morning more than 500 people gathered outside the building and tried to get back inside. Despite the efforts of 50 riot cops to hold them back, the crowd managed to re-enter the building and once inside made speeches. Eventually local government spokesmen arrived to speak to the occupiers and promised to raise the issue of the new laws with the government. Having achieved their short term aim, the demonstrators left and marched to the national radio headquarters to demand that their message be broadcast over the airwaves. There they were met by riot cops who attacked the demonstrators.

Fleeing the riot cops, they moved on to march to KODAM (a military base) where they damaged a statue outside. When soldiers prepared to attack the demonstration, they marched back to the parliament building. Demands for the government to abolish the new laws were met, again, by 500 riot cops, whose chief tried to negotiate with the demonstrators. There was a battle with the police at 10pm that night when riot cops tried to move them on. Molotovs were thrown and the cops responded with a street blackout (all streetlights were turned off). The cops got very heavy and fired at the demonstrators and many were beaten up badly. Those that escaped moved on to the UNPAD(padjadjaran university) building, and decided to stay there 'til the morning. Four demonstrators were caught by the army outside the building, but released the next day.

On 17 Sept. a chief of the Indonesian military, Wiranto, was due to arrive in Bandung to speak about the new laws against resistance movements. Demonstrators organised to prevent him speaking and to raise public awareness of the new laws. Actions also took place in Jakarta and Yogyakarta.

Several days later further demonstrations took place in Bandung - demonstrators graffitied the local government building, collected signatures for a petition and handed out thousands of leaflets. On 22 September nearly 1000 people gathered in front of the local government building and there were further clashes with the police - this was the last government meeting before the new laws were to be signed and approved. Attempts were made to force the radio station to broadcast their message and windows were smashed at the radio headquarters.

The next day the demonstrators successfully occupied the government building again and were able to broadcast their case over the airwaves for 15 minutes. They held the building all night and set up a stage at the front from which to make speeches. The following morning they closed the road in front of the building and attacked any military vehicles that tried to pass. They showed videos of the previous year's shooting tragedy in front of the Trisakti university to the public and held the building until the following morning.

FAFstill want books or other information on anarchist / class struggle politics

All correspondence should be sent to P.O.BOX 1853 Bandung 40018 West Java - Indonesia (do not address mail to FAF as it will be censored - simply send to the PO Box with no name).

The Zlin Ten

More state victimisation of anti-fascists in Czech Republic

Regular readers will remember the cases of Vaclav Je and Michal Patera, Czech anarchists arrested for defending themselves against fascist aggression. While Vaclav is now free and Michal is on bail, there is a new case.

In February 1999 an important trial began against ten anti-fascists and anarchists in Zlín, a major town in the east of the Czech Republic. The comrades, Vladimir Futák, Radek Velecký, Pavel Burian, Jakub Jancik, Marek Hradil, Václav Kotrla, Radim Kogler, Jakub Janícek, Petr Hríbek, Martin Betík and David Šrott, are accused of "ideologically motivated heavy injury and public disturbance committed in an organised group," and could face a ten year sentence. The accusations date back to the spring of 1997, when a dozen nazi skinheads, from the "Patriotic Front", clashed with a smaller group of anti-fascists, leaving one nazi badly wounded before they ran away.

The police subsequently arrested all the anti-fascists and rounded up well-known anarchists. The police case is that the ten anarchists attacked without provocation some "innocent citizens" waiting for a bus. Of course, these innocent citizens were nothing to do with the neo-nazis, not even the one wearing a Celtic cross!

Until August 1999, the situation for the Zlín Ten had looked good. Lawyers paid for by the Czech ABC Fund proved that several nazis had perjured themselves, and it looked like our comrades were not in great danger. Unfortunately, the situation changed, and confidential discussions with lawyers indicate that there is political pressure to convict and give the Ten very long sentences (5-10 years).

The Federation of Social Anarchists (Czech IWA section) are asking for international publicity for the Zlín Ten. The Zlín City Court's decision is not final, but it is rare for the High Court to overturn such a sentence.

Peter Miller

Peter Miller
5 April 1943 - 9 October 1999

Peter Miller, veteran anarchist, secularist, trade unionist and horse-racing enthusiast, has died in Leicester on 9th October (aged 56) following a brave fight against cancer.

Active in the secularist movement since 1961, and more recently a Trustee and Secretary of the Leicester Secular Society for over 10 years, Pete was well known as an untiring supporter of the Anarchist Black Cross and a regular writer and book reviewer in the anarchist press for over thirty years. He was also active in the trade union movement, and was a branch officer of Unison within Leicester City Council for many years (continuing to be involved with union matters until quite recently).

Originally a member of the Trotskyist Socialist Labour League (SLL) of Gerry Healey in the days when male comrades were instructed to ignore the long-haired rebellion of working class youth and affect a "proletarian" short back and sides, Pete moved to Anarchism (and long hair) in the mid 1960s. His long association with the Anarchist Black Cross was the result of a chance meeting with Albert Meltzer:

"I met him by chance in the 1960s and sent him a note to thank him for a kindness offered during our first passing contact. He replied and from that casual exchange of politeness has grown a correspondence lasting nearly thirty years" (Peter Miller, reviewing Albert Meltzers's "I Couldn't Paint Golden Angels", 1995).

Pete's dedication to long-term correspondences helped sustain many class struggle prisoners in Britain and abroad with whom he was in regular touch over those years. His letters invariably brought a good dose of wit, common sense, good humour and intelligence into otherwise drab and cheerless surroundings. Such down to earth solidarity was highly valued by all who received it.

As well as his work on behalf of prisoners, Pete was a regular contributor to the anarchist press (Black Flag, Freedom, Cienfuegos Press Anarchist Review, Anarchy Magazine) and was the editor and publisher of the idiosyncratic anarchist cultural magazine Z Review in the 1970s.

A highly erudite but completely unpretentious man, Pete was a great fan of the novels of Anthony Trollope. His passion for horse racing baffled many comrades, though providing an excellent excuse to travel outside Leicester and renew old acquaintances. But undoubtedly, Pete's greatest love was his family: his wife Jean and three children, Jen, Alex and Tim.

A kindly, tolerant, always dependable and completely genuine person, Peter Miller will be sadly missed by all who knew him.

Phillip Ruff
London 11/10/99

Rioters Greet Clinton

Athens, 20 Nov. Almost at the same moment as Clinton arriving at the almost completely evicted Athens' airport, for his delayed 12 hour visit, hundreds of anarchists rioted through the centre of town for hours while the riot cops gassed leftist demonstrators. Clinton’s visit was bound to result in this. It was set originally for November 17, traditionally a day of protest in commemoration of the 1974 Polytechnic Uprising against the US backed military junta. On top of this the US backed bombing of Serbia has made Clinton even more of a hate figure in Greece than Bush. Bush visited a few months after the Gulf War - to a similar welcome.

Violence erupted despite the commitment of the KKE [Communist Party] to ensure that anarchists were not able to act. The KKE leadership have a record of attacking anarchists, arresting or grassing them. This time they were themselves gassed by the cops as they tried to demonstrate. These arseholes even went so far as to accuse the anarchists of being “"provocateurs in service of the government", intending to discredit communism and anti-Americanism”.

Health, Wealth and Inequality

According to the Wealth of the Nation report published in October, average income in Britain has risen under the Labour Government – but the distribution of wealth remains a story of increasing inequalities, particularly evident on a regional basis.

The report, based on four million households nation-wide, was first conducted in summer 1996. This second study, from data collected in 1999 indicates how people have faired under New Labour. The answer is, unsurprisingly, not that well. Nationally, there has been an average rise in income of 9.6% to £21,365. However, some areas in the South and parts of London have seen substantial rises in earnings while others have seen very low growth rates. The Outer Hebrides has even seen a fall in income. The figures do not take inflation into account.

Unsurprisingly the highest average household incomes are in Greater London and the South-East. These are the only regions where average household income is ahead of the national average (and income in these regions is 40% higher than the north of England). The wealthiest people in the country are concentrated in London, with those in central London, Blackfriars, Barbican and Belgravia with average household incomes of over £50,000, skewing the average income London wide.

While some will take the fact that Surrey residents enjoyed an average household income 71% higher than those in Tyne & Wear as an example of a North-South divide, it is obviously a class-divide. By grouping people into regions, the disparities of income within those regions is lost. As Proudhon once said, "there is no such liar than an average."

In 1996, before he came into office, Tony Blair pledged to bring about "greater equality". "If the next Labour government has not raised the living standards of the poorest by the end of its time in office it will have failed," he said. In fact the figures show that inequality has increased under Labour.

Health and Inequality
The effects of this wealth inequality are wide-reaching. For example, poor people are more likely to be sick and die at an earlier age, compared to rich people. Another study, published in December as a book, The Widening Gap, indicates that the health gap between rich and poor in Britain is the widest on record and is continuing to grow. The researchers state that increasing inequality in income, lifestyle, educational opportunities and jobs is resulting in thousands of extra deaths in the most deprived inner cities. The death rate among people under 65 is now more than two and a half times higher in the worst parts of Glasgow than in the prosperous Southern communities of Esher and Wokingham.

The book highlights the fundamental role of poverty in creating and maintaining the health gap. The health gap mirrors gaps in income, education and employment levels. The average household income in Springburn, Glasgow, is £13,697 compared with £24,490 in Wokingham, Berkshire. Unsurprisingly, chronic illness and infant mortality are higher in Springburn. The researchers say the gap between rich and poor has widened faster in Britain and that levels of poverty are higher than in much of Europe. Life expectancy for professional men is now 9.5 years more than for male unskilled manual workers. For women it is 6.4 years more. Inequality of power and wealth kills.

Previous research also indicates that the degree of inequality is important (i.e. the size of the gap between rich and poor). According to an editorial in the British Medical Journal "what matters in determining mortality and health in a society is less the overall wealth of that society and more how evenly wealth is distributed. The more equally wealth is distributed the better the health of that society." [Vol. 312, April 20, 1996, p. 985] In other words, absolute levels of wealth are less important than relative levels. Health is a product of social life and increasing inequality in wealth leads to increasing inequality in health.

Research in the USA found overwhelming evidence of this. George Kaplan and his colleagues measured inequality in the 50 US states and compared it to the age-adjusted death rate for all causes of death, and a pattern emerged: the more unequal the distribution of income, the greater the death rate. ["Inequality in income and mortality in the United States: analysis of mortality and potential pathways," British Medical Journal Vol. 312, pp. 999-1003]

This measure of income inequality was tested against other social conditions besides health. States with greater inequality in the distribution of income also had higher rates of unemployment, higher rates of incarceration, a higher percentage of people receiving income assistance and food stamps, a greater percentage of people without medical insurance, greater proportion of babies born with low birth weight, higher murder rates, higher rates of violent crime, higher costs per-person for medical care, and higher costs per person for police ‘protection’. Moreover states with greater inequality of income distribution also spent less per person on education, had fewer books per person in the schools, and had poorer educational performance, including worse reading skills, worse mathematics skills, and lower rates of completion of high school.

As the gap grows between rich and poor (indicating an increase in social hierarchy within and outside workplaces) the health of a people deteriorates and the social fabric unravels. Being at the bottom of the social ladder has psychological effects in addition to the hardships of substandard housing, nutrition, air quality, recreational opportunities, and medical care enjoyed by the poor (see George Davey Smith, "Income inequality and mortality: why are they related?" British Medical Journal, Vol. 312, pp. 987-988).

Redistribution or Revolution?
All this is not to suggest that those at the bottom of hierarchies are passive victims (as middle class reformers like to think) - far from it. Those at the bottom are constantly resisting the negative effects of hierarchy and creating non-hierarchical ways of living and fighting. This constant process of self-activity and self-liberation can be seen from the labour, women's and other movements - in which, to some degree, people create their own alternatives based upon their own dreams and hopes. Anarchism is based upon, and grew out of, this process of resistance, hope and direct action. It is these movements which will ultimately solve the social problem and create a society based on liberty, equality and solidarity (and good health for all!).

The growing gap between rich and poor has not been ordained by god, nature or some other superhuman force. It has been created by a specific social system, its institutions and workings - a system based upon authoritarian social relationships which effect us both physically and mentally. This social system itself has, in the past, reduced inequality. In the 1960s and 1970s the gap narrowed. "Just as a gap can widen so it can narrow," the authors of The Widening Gap argue but "the trends of growing inequality show no sign of abating and the consequences of such a widening gap are dire." Anarchists would agree. However, ultimately, as the experience of the 1980s show, reforms can be destroyed and undermined. Without a "redistribution" of power along with the wealth any reform can be reversed. Only when we finally abolish capitalism and the state that protects it, can equality be achieved so that people are no longer subjected to the exploitation that shortens their lives.

The authors of The Widening Gap also argue that it is their "firm belief that if health inequalities... are to be reduced, as is the stated aim of the Government, then policies which actively address the reduction of poverty and of inequality through redistribution [of income and wealth] must be pursued." They add: "The costs would be borne by the rich." However, the logic of "redistribution" fails to understand that we, the working class, create the wealth that accumulates in the hands of the few. We are not "redistributing" wealth - we are returning it to its rightful owners! Rather than redistribute wealth we should be ensuring that it never leaves our hands to begin with. And that requires a "redistribution" of power - that is, the creation of a culture of resistance that wins reforms by self-managed organisation, direct action and solidarity on the way to creating a new world.

Evolution and Environment - Review

Evolution and Environment
Peter Kropotkin
Black Rose Books - £11.99

This work, volume 11 of The Collected Works of Peter Kropotkin, is in two parts. The first is Kropotkin's classic book "Modern Science and Anarchism." The second is concerned with his thoughts on the latest theories and experiments in biology and evolutionary thought. As will become clear, the combining of these two very different works is not as contradictory as it first seems.

"Modern Science and Anarchism" is Kropotkin's attempt to place anarchist theory in the context of 19th Century scientific thought. In so doing, he stresses the importance of the inductive-deductive method, namely the analysis of everyday society and the basing of theory on the results of that analysis rather than creating a theory in abstraction and fitting the facts to it. This methodology is particularly fruitful when used, as Kropotkin did, to analyse anarchism as a product of the class war ("Anarchism... originated in everyday struggles"). Kropotkin stresses that anarchism is not a utopian theory but rather a product of the needs and aspirations of working class people, as expressed in their resistance to authority, exploitation and domination. In Kropotkin's eyes, all anarchist writers did was to "work out a general expression of [anarchism's] principles, and the theoretical and scientific basis of its teachings" derived from the experiences of working class people in struggle as well as analysing the evolutionary tendencies of society in general. Thus, Kropotkin (like Bakunin and Proudhon before him) placed socialist tendencies in the struggle within but against capitalism, namely the generation of new forms of social organisation and ways of living together created in resistance to capitalist and state oppression.

In contrast, Marxism places socialistic tendencies towards socialism in the increasing centralisation of capital (to quote Capital, the "centralisation of the means of production and the socialisation of labour reach a point at which they become incompatible with their capitalist integument. This integument is burst asunder. The knell of capitalist private property sounds. The expropriators are expropriated"). While capitalism may create its own "gravediggers," it is not working class needs that signify its end. Rather it is the objective needs of production, the contradiction between socialised production and private property (which ends with the actual socialisation of production). Thus Marxism (particularly in its Leninist form) sees socialism as a result of tendencies within but part of capitalism. Little wonder it proved, in practice, to be little more than the nationalisation of capital as capital ("the new form of the Wage System," in Kropotkin's words) and a nightmare. Only a "professional revolutionary" - or non-worker - such as Lenin could suggest the world as one big office or factory as a positive vision!

This vision of anarchism as a product of working class struggle and its organisations can be seen from Kropotkin's comments that "the Anarchist movement was renewed each time it received an impression from some great practical lesson: it derived its origin from the teachings of life itself." He pointed to the experience of the Paris Commune and the trade union movement - "the idea of independent Communes for the territorial organisation, and of federations of Trade Unions for the organisation of men [and women] in accordance with their different functions, gave a concrete conception of society regenerated by social revolution." So, for Kropotkin, the present and the future are linked by the struggle against capitalism (and the state) and the organisations and solidarity created by that struggle rather than the development of capitalism. After all, the centralisation/accumulation process pointed to by Marx exists precisely to support and increase the power of capitalists over their workers (to extract more profits from them via technological innovation) and society as a whole (to gain competitive advantage by the increased market power associated with big business). Capitalism seeks centralisation in order to empower and enrich the few. Why should this development be considered as the basis for socialism? Surely, by definition, it is opposite of socialism? Unsurprisingly, rather than seeing the free society as one big office, Kropotkin saw it as a free federation of self-managing communes in which "associations of men and women... work on the land, in the factories, in the mines, and so on, [and are] themselves the managers of production."

Rather than base society on the model of the (capitalist) workplace, Kropotkin envisioned its transformation by the values of those resisting capitalist domination at the point of production and based the future society on the self-managed structures created by that struggle. Again and again Kropotkin links anarchist ideas to the class struggle, to the everyday struggle of the oppressed to free themselves.

Such a perspective is as essential now as it was then and this is why "Modern Science and Anarchism" should be read by all anarchists. It gives an essential base from which to develop and build anarchist theory in the future. Also of interest is the way Kropotkin links revolutions in science with social movements and transformations. This is important, for as any student realises, education does not exist in a vacuum. What is taught in schools, colleges and universities will be influenced by social struggles going on outside. If social struggle is low, radical ideas (in all areas of science, not only in the social sciences) may be safely ignored. However, when social struggle heats up, new ideas appear and enter all aspects of society, including education and science. People develop new ideas and rebel against the authority of what passes for science as well as against the authority of the state or the boss. Thus, as well as linking anarchism to the daily struggles of the oppressed, he links this struggle to the evolution of ideas, of science. This is to be expected as the ideal, as Bakunin argued, is the flower whose root lies in the material conditions of existence. The very process of struggle, the changing of those material conditions, will necessarily find expression in the world of science and thought. And it is this challenge to existing scientific authority which is expressed in the second half of the book.

This second half, entitled "Thoughts on Evolution", contains articles on evolution previously unpublished in book form. They date from 1910 to 1915, and discuss the effects of the environment on planet and animal evolution and its relationship to previous theories on evolution particularly those of Darwin. The articles are relevant to anarchists as they suggest that if animals and plants adapt quickly to changing environments, the same applies to humans. It is these rapid adaptations to the environment which Kropotkin discusses, along with their influence on long-term evolutionary change. The research Kropotkin discusses implies that rather than a fixed and definite "human nature" people (like other animals) can adapt and evolve quickly to different environmental circumstances. Thus an anarchist society is neither utopian nor incompatible with "human nature" as human nature will change in response to new stimuli (the "direct action of the environment"). This complements Kropotkin's ideas on the nature of anarchism as a product of struggle. By resisting power, people create new forms of social organisation and modify their environment. This new environment encourages adaptations in those who experience it, thus a process of accumulate changes occurs in a specific direction provoked by the direct action of the (changing) environment on individuals.

The two sections of this work complement each other remarkably well. Modern Science and Anarchism arguing that anarchism comes from daily struggles which change society and Thoughts on Evolution arguing that the changing society would have a direct effect on those within it, encouraging and enhancing the liberation of the individual (in a process initiated by their own direct action). One question does remain, however. If animals and plants adapt to changing environments then will humans adapt to hierarchical society? If this is the case, then the spirit of revolt can only occur from external influences, not from any need for liberty, equality or solidarity. It also implies that alienation cannot exist, as there is nothing to be alienated from. This can be inferred from Kropotkin's comments that "Anarchism is a conception of the Universe based on the mechanical interpretation of phenomena." This vision is lacking in that it ignores the fact that people have always striven for freedom no matter how terrible the environment in which they live. While people do adapt to their environment, they also try and change that environment to better satisfy their needs, needs which exist in spite of their environment.

Hence Kropotkin's vision must be informed by Malatesta, who argued against Kropotkin's fatalism and mechanistic tendencies and reminded us that anarchy "is a human aspiration" and "can be achieved through the exercise of the human will." This subjective element in the struggle for freedom is essential and one Kropotkin addresses in "Modern Science and Anarchism" when he writes that "Anarchy represents... the creative constructive force of the masses, who elaborated common-law institutions in order to defend themselves against a domineering minority." In other words, anarchism comes from the resistance of those who do not adapt to hierarchical society and act to change it to one more fitting their needs and desires. Kropotkin was obviously aware of this but, unfortunately, did not see how it contradicted his mechanistic philosophy.

This minor point aside, these works are of use to anarchists today. Rather than produce a "science" of the class struggle - Kropotkin applies the techniques of science to that struggle in order to ground anarchism in the struggle of the oppressed and to show it was a product of our own self-activity. This methodology is one anarchists should continue to apply while ignoring the mechanistic comments of Kropotkin. For this reason, despite its flaws, this book (especially "Modern Science and Anarchism") is essential reading for anyone interesting in both analysing and changing the world.

Smoking Guns

The selection, 20 months on from the Good Friday Agreement, of the 12-member power-sharing executive, has left hard-line unionists furious. The Democratic Unionist party has described the holding of ministerial office by SinnFein's Martin McGuiness (education) and Bairbre de Brun (health) as casting "a shadow over the so-called new dawn in Northern Ireland." Ian Paisley probably gave the game away when he condemned the fact that McGuiness was in charge of primary and secondary education and the SDLP's Sean Farren had control of higher education. For all the bluster, Paisley's concern was not with supposed "paramilitaries" entering the political arena, but the holding of office by Catholics per se. The Guardian (30/11/99) appeared fascinated by the idea that McGuiness, who "left school at 15 without qualifications" could presume to handle his brief at all. More than one taboo it appears has been broken – for the Unionists it was the presence of Taigs in the government, for the liberal middle classes it was the invasion of the unskilled working classes onto their terrain!

As always, violence and the pursuit of political aims through the use of force are presumed to be a historical baggage of the nationalists and Loyalist paramilitaries of the Progressive Unionists alone. It's worth, then, looking at the background of the "respectable" Unionist leader in Parliament Buildings.

David Trimble is seen as a fervent opponent of the politics of the gun. Leaving aside the allegations made by Jim Sands in Sean McPhilemy's book "The Committee", Trimble was a member of William Craig's Ulster Vanguard movement, and was political adviser to Craig when he told a 1972 rally in Belfast's Ormeau Park "We must build up a dossier of the men and women who are a menace to this country because if and when the politicians fail us, it may be our job to liquidate the enemy." Trimble was also involved in the Ulster Club's opposition to the Anglo-Irish Agreement, and said of the campaign, "I would personally draw the line at terrorism and serious violence. But if we are talking about a campaign that involves demonstrations and so on, then a certain element of violence might be inescapable." 1 In July 1996, Trimble, who, at the time "would never talk to terrorists", met mid-Ulster UVF murderer Billy "King Rat" Wright at the church hall at Drumcree, around the time Wright was involved in the killing of a catholic taxi driver, Michael McGoldrick.

Nor is it the case that the guns, which have echoed throughout the period of deadlock over decommissioning, have been those of nationalists. A variety of Loyalist front organisations have continued to ply their trade throughout. In November, a Loyalist death list was discovered at Stoneycroft Orange Hall in South Antrim. The list contained over 300 names. Included on the list were SinnFein councillors Sean Hayes and Alex Maskey and Lower Ormeau Concerned Community spokesperson Gerard Rice. Only a handful of those on the list have been warned by the RUC of the threat against them. The lists are believed to include copies of British army files compiled as recently as 1997. Since the lists were discovered a North Belfast family on the lists have been targeted in a pipe bomb attack and five people in the Newry area have been sent letters containing a bullet and signed OV (Orange Volunteers). Community activist Michael O'Hara, chairperson of the Short Strand Residents Group, was attacked by a machete wielding Loyalist group on 19 November. There is speculation that the attack was the work of the LVF. In the past few months there have been two pipe bomb attacks and 6 petrol bomb attacks in the Short Strand enclave and 2 British soldiers were caught by local Republicans after they took part in a loyalist gang attack on the area. Both the Orange Volunteers (a flag of convenience for the LVF) and the Red Hand Defenders (members of the UDA) continue to recruit and actively target nationalists. Among Loyalists recently arrested, one, Clifford Peebles, was a Protestant fundamentalist pastor, and member of Families Against Intimidation and Terror. Peebles was arrested in possession of a pipe bomb and hand grenades.

The majority of both communities in the six counties will welcome the "normalisation" of politics through the Good Friday Agreement. Whether the interests of working class communities of either side can be met through the Stormont coalition remains to be seen (although we can guess!) Amidst the mock-outrage over "paramilitaries" in Parliament, though, we should not forget that men like Trimble and Paisley were quite prepared to support violence in defence of a sectarian state, or that paramilitaries armed by the British state continue to actively target nationalists, using information supplied by that state; a state which purports to support the peace process.

..........more importantly at least McGuiness doesn't have links with Orange Order members who ran Kincora Boys Home and should not be allowed anywhere near anything to do with young people [maybe that's why Sinn Fein got the post !]. Which if any of the above loyalists are closest to that ? -

1. Loyalists, Peter Taylor, Bloomsbury Publishing

Technology, Capitalism and Anarchism

Technology has an obvious effect on individual freedom; in some ways increasing it, in others restricting it. However, since capitalism is a social system based on inequalities of power, it is a truism that technology will reflect those inequalities, as it does not develop in a social vacuum.

No technology evolves unless there are people who benefit from it and have sufficient means to disseminate it. In a capitalist society, technologies useful to the rich and powerful are generally the ones that spread. This can be seen from industry, where technology has been implemented specifically to deskill the worker, so replacing the skilled, valued craftperson with the easily trained (and eliminated) "mass worker." By making trying to make any individual worker dispensable, the capitalist hopes to deprive workers of a means of controlling the relation between their effort on the job and the pay they receive. In Proudhon's words, the "machine, or the workshop, after having degraded the labourer by giving him a master, completes his degeneracy by reducing him from the rank of artisan to that of common workman." 1

So, unsurprisingly, technology within a hierarchical society will tend to re-enforce hierarchy and domination. Managers/capitalists will select technology that will protect and extend their power (and profits). Thus, while it is often claimed that technology is "neutral" this is not (and can never be) the case. Simply put, "progress" within a hierarchical system will reflect the power structures of that system ("technology is political," to use David Noble's expression, it does not evolve in isolation from human beings and the social relationships and power structures between them).

As George Reitzer notes, technological innovation under a hierarchical system soon results in "increased control and the replacement of human with non-human technology. In fact, the replacement of human with non-human technology is very often motivated by a desire for greater control, which of course is motivated by the need for profit-maximisation. The great sources of uncertainty and unpredictability in any rationalising system are people. . . .

McDonaldisation involves the search for the means to exert increasing control over both employees and customers" 2. For Reitzer, capitalism is marked by the "irrationality of rationality," in which this process of control results in a system based on crushing the individuality and humanity of those who live within it. In this process of controlling employees to maximise profit, deskilling comes about because skilled labour is more expensive than unskilled or semi-skilled, and skilled workers have more power over their working conditions due to the difficulty in replacing them. In addition it is easier to "rationalise" the production process with methods like Taylorism, a system of strict production schedules based on the amount of time (as determined by management) that workers "need" to perform various operations in the workplace, thus requiring simple, easily analysed and timed movements. And as companies are in competition, each has to copy the most "efficient" (i.e. profit maximising) production in order to remain profitable, no matter how dehumanising this may be for workers. Thus the effects of the division of labour and deskilling becoming widespread. Instead of managing their own work, workers are turned into human machines in a labour process they do not control; instead being controlled by those who own the machines they use 3.

As Max Stirner noted (echoing Adam Smith), this process of deskilling and controlling work means that "When everyone is to cultivate himself into man, condemning a man to machine-like labour amounts to the same thing as slavery. . . . Every labour is to have the intent that the man be satisfied. Therefore he must become a master in it too, be able to perform it as a totality. He who in a pin-factory only puts on heads, only draws the wire, works, as it were mechanically, like a machine; he remains half-trained, does not become a master: his labour cannot satisfy him, it can only fatigue him. His labour is nothing by itself, has no object in itself, is nothing complete in itself; he labours only into another's hands, and is used. (exploited) by this other" 4 Kropotkin makes a similar argument against the division of labour ("machine-like labour") in The Conquest of Bread.5

Modern industry is set up to ensure that workers do not become "masters" of their work but instead follow the orders of management. The evolution of technology lies in the relations of power within society. This is because "the viability of a design is not simply a technical or even economic evaluation but rather a political one. A technology is deemed viable if it conforms to the existing relations of power." 6 This process of controlling, restricting, and de-individualising labour is a key feature of capitalism. Work that is skilled and controlled by workers is empowering to them in two ways. Firstly it gives them pride in their work and themselves. Secondly, it makes it harder to replace them or suck profits out of them. Therefore, in order to remove the "subjective" factor (i.e. individuality and worker control) from the work process, capital needs methods of controlling the workforce to prevent workers from asserting their individuality, thus preventing them from arranging their own lives and work and resisting the authority of the bosses.

This need to control workers can be seen from the type of machinery introduced during the Industrial Revolution. According to Andrew Ure, a consultant for the factory owners, "[i]n the factories for spinning coarse yarn. . .the mule-spinners [skilled workers] have abused their powers beyond endurance, domineering in the most arrogant manner. . . over their masters. High wages. . . have, in too many cases, cherished pride and supplied funds for supporting refractory spirits in strikes. . . . During a disastrous turmoil of [this] kind. . . several capitalists. . . had recourse to the celebrated machinists. . . of Manchester. . . [to construct] a self-acting mule. . . . This invention confirms the great doctrine already propounded, that when capital enlists science in her service, the refractory hand of labour will always be taught docility." 7

Why is it necessary for workers to be "taught docility"? Because "(b)y the infirmity of human nature, it happens that the more skillful the workman, the more self-willed and intractable he is apt to become, and of course the less fit a component of mechanical system in which... he may do great damage to the whole." 8 Proudhon quotes an English Manufacturer who argues the same point:
"The insubordination of our workmen has given us the idea of dispensing with them. We have made and stimulated every imaginable effort to replace the service of men by tools more docile, and we have achieved our object. Machinery has delivered capital from the oppression of labour."9 As David Noble summarises, during the Industrial Revolution "Capital invested in machines that would reinforce the system of domination [in the workplace], and this decision to invest, which might in the long run render the chosen technique economical, was not itself an economical decision but a political one, with cultural sanction." 10

A similar process was at work in the US, where the rise in trade unionism resulted in "industrial managers bec[oming] even more insistent that skill and initiative not be left on the shop floor, and that, by the same token, shop floor workers not have control over the reproduction of relevant skills through craft-regulated apprenticeship training. Fearful that skilled shop-floor workers would use their scarce resources to reduce their effort and increase their pay, management deemed that knowledge of the shop-floor process must reside with the managerial structure." 11

American managers happily embraced Taylorism, whereby the task of the manager was to gather all available knowledge about the work he oversaw and reorganise it. Taylor himself considered the task for workers was "to do what they are told to do promptly and without asking questions or making suggestions." 12 Taylor also relied exclusively upon incentive-pay schemes which mechanically linked pay to productivity and had no appreciation of the subtleties of psychology or sociology (which would have told him that enjoyment of work and creativity is as important for people as higher pay). Unsurprisingly, workers responded to his schemes by insubordination, sabotage and strikes and it was "discovered . . . that the 'time and motion' experts frequently knew very little about the proper work activities under their supervision, that often they simply guessed at the optimum rates for given operations . . . it meant that the arbitrary authority of management has simply been reintroduced in a less apparent form." 13

Katherine Stone also argues (in her account of "The Origins of Job Structure in the Steel Industry" in America) that the "transfer of skill [from the worker to management] was not a response to the necessities of production, but was, rather, a strategy to rob workers of their power" by "tak[ing] knowledge and authority from the skilled workers and creating a management cadre able to direct production." Stone highlights that this deskilling process was combined with a "divide and rule" policy by management by wage incentives and new promotion policies. This created a reward system in which workers who played by the rules would receive concrete gains in terms of income and status. Over time, such a structure would come to be seen as "the natural way to organise work and one which offered them personal advancement" even though, "when the system was set up, it was neither obvious nor rational. The job ladders were created just when the skill requirements for jobs in the industry were diminishing as a result of the new technology, and jobs were becoming more and more equal as to the learning time and responsibility involved." The modern structure of the capitalist workplace was created to break workers resistance to capitalist authority and was deliberately "aimed at altering workers' ways of thinking and feeling - which they did by making workers' individual 'objective' self-interests congruent with that of the employers and in conflict with workers' collective self-interest." It was a means of "labour discipline" and of "motivating workers to work for the employers' gain and preventing workers from uniting to take back control of production." Stone notes that the "development of the new labour system in the steel industry was repeated throughout the economy in different industries. As in the steel industry, the core of these new labour systems were the creation of artificial job hierarchies and the transfer of skills from workers to the managers." 14

This process was recognised by libertarians at the time, with the IWW, for example, arguing that "[l]abourers are no longer classified by difference in trade skill, but the employer assigns them according to the machine which they are attached. These divisions, far from representing differences in skill or interests among the labourers, are imposed by the employers that workers may be pitted against one another and spurred to greater exertion in the shop, and that all resistance to capitalist tyranny may be weakened by artificial distinctions." 15 Anarchists and syndicalists argued for, and built, industrial unions - one union per workplace and industry - in order to combat these divisions and effectively resist capitalist tyranny.

Needless to say, such management schemes never last in the long run nor totally work in the short run either - which explains why hierarchical management continues, as does technological deskilling. Workers always find ways of using new technology to increase their power within the workplace and so undermine management decisions to their own advantage.

This process of deskilling workers was complemented by many factors - state protected markets (in the form of tariffs and government orders - the "lead in technological innovation came in armaments, where assured government orders justified high fixed-cost investments"); the use of "both political and economic power [by American capitalists] to eradicate and diffuse workers' attempts to assert shop-floor control"; and "repression, instigated and financed both privately and publicly, to eliminate radical elements in the American labour movement." 16) Thus state action played a key role in destroying craft control within industry, along with the large financial resources of capitalists compared to workers.

Bringing this sorry story up to date, we find "many, if not most, American managers are reluctant to develop skills [and initiative] on the shop floor for the fear of losing control of the flow of work." 17 Given that there is a division of knowledge in society (and, obviously, in the workplace as well) this means that capitalism has elected to introduce a management and technology mix which leads to inefficiency and waste of valuable knowledge, experience and skills. Thus the capitalist workplace is both produced by and is a weapon in the class struggle and reflects the shifting power relations between workers and employers. The creation of artificial job hierarchies, the transfer of skills away from workers to managers and technological development are all products of class struggle. Technological progress and workplace organisation within capitalism have little to do with "efficiency" and far more to do with profits and power. This means that while self-management has consistently proven to be more efficient (and empowering) than hierarchical management structures, capitalism actively selects against it. This is because capitalism is motivated purely by increasing profits, and the maximisation of profits is best done by disempowering workers and empowering bosses - even though this concentration of power harms efficiency by distorting and restricting information flow and the gathering and use of widely distributed knowledge within the firm.

Thus the last refuge of the capitalist/technophile (namely that the productivity gains of technology outweigh the human costs or the means used to achieve them) is doubly flawed. Firstly, disempowering technology may maximise profits, but it need not increase efficient utilisation of resources or workers time, skills or potential (efficiency and profit maximisation are two different things, with such deskilling and management control actually reducing efficiency - compared to workers' control - but as it allows managers to maximise profits the capitalist market selects it). Secondly, "when investment does in fact generate innovation, does such innovation yield greater productivity?. . . After conducting a poll of industry executives on trends in automation, Business Week concluded in 1982 that 'there is a heavy backing for capital investment in a variety of labour-saving technologies that are designed to fatten profits without necessary adding to productive output.'" David Noble concludes that "whenever managers are able to use automation to 'fatten profits' and enhance their authority (by eliminating jobs and extorting concessions and obedience from the workers who remain) without at the same time increasing social product, they appear more than ready to do." 18

Of course the claim is that higher wages follow increased investment and technological innovation ("in the long run" - although usually "the long run" has to be helped to arrive by workers' struggle and protest!). Passing aside the question of whether slightly increased consumption really makes up for dehumanising and uncreative work, we must note that it is usually the capitalist who really benefits from technological change in money terms. For example, the results of Taylor's first experiment in his ideas indicate this well. Taylor's theory was that when workers controlled their own work, they did not produce to the degree wanted by management. His solution was simple. The job of management was to discover the "one best way" of doing a specific work task and then ensure that workers followed these (management defined) working practices. In other words, eliminate workers' control in favour of bosses control. The result of his first experiment was a 360% increase in productivity for a 60% increase in wages. Very "efficient."

In the wider economy, similar processes are at work. Between 1920 and 1927 (a period when unemployment caused by technology became commonplace) the automobile industry (which was at the forefront of technological change) saw wages rise by 23.7%. Thus, claim supporters of capitalism, technology is in all our interests. However, capital surpluses rose by 192.9% during the same period - 8 times faster! Similarly, over the last 20 years the USA and many other countries have seen companies "down-sizing" and "right-sizing" their workforce and introducing new technologies. The result? While wages have stagnated, profits have been increasing as productivity rises and the rich have been getting richer - technology yet again showing whose side it is on. As David Noble notes (with regards to manufacturing):
"US Manufacturing industry over the last thirty years . . . [has seen] the value of capital stock (machinery) relative to labour double, reflecting the trend towards mechanisation and automation. As a consequence . . . the absolute output person hour increased 115%, more than double. But during this same period, real earnings for hourly workers . . . rose only 84%, less than double. Thus, after three decades of automation-based progress, workers are now earning less relative to their output than before. That is, they are producing more for less; working more for their boss and less for themselves." 19 Noble continues:
"For if the impact of automation on workers has not been ambiguous, neither has the impact on management and those it serves - labour's loss has been their gain. During the same first thirty years of our age of automation, corporate after tax profits have increased 450%, more than five times the increase in real earnings for workers." 20

But why? Because labour has the ability to produce a flexible amount of output (use value) for a given wage. Unlike coal or steel, a worker can be made to work more intensely during a given working period and so technology can be utilised to maximise that effort as well as increasing the pool of potential replacements for an employee by deskilling their work (so reducing workers' power to get higher wages for their work). Thus technology is a key way of increasing the power of the boss, which in turn can increase output per worker while ensuring that the workers' receive relatively less of that output back in terms of wages - "Machines," argued Proudhon, "promised us an increase of wealth they have kept their word, but at the same time endowing us with an increase of poverty. They promised us liberty. . . [but] have brought us slavery." 21

But technological progress does not imply that we are victims. Far from it, much innovation is the direct result of our resistance to hierarchy and its tools. For example, capitalists turned to Taylorism and "scientific management" in response to the power of skilled craft workers to control their work and working environment (the famous 1892 Homestead strike, for example, was a direct product of the desire of the company to end the skilled workers' control and power on the shop-floor). In response to this, factory and other workers created a whole new structure of working class power - a new kind of unionism based on the industrial level. This can be seen in many different countries. For example, in Spain, the syndicalist union, CNT adopted the sindicato unico (one union) in 1918 which united all workers of the same workplace in the same union. In the USA, the 1930s saw a massive and militant union organising drive by the CIO based on industrial unionism and collective bargaining (inspired, in part, by the example of the IWW and its broad organisation of unskilled workers). Thus technology and its (ab)uses is very much a product of the class struggle.

With a given technology, workers and radicals soon learn to use it to resist their bosses and the state (which necessitates a transformation of technology again, to try and give the bosses an upper hand!). The use of the Internet, for example, to organise, spread and co-ordinate information, resistance and struggles is a classic example of this process (see Jason Wehling, "'Netwars' and Activists Power on the Internet", Scottish Anarchist no. 2 for details). There is always a "guerrilla war" associated with technology, with workers and radicals developing their own tactics to gain counter control for themselves. Thus much technological change reflects our power and activity to change our own lives and working conditions.

While some may dismiss our analysis as "Luddite," to do so is make "technology" an idol to be worshipped rather than something to be critically analysed. Moreover, it is to misrepresent the ideas of the Luddites themselves - they never actually opposed all technology or machinery; rather, they opposed "all Machinery hurtful to Commonality" (as a March 1812 letter to a hated Manufacturer put it). Rather than worship technological progress (or view it uncritically), the Luddites subjected technology to critical analysis and evaluation. They opposed those forms of machinery that harmed themselves or society. Unlike those who smear others as "Luddites," the labourers who broke machines were not intimidated by the modern notion of progress. Their sense of right and wrong was not clouded by the belief that technology was somehow inevitable or neutral. They did not think that human values (or their own interests) were irrelevant in evaluating the benefits and drawbacks of a given technology and its effects on workers and society as a whole. Nor did they consider their skills and livelihood as less important than the profits and power of the capitalists. In other words, they would have agreed with Proudhon's comment that machinery "plays the leading role in industry, man is secondary" and they acted to change this relationship. 22 Indeed, it would be tempting to argue that worshippers of technological progress are, in effect, urging us not to think and to sacrifice ourselves to a new abstraction like the state or capital. The Luddites were an example of working people deciding what their interests were and acting to defend them by their own direct action - in this case opposing technology which benefited the ruling class by giving them an edge in the class struggle. Anarchists follow this critical approach to technology, recognising that it is not neutral nor above criticism.

For capital, the source of problems in industry is people. Unlike machines, people can think, feel, dream, hope and act. The "evolution" of technology will, therefore, reflect the class struggle within society and the struggle for liberty against the forces of authority. Technology, far from being neutral, reflects the interests of those with power. Technology will only be truly a universal resource once we control it ourselves and modify it to reflect human values (this may mean that some forms of technology will have to be written off and replaced by new forms in a free society). Until that happens, most technological processes - regardless of the other advantages they may have - will be used to exploit and control people. Hence French syndicalist Emile Pouget's argument that the worker "will only respect machinery in the day when it becomes his friend, shortening his work, rather than as today, his enemy, taking away jobs, killing workers." 23 Or Proudhon's comments that "in the present condition of society, the workshop with its hierarchical organisation, and machinery" could only serve "exclusively the interests of the least numerous, the least industrious, and the wealthiest class" rather than "be employed for the benefit of all." 24

While resisting technological "progress" (by means up to and including machine breaking) is essential in the here and now, the issue of technology can only be truly solved when those who use a given technology control its development, introduction and use. Destroying modern technology would be, potentially, disastrous. As Bakunin pointed out, "to destroy. . . all the instruments of labour [i.e. technology]. . . would be to condemn all humanity - which is infinitely too numerous today to exist. . . on the simple gifts of nature. . . - to. . . death by starvation." 25 Little wonder, therefore, that anarchists consider workers' self-management as a key means of solving the problems created by technology. Proudhon, for example, argued that the solution to the problems created by the division of labour and technology could only be solved by "association" and "by a broad education, by the obligation of apprenticeship, and by the co-operation of all who take part in the collective work." This would ensure that "the division of labour can no longer be a cause of degradation for the workman [or workwoman]." 26 Only when workers "obtain . . . collective property in capital" and capital (and so technology) is no longer "concentrated in the hands of a separate, exploiting class" will they be able "to smash the tyranny of capital." 27 This would allow the tranformation of current technologies (and the elimination of the harmful ones) and the creation of liberatory technologies.

While as far as technology goes, it may not be enough to get rid of the boss, this is a necessary first step in creating a technology which enhances freedom rather than controlling and shaping the worker (or user in general) and enhancing the power and profits of the capitalist. In the words of Cornelius Castoriadais, the "conscious transformation of technology will . . . be a central task of a society of free workers." 28

1. System of Economical Contradictions, p. 202, PJ Proudhon
2. George Reitzer, The McDonaldisation of Society, p. 100
3. see also Harry Braverman, Labour and Monopoly Capital: The Degradation of Work in the Twentieth Century, Monthly Review Press, 1974
4. The Ego and Its Own, p. 121, Max Stirner
5. see chapter XV - "The Division of Labour" as did Proudhon (see chapters III and IV of System of Economical Contradictions).
6. David Noble, Progress without People, p. 63
7. Andrew Ure, Philosophy of Manufactures, pp. 336-368 - quoted by Noble, Op. Cit., p. 125
8. Ibid
9. System of Economical Contradictions, p. 189
10. Op. Cit., p. 6
11. William Lazonick, Organisation and Technology in Capitalist Development, p. 273
12. quoted by David Noble, American By Design, p. 268
13. David Noble, Op. Cit., p. 272
14. Root & Branch (ed.), Root and Branch: The Rise of the Workers' Movements, pp. 152-5
15. quoted by Katherine Stone, Op. Cit., p. 157
16. William Lazonick, Competitive Advantage on the Shop Floor, p. 218, p. 303
17. William Lazonick, Organisation and Technology in Capitalist Development, pp. 279-280
18. David Noble, Progress Without People, pp. 86-87 and p. 89
19. Op. Cit., pp. 92-3
20. Op. Cit., p. 95
21. Proudhon, Op. Cit., p. 199
22. Op. Cit., p. 204
23. quoted by David Noble, Op. Cit., p. 15
24. Proudhon, Op. Cit., p. 205
25. The Basic Bakunin, p. 90-1
26. The General Idea of the Revolution, p. 223
27. Michael Bakunin, Op. Cit., pp. 90-1
28. Workers' Councils and the Economics of a Self-Managed Society, p. 13

Talking in their sleep

Michael Bakunin once observed that "The State, any State - even when it dresses up in the most liberal and democratic form - is necessarily based upon domination, and upon violence, that is, upon despotism - a concealed but no less dangerous despotism... The State, or political right, denotes force, authority, predominance; it presupposes inequality in fact." (GP Mazimoff - The Political Philosophy of Bakunin - Free Press 1953).

For the most part, the despotic lash is hidden, and we're fed stories of the guarantees of personal liberty embodied in the traditions of parliamentary democracy. We're told that representative politics ensures stability and underwrites freedom. Democracy, we're told, is what we have, and what the less "fortunate" - such as the "prisoners of Stalinism" who brought down the physical and metaphorical walls which divided Europe in the "democratic" revolutions of 1989 - aspire to. Parliament, and its earthly champions - MPs, party workers, the fourth estate et al - guarantees our citizenship, now and for all times.

One of the endlessly recycled currencies of romantic fiction is the story of the cheating lover who betrays himself through talking in his sleep. Occasionally, the baggage handlers and bell boys of the ruling class get caught out in the same way, muttering in a kind of complacent half sleep, and in the process revealing that which is normally concealed. Churchill, for instance, in 1927 said of Mussolini's fascist dictatorship, "Your movement has abroad rendered a service to the whole world... Italy has shown that there is a way to combat subversive forces." We may be reminded also of Lord Chesterfield's reported comment that "arbitrary power" should be introduced "by slow degrees, and as it were, step by step, lest the people see it approach."

Recently, both Lord Lamont and Guardian writer Hugo Young have been musing aloud in a manner which suggests their fidelity to their beloved "democracy" might be open to question. Lord Lamont has been mailing potential friends of General Pinochet, asking them to pledge support for the "ailing dictator". "Remember" he tells them, "General Pinochet's only crime was that he stopped communism in South America." Thousands were killed in Chile following the 1973 overthrow of the elected social-democratic Allende government, and thousands more were tortured. All political opposition to the junta was banned. Books were burned, bodies piled high in football stadiums, and as the US journalist William Blum recounts (Killing Hope - Black Rose Books 1998), "soldiers slit the trouser legs of women, shouting that in Chile women wear dresses; the poor returned to the natural state; and the men of the world in Washington and in the halls of international finance opened up their cheque books." So murder and torture are not crimes if done to preserve "social order". Clearly as our Tory friend is aware; we cannot rush to judgement of such brutality. Who knows when such methods might be our resort against the poor here?

So much then for Lamont, a stalwart of the right. In the Guardian on 30/11/99 we were treated to Hugo Young's thoughts on the Musharraf coup in Pakistan ("Pakistan's Latest Putsch is the Kindest Coup of all"). Democracy, Young tells us, is not an event, but a process. It "does not live by votes alone." Parliamentary democracy, (particularly in Asia and Africa, he is keen to stress) is undermined by "flagrant vote bullying, a void in the rule of law." Because the overthrown Sharif government was irredeemably corrupt, so "democracy" may require a breathing space. Musharraff, for Young, "appears to be better than your average general...He may not yet have made the trains run on time, but he does stop at the lights." Young is a good liberal and does not go so far as to endorse a permanent military dictatorship in Pakistan; "the pressure to make democracy a living truth needs to be unremitting." But pressure it seems can mean many things, Sharif was a blatant fraudster whose rule left many amongst the poorest in Pakistan entirely disenchanted with the notion that democracy and "parliamentary democracy" were one and the same thing. Young knows this full well. He concedes therefore that while "the anti-democrat has no merit" - "Making people love democracy is the only way to keep them free." Thus an armed dictatorship can come to be the "least worst" option, if only for now. Better a general committed to making the poor "love democracy" again (perhaps by making voting compulsory?) than that the poor be given the opportunity to devise forms of democracy of their own.

It's good, as we're told, to talk - helpful too to eavesdrop on the pillow talk of the chattering classes. The "conditional" democrats who rule over us do more, though, than talk. In February 1998 the British government took out a High Court injunction against former Daily Mirror foreign editor, Nicholas Davies, in an attempt to frustrate publication of his book, Ten-Thirty-Three. After a protracted legal fight, the book has now been published by Mainstream Publishing. Ten-Thirty-Three was the code number given to Brian Nelson, the chief intelligence officer for the Ulster Defence Association, and also a member of the Force Research Unit, a hand-picked section of British Military Intelligence set up to target Republicans. Davie's book draws on high-ranking sources within military intelligence to reveal the collusion between the British Army and Loyalist death squads, a collusion sanctioned throughout by the government. Davies reveals how British Army intelligence gave details of nationalist activists to Nelson, providing photos, names, addresses and car registration numbers to facilitate their successful targeting and execution. Planned operations were co-ordinated through the London - based Joint Intelligence Committee. Using Nelson to direct the UDA, the Force Research Unit was implicated in at least 15 murders and 15 attempted murders, including the murders of Belfast solicitor Pat Finucane, Gerard Slane, 66 year old Francisco Norarintino, Billy Kane, Terry McDaid and Brendan Davidson.

In his book, Davies reveals that one of the actions taken by the Thatcher government was the reconstitution of a high level security directorate, the Joint Irish Section, under M15 control, in Northern Ireland. All FRU operations were passed through the JIS, which reported weekly to the Joint intelligence Committee - in effect, to Thatcher herself - in London. a When Nelson was arrested in 1991 and charged with conspiracy to murder and collecting information likely to assist terrorism, a deal was struck whereby he would be sentenced to 10 years, released in 1994, given a complete change of identity, relocation to a house worth £100,000 and a £75,000 lump sum, on condition he keep his mouth shut. The court and press were spun a tale of how the brave Nelson, working to thwart "UDA murder gangs" had helped save 217 lives through providing information to Military Intelligence. Davies reveals that, since he began writing his book, two of his inside sources have been threatened with "executive action", as he puts it, "the customary expression for murder".

Unlike most journalists, who're quite content to kiss the hand that feeds, Davies has been brave enough to seek to expose the machinations of the British State's "dirty war" in the north of Ireland. What the anti-democratic musings of the likes of Lamont and Young reveal, though, is that what was practised on the streets of Belfast will be transferred to the streets of Manchester or London or wherever required, whenever the "people" need to be persuaded to "love democracy" again. Talking in their sleep, our "democratic" politicians and press show us that , to recall Bakunin again, " offend, to oppress, to despoil, to plunder, to assassinate or enslave one's fellow man is ordinarily regarded as a crime. In public life, on the other hand, from the standpoint of patriotism, when these things are done for the grater glory of the State, for the preservation or the extension of its power, it is all transformed into duty and virtue."

N30 - London

November 30th saw a 1000+ strong demo in London called Reclaim the Railways. Reclaim the Streets. The Strike Support Group organised the demo outside Euston Station which had the support of the London Transport Regional Council of the RMT (Tube workers) and the Campaign against Tube Privatisation.

Speakers at the rally included railworkers and others campaigning for rail safety and against privatisation, anti-WTO activists, Zapatista supporters and many others. The speakers presented a refreshing anti-capitalist message, urging direct action rather than following parties or voting for new politicians. Unlike the left, who have retarded the issue politically by calling for re-nationalisation, RTS urged workers' self-management as the only viable alternative to privatisation. This was excellent testimony to RTS's libertarian politics and willingness to set the agenda rather than dovetail the left of the Labour party.

In addition to the anarchist analysis presented in their proposed solution to the evils of privatisation, the demo also successfully linked New Labour's Thatcherite policies to the on-going global neo-liberal assault on our class. As one of their leaflets advertising the event put it: "The most blatant example of market madness in London is the privatisation of the Tube. Consequently, railways are the focus of the events here. Join us to say No! to privatisation. No! to another century of capitalism. No! to another century of alienated work, poverty, wars and ecological destruction - and Yes! to a new world based on real human community, a society based on our needs and desires not their profits!"

RTS also stressed the importance of doing it ourselves and not relying on or trusting politicians or political parties. Its a shame they did not use the word anarchist (unlike socialist and communist) during the speeches, but the libertarian message of self-help, direct action and solidarity came through clear as day and that is what really counts.

In addition, RTS stressed that the only real solution is a new society, one based on human needs and not capitalist profit. They also linked the need to transform this world into a better one with direct action of workers: "The only practical solution is for us to start talking to our fellow commuters and workers, to start coming together to build a new world. That is what railworkers begin to do when they go on strike. Of course, the media say strikes cause commuter misery and damage to the economy. But what is the economy about? It is about working hard just to survive, while making profits for others to live at our expense. The economy is human misery. By striking, workers reduce the misery!"

If revolutions are festivals of the oppressed, direct action is the pre-party drink in the pub! RTS should be congratulated for placing fun at the centre of struggle -- after all, we want the end of capitalism because it causes misery, we should not reproduce that misery in our organisations and activity. If we are serious about creating the new world in the shell of the old, then our rejection of hierarchical organisation must be accompanied by a rejection of the immiseration of our lives created by that hierarchy.

Some comrades also helped hammer home the importance of autonomous self-organisation by handing out a leaflet warning people of the parasitic nature of the SWP. As it said: "At our best we [the direct action movement] have developed radical anti-capitalist ideas through creative actions. Actions brought off with no leaders giving us orders, just mutual aid and solidarity between groups and individuals. The same ideas also inspire the vision of the world many of us want to see -- a free community based on co-operation, not competition and hierarchies. The SWP, however, see the Party as all important. The resistance of the oppressed must be controlled and directed by the party leadership to succeed ..." The leaflet was right to argue that "despite their radical language the SWP is fundamentally opposed to our movement" -- indeed any movement of working class self-liberation. It’s nice to see comrades arguing against vanguardism and bringing those arguments to those involved in demos. Keep up the good work.

All in all, the politics of the N30 demo were excellent -- libertarian in spirit, method and vision. It makes such a change from the politics of the "official" Labour movement and its various hangers on like the SWP. However, the turning over of a (very conveniently placed) empty police van by some of the (unmasked) protesters does raise questions.

Firstly the police obviously had the numbers, and resources to win any confrontation (unlike June 18th). Euston Station forecourt is an easily enclosed space, heavily monitored by CCTV. The chances were that we would lose, so why provide the police with easy targets? The police obviously wanted a re-match and organised for it. Why play their game?

Secondly, why should demos always become riots? The politics of the demo can be lost (as can be seen from the coverage where opposition to privatisation and other issues were lost). This is not a plea for pacifism (we know that the police attack peaceful demos and self-defence is essential). Rather it is a plea for intelligence and analysis. Why chance getting arrested when the risks are clearly higher than the rewards? You do not do yourself favours nor the movement which may support you in court and prison. After all, if all demos become riots they will only become the activity of those young, confident and strong enough to handle them. Is this really what we want? To disenfranchise the bulk of the population from our activities? Of course not.

One last point, the next day Prescott pulled Railtrack out of the contract to privatise the London Underground. Of course, this must have been pure coincidence. Now, the next example of market madness is the privatisation of Air Traffic Control. Perhaps its time to Reclaim the Sky?

Rio Tinto Occupied

In solidarity with West Papua
Direct actions in solidarity with the indigenous people of West Papua took place around the UK on the 4th October. An area almost the size of England is to be destroyed by a giant infrastructure project in the Mamberamo region. A large dam flooding an area the size of Holland will spearhead logging, monoculture plantations, mining and heavy industry in the surrounding area. The 9,000-strong indigenous population of the area to be flooded, including at least 14 uncontacted tribes, are to be forcibly removed.

Activists from across the South West occupied both offices of Rio Tinto in Bristol in solidarity with the Free Papua Movement (OPM). Rio Tinto is the largest mining company in the world, supporting oppressive regimes across the world in return for military protection of their profitable operations. In West Papua, together with the brutal Indonesian military they have inflicted massive environmental devastation and human suffering. However in the face of corporate and state violence the people of West Papua have fought back. The aims of the action in Bristol were to disrupt the business of the company, to expose their abuses and show solidarity with the OPM, and take action with activists from other areas. It was successful on all counts.

Just before 9am 12 suited activists walked past security (busy dealing with diversionary "drunks" )and occupied the Mining and Exploration offices on the 7th floor. Police arrived very quickly in 5 cars and 3 vans, trashing a door and office equipment while clearing activists out. After an hour people left with no arrests to join the picket outside. Police confiscated a D-lock from one occupier and banners after a banner drop from a nearby footbridge. After a break for lunch and getting the D-lock back from the cop shop, the well-dressed rabble visited the second offices (central registration) for more of the same. The D-lock was put to good use as two women locked on to each other and a filing cabinet. In another office files were well shuffled, and next door a man barricaded himself in and got down to some useful office work. Three were arrested and held overnight for Breach of the Peace. All the time outside leaflets were given out and the building transformed with banners. People involved felt very positive about the first regional action in the South West, with lots of useful lessons and good experience of working together. The SWARM ( South West Active Resistance Movement ) is alive.

An Arco Infiltration The oil giant ARCO are involved in the exploration and development of Benoui Bay off West Papua and give economic and political support to the murderous Indonesian regime. On October 4th their offices in Guilford were invaded by a dozen besuited Brighton people who went almost totally unnoticed by staff for up to half an hour. During this time they walked around the finance department, reading and re-organising files, losing keys to locked filing cabinets, having creative fun with computers and distributing hundreds of flyers into files, handbags and outgoing mail.

When people eventually left, the fire alarm to the three floored building mysteriously went off. Two people were chased by security for a mile across town before making a cheeky getaway in a taxicab. The workers had the chance to wonder what the fuck was going on for an hour on full wages; the company lost hundreds of worker hours and they'll be discovering our flyers for years to come!

For up to date news from West Papua get on the OPM SG e-mail news list or check out the web page @ UK contacts include: S London C/o PO Box 9384, Brixton, London, SW9 7ZB, S.East & General Information OPM SG,43 Gardner Street, Brighton, E.Sussex, BN1 1UN, North c/o Manchester Earth First!, Dept 29, 255 Wilmslow Road,Manchester,M14 5LW, South-West c/o Kebele, 14 Robertson Road, Bristol, BS5 6JY email:

Plus Do or Die.…

John Quaquah Victory

The High Court on December 15 1999 quashed a decision of the Home Secretary to deport John Quaquah, an asylum seeker who is in the middle of suing the Home Office after events at Campsfield Immigrant Detention Centre in 1997.

John Quaquah was detained at Campsfield in August 1997 when he, and eight others, were charged with offences of riot and spent ten months in prison before coming to trial. All nine were acquitted of those charges after the criminal trial collapsed in June 1998 when the evidence of Group 4 employees - running the detention centre under a private contract - was found to be unreliable. The behaviour of these Group 4 officers was, described in the following terms in the High Court decision: 'It was accepted on behalf of the Secretary of State that if the conduct of the Group 4 officers both during the incident of unrest itself as well as their conduct in giving unreliable/false evidence was established then it satisfied the description of having been "wicked".'

After his acquittal, Mr Quaquah sought to bring a claim for damages for malicious prosecution against the Home Office as well as Group 4. He was then served with a deportation order. However the High Court ruled on 15 December that the deportation order should be quashed for failing to pay proper regard to the requirements of Article 6 of the European Convention of Human Rights and the requirements of the new Civil Procedure Rules, both of which require an 'equality of arms' for parties engaged in litigation. Put simply this means that Jack Straw’s attempt to avoid being sued by deporting someone has failed.

John’s solicitor, Mark Scott of Bhatt Murphy Solicitors, commented that: 'My client is delighted that the court has recognised his right to seek redress through the courts on an even playing field for his treatment at Campsfield House. The stress arising from that treatment and the uncertainty about his situation in this country has been extremely difficult for him. I trust that the Home Secretary will accept this judgement and will not make any further attempts to deport him. I hope he has now learnt that he should not deploy the battery of powers at his disposal in any way which suggests even an appearance of unfair advantage in the face of action brought by individuals against him.'

In fact Straw has learnt no such thing. Group 4 are amongst the front runners, along with weirdo godbotherer private prisons outfit Wackenhut, to run the new “open” detention centre at Oakington. The Campsfield 9 campaign to try and teach the Home Office a lesson goes on.

contact: Campsfield Nine Defence Campaign 01865 557282 or 07961 392 510. More info on anti-deportation website at
Review: City of Darkness, City of Light
Marge Piercy
Penguin - £6.99

Piercy's novel paints a vivid picture of the French Revolution and its background. Drawing on the lives of six historical characters (the famous - Robespierre, Danton, Madame Roland and Condorcet - as well as the not so famous - the san culottes Pauline Leon and Claire Lacombe) she combines the personal and the political to show the nature of the peoples revolution and its ultimate defeat by the rich and the instrument created to protect it, the new Republican state.

Piercy, as readers of her excellent science fiction novels Woman on the Edge of Time and Body of Glass, will know, is a feminist writer with a strong libertarian theme to her politics and writing. This libertarian theme is also at the fore in City of Darkness, City of Light. The liberating nature and effectiveness of direct action as a means of social change is brought home by the development of the two female san culottes. Thus the revolutionary transformation of individuals and social relationships is stressed along with the revolutionising of the wider society. Similarly, the progression of the revolution from its moderate original aims towards a social revolution is also vibrantly portrayed, with the very process of direct action producing wider, more radical demands and changes in society and individuals.

The Anarchists in the Spanish Civil War
Robert Alexander
Janus Publishing Co. - £16.95 per volume

This two volume work is a useful addition to the existing studies of the Spanish Revolution and the role anarchists played in it. It is essentially a summary of previous studies, complemented by extensive interviews. The author visited Barcelona in August 1936, while on holiday in Europe. From this visit to revolutionary Barcelona came a life long interest in the Spanish Revolution ("one of the most interesting social experiments that has taken place in the twentieth century" as he puts it).

Volume One is the more useful of the two, with an overview of both the rural and urban collectives. What comes out most from the discussion of both the successes and failures of the collectives is that, for all their faults, there were far more of the former than the latter. Another interesting aspect of his discussion is how many collectives were built from existing forms of libertarian and working class organisation (for example, before the war the CNT had established health service institutions which were built upon and expanded after the revolution). This suggests the importance of thinking about alternative forms of social life and organisation we can create today, to aid the class struggle and build for the new world in the existing one. By so doing, we show the viability of our ideas and tactics to other working class people. The evidence he presents indicates that the worker-managed collectives were a viable alternative to capitalism - an alternative which anarchists should study in order to better understand the dynamics of a social revolution in order to be prepared for the next time.

Alexander also discusses the roots of Spanish Anarchism as well as pre-revolution visions of what an anarchist society could be like. He discusses the role of anarchists in the Republican military, exposing a few myths along the way (such as the "indiscipline" of the militias and the alleged flight of the Durruti Column under fire on the Madrid front). Alexander also discusses the role of force in creating the rural collectives, presenting evidence to show that Stalinist claims of CNT terror were, as anarchists claimed at the time and since, lies. The bulk of useful and interesting information is contained in this volume. Volume 2 is mostly about the communist betrayal of the revolution, with a useful appendix on anarchist violence during the civil war. There is also a useful bibliography and an index (which will help in its use as a resource for anarchists).

On the negative side, both volumes are riddled with typing mistakes, which is very annoying. A major problem is the author's desire to expose the Stalinist betrayal of the revolution. This leads, for example, to a chapter in volume 2 of over 300 pages called "The Anarchists Role in Republican Politics" being mostly about the role of the Communists! Also, the author is not an anarchist which means that much of his analysis and discussion ignores many of the questions anarchists would seek to answer - namely what lessons can be drawn from the revolution, the role of the CNT and FAI, the functioning of the collectives. However, this work will be an essential resource for any comrade seeking to produce such an analysis.

The World is Not Enough
Why even mention the new James Bond movie in Black Flag? Well, for starters, Robert Carlyle plays the main thug, a terrorist labelled an "anarchist" by MI6. Needless to say, the usual lies about anarchists are spread - this "anarchist" is said to believe in "nothing" and aims at "chaos" (according to MI6, the villain does not say anything about his politics, or lack of them, bar saying that Bond is "preserving Capital" while he is helping his girlfriend monopolise oil production!). Now with the end of Stalinism, will we anarchists (suitably misrepresented as believers in chaos) become the major villains to defend the "free world" against? After Seattle, probably.

What about the film. It is a bit disjointed and the set pieces impressive but, like the rest of the film, cold (saying that the friends I saw it with and my work mates rated it higher than me). The last one was far better and Pierce Brosnan is no Sean Connery (although far better than Moore). Go and see Sixth Sense - now that is an excellent movie.

Review: Walking With Dinosaurs

I wouldn't normally review a TV programme, and I don't actually watch that much TV, so why am I moved to write about this one? It was obviously fake, a lot was guessed at and almost all the animals featured died out so long ago that it is hard for humans to even conceive of such time. Firstly, because despite its faults, I liked the series. And secondly, because it touches so many themes that I've wanted to write about for so long.

One is that humans need to ditch some of their arrogance about their place in the world. It is entirely a fluke, and the story of the dinosaurs illustrates this. Secondly, it shows us something about science, which all too often is perceived as an absolute, rather than a method of making assumptions and testing them. Thirdly, it's about time we stopped referring to conservative or reactionary political opponents as dinosaurs -it's a disservice to the beasts. Finally, it touched my sense of wonder at life itself, and the beauty of the forms that adapt themselves to survival in different environments.

On the technical side, most of the recreated creatures were well done. The skin colours and other features were inferred, of course, but generally done in the context of debates about dinosaur behaviour, and observation of species in similar ecological niches today. Some failed to convince - for example the didelphodon nest raiders in the final episode, and some of the feeding sequences didn't quite gel, but overall, most had a "jizz" as birders would say, that felt unique. The programmes proceeded as if they were normal natural history documentaries, of the sort that the BBC actually does well. The bombastic narration from Kenneth Branagh was a bit too much - all the pomp of Attenborough without the enthusiasm. Why don't they ever use someone with an accent from somewhere, instead of all this BBC English? The series was also interestingly split up - showing different periods in natural history and different places. Far too many films and books mix everything up, which is why you would never really see a stegosaurus fight a tyrannosaurus rex. I suspect that some of the very interesting recent feathered dinosaur discoveries from China came too late for the film makers - they might otherwise have added feathers to the baby tyrannosaurs in the final episode. What the series aimed to do was to put the dinosaurs in their context, which it certainly succeeded in.

So why is this at all relevant to a political mag? Well, the popular idea about dinosaurs when I was growing up (and interested in them, which I suspect almost all kids go through) was that they were supplanted by mammals which were somehow "better " than these slow lumbering cold-blooded reptiles. This is all now known to be false - dinosaurs were warm blooded and filled most of the large animal ecological niches filled by mammals today. Feathers probably originally involved from reptilian scales as a means of keeping warm, only later becoming adapted for flight. Their distant relatives, the pterosaurs, filled most of those that are today occupied by birds. As a family of animals, dinosaurs probably reshaped the planet more than any others since blue-green algae started poisoning the atmosphere with oxygen, at least until man came on the scene. Their habits and behaviour were probably responsible for what Darwin called the "abominable mystery" of the origin of flowers. Oh, and they didn't all die out. In South America until it was joined to North America and on several island groups to this day, their descendants, the birds, successfully kept at bay the supposedly more advanced mammals for millions of years.

These creatures evolved, and dominated all those large animal niches, for one hundred and fifty five million years. In contrast, relatively intelligent apes have been around for four million, and our own species is only a few hundred thousand. Started feeling smaller? 1

But this is also a story of science. The same popular myth that says that mouse-sized mammals wiped out dinosaurs by eating their eggs also believes science sets things in stone. It doesn't and the story of the dinosaurs illustrates that very well. Science isn't an either or equation - it is, as Stephen Jay Gould notes, "rooted in creative interpretation....(scientists) believe in their own objectivity, and fail to discern the prejudice that leads them to one interpretation among many consistent with their (data)." 2

Dinosaurs were originally called ante-diluvian monsters because they were supposedly all killed in Noah's flood. The plethora of fossil-hunting parsons and men of letters in the nineteenth century led to them being re-assessed as ancient reptiles. The theory of evolution by natural selection published by Darwin in 1859 began the slow process of restoring these collections of ancient bones to their proper place in natural history. While backward American states still insist on banning the teaching of evolution (is that why they have to import scientists from more rational countries?) it is now widely accepted, if misunderstood. The last twenty years have put feathers on dinosaurs and birds in the same family as theropods (dinosaurs like the velociraptors from Jurassic Park). Discoveries have been made that show some dinosaurs cared for their young, and basically did many of the things we today associate with mammals and birds. So, is the picture of the dinosaurs from the BBC accurate? Well, it's a good guess, but it's as accurate as current research will allow, probably less so as so much of it is necessarily conjecture - the fossil record leaves no absolute clues about mating behaviour for example.

I think I've probably said enough now about why I think dinosaurs shouldn't be used as a metaphor for reactionaries unwilling to change. By a similar line of argument I object to those highly intelligent quadrupeds pigs being compared to policemen. But I should really leave this review with the sense of awe and wonder I felt at seeing these creatures brought to life. The dolphin like opthalmosaurus chasing bony fish through turquoise waters. The newly revised diplodocus grazing the ground (not the treetops). The sociable leaellynasaura coping with the Antarctic winter. But what sticks with me most is the flight of the ornithocheirus, an albatross-like pterosaur with a wingspan up to 12 metres, gliding across the infant Atlantic to its final resting place. And how can anyone fight for the planet we live on without a sense of wonder?


1. How small and how lucky can be seen from the Burgess shale fossils, a remarkable collection of soft-bodied animals preserved in British Columbia, which represent the Pre-Cambrian explosion of multi-cellular life after its bacterial origins. All of the phyla currently alive are represented among the fossils. An uncommon fossil is that of Pikaia, the representative of the ancestors of the phylum vertebrata - containing fish, birds, reptiles, amphibians, mammals, dinosaurs etc. Only luck can account for why the vertebrata weren't wiped out in the mass extinction that ended the pre-Cambrian, and saw the extinction of so many other potential body plans for animals.

2. Stephen Jay Gould, The Mismeasure of Man, Penguin 1996, p.106


Dear BF

Your anonymous writer faults me for observing in Anarchy after Leftism that "the Italian syndicalists mostly went over to Fascism", referencing David D Roberts, The Syndicalist Tradition and Italian Fascism. As proof, he quotes Roberts as writing that "the vast majority of the organised workers failed to respond to the syndicalists' appeals and continued to oppose intervention" in the First World War. Obviously this statement does not contradict mine. It is about war, not fascism. The war was over before the fascist movement began. And it is about the "organised workers", not about the members of the USI, which had only 100,000 members in 1914, and lost some of them when the interventionists split.

Contrary to Comrade Anonymous, the split was not between a cabal of intellectuals and "leaders" - in quotation marks, as if to imply that they were not what they really were, the syndicalist leaders - and the rank and file. True eggheads and officials split, but they were not alone: "The split was complex, penetrating to the rank and file level and even dividing individual unions, but the result was a further loss in working class support for the syndicalists." (Roberts, p.113). You may not like what Roberts has to say, but I didn't misrepresent his position. Denounce him, not me.

Even if Comrade A. were right, what does this fiasco say about syndicalism? Syndies assure us that their cumbersome hierarchies of bottom-up organising and accountability to the base are both the means to and the forms of a free society. Yet the Italian leaders and thinkers were almost all for a war which, the Comrade implies, almost all the rank and file were against. Syndical organisation is thus a self-refuting failure.

Comrade A. also asserts "that these 'leading syndicalists'" - he ignores the follower syndicalists - "were not anarchists and so not anarcho-syndicalists." When did I ever say they were? But this is quite a change in the Black Flag party line. Two years ago you opined, "In reality there is not such thing as just 'syndicalism' and anarcho-syndicalism and revolutionary syndicalism are the same thing" ("What is Anarcho-Syndicalism?" spring 1997). If this is so, then no doubt remains that the "Italian syndicalists mostly went over to fascism."

The article is almost entirely an exercise in irrelevance. I was not referring to the official positions taken by one small organisation in 1915 or 1919, but rather to the ultimate political trajectory of those Italians who had once considered themselves syndicalists. A modest but militant minority did put up a fight against fascism so long as that was possible. But many accommodated themselves to the fascist version of the corporatism espoused by all syndicalists. There was more to it than opportunism: syndicalism and nationalism (and then fascism) had been converging since before the war. Roberts makes this clear, but consider another opinion from another historian, A. James Gregor, Italian Fascism and Developmental Dictatorship, p. 108:

"Thus, by 1919, Italian nationalism and revolutionary syndicalism shared substantial similarities" such as "their doctrinal emphases on mass mobilisation, mimetic example, elite rule, mythic suasion, and collective development and modernisation... To these ends, both nationalism and revolutionary national syndicalism advocated an ethic of discipline, sacrifice and labour for a nation still caught up in the psychology of underdevelopment." In other words, fascists shared with syndicalists then what they share with syndicalists - including anarcho-syndicalists - to this day: a dedication to work and workerism, productivism, industrialism, and sacrificial moralism. We post-leftist anarchists reject this heritage.

yours in slack
Bob Black

Dear BF

Once again, that hoary old chestnut of £10 and a packed-lunch for the Rent-a-Mob was trotted out by the Right - both conservative and labour - in the wake of J18. A quick glance at the history of the Mob - in London, at any rate - would suggest that in the glory days of King Mob the forces of Government and oppression were by far the most adept at manipulating the Mob. 'Lord' George Gordon in London; mill-owners in the industrial cities in the North; and Tory JPs and clerics in the country-side were all responsible for 'licensing' the actions of the crowd. I am not a clever man, but tell me why does the Right seem to know so much about the renting of mobs to terrorise? Might it have something to do with the practice, which they have continued into this century, to lead those they disenfranchise (through unemployment, alienation, etc.), by means of odious shits such as Mosley, into a position of disrepute over which they exercise control?

On a not wholly unrelated note, and demonstrating that direct action can be undertaken without being an agent of the state, EP Thompson pushes back the waving of the Red & the Black to 1780 when "...James Jackson, a watch-wheelcutter, who rode a carthorse and waved a red and black flag..." was a figurehead during the Gordon Riots (see Thompson, Making of the English Working Class, p78, 1968 Penguin) - the long history has yet to be written. No Pasaran!

Thanks for a great magazine, all the best,

Dear BF

Comrade A replies-

Is Comrade B is taking the piss? He claims “it is about war, not fascism” and so his comments concerning the “syndicalists” are correct. Given that the pro-war syndicalists were the ones to become National Syndicalists and fascists, his point is lost on me. Surely if the majority of syndicalists (i.e. members of the USI) in Italy had gone over to fascism (and its ‘National Syndicalism’) then they would have supported the Nation in World War One? In fact the majority of USI members rejected the arguments of those syndicalists who were later to become fascists in 1914 - Comrade B’s argument simply does not hold water. If, as he says, “syndicalism and nationalism (and then fascism) had been converging before the war” then the majority of USI members were not aware of this when they voted for an anti-war position (and so anti-nationalist) at the start of the First World War. Nor were the fascists when they attacked the USI after the war.

The article did indicate that most USI members rejected the pro-war syndicalists - “the majority did not even follow” the syndicalist “leaders” in supporting the war. Comrade B wonders “what does this fiasco say about syndicalism”? I have to wonder what planet Comrade B is on. The organisation voted in its national congress an anti-war position and the pro-war minority left. Rather than being a “self-refuting failure” this example shows Comrade B’s arguments to be self refuting - and that he cannot get basic facts right.

Moving on, Comrade B takes issue with the suggestion that he implied that syndicalists he mentions were anarchists. Here he is taking the piss. After all, his comments are in a book about anarchism and the failings of “Leftist” anarchy. Is it not safe to assume that he was discussing the failings of anarchists rather than “Leftists” (i.e. Marxists)? Perhaps I am wrong, perhaps in order to refute Anarcho-syndicalists you must discuss the failures of Marxist-syndicalists? What next, a refutation of communist anarchism by discussing the failures of Leninism?

Comrade B states that a “modest but militant minority did put up a fight against fascism”. In fact, the USI (which had grown from the 70,000 left after the pro-war factions left to nearly 1 million members) was the majority syndicalist organisation in the country (the pro-war, National Syndicalist Union AIL was a fraction of its size). It was USI members who took part in the Arditi Del Popolo. It was the USI which took part in the general strike against fascism. It was the USI which was crushed by fascist gangs. And Comrade B still claims that the “Italian syndicalists mostly went over to fascism”. Amazing.

He quotes another academic that by 1919 “Italian nationalism and revolutionary syndicalism shared substantial similarities”. Yes, but only if you look at the pro-war syndicalists who had left the USI years before (hence Gregor’s reference to national syndicalists)! What did the USI stand for by 1919? It had taken an anti-war position, supported the class struggle and taken a leading role in the strikes and occupations of the post-war period. For this the USI was attacked and crushed by the fascists. So much for “similarities” between the USI (i.e. revolutionary syndicalism) and Italian Nationalism (and so fascism).

Comrade B ends with a diatribe against “syndicalism” (including anarcho-syndicalism) and what they apparently believe in. I do not (and none of the anarcho-syndicalists I have met) subscribe to his list. Perhaps Comrade B confuses a desire to see the end of wage-labour by self-management with a glorification of work? If so, then that is his business. Personally I agree with Kropotkin on the necessity of attractive “work” (i.e. productive activity) and reducing the hours we have to do this to a minimum. Every anarcho-syndicalist I have met shares this vision of work transformed into attractive, productive activity and minimised - and the first step towards this is occupying the workplace and placing it under self-management (where appropriate, of course, many workplaces should be turned into something more useful). I get the impression that Comrade B thinks that nobody reads his works, otherwise he would not suggest other anarchists glorify work and not be aware of the importance of his arguments in “The Abolition of Work”. It is a shame he underestimates his influence in our movement so.

bf219_compressed.pdf11.34 MB

Posted By

Rob Ray
Oct 16 2014 18:27


Black Flag magazine

Attached files


Rob Ray
Oct 16 2014 18:25

More stuff to move across over at if anyone wants to contribute a cut n paste job, I've done this one as a little pre-bookfair thing, as we're bringing out a new issue on Saturday!

Oct 16 2014 18:41

Fantastic! Black Flag was thee most influential magazine for me in the late 80's early 90's - though it wasn't quite a magazine in those days. Absolutely loved it!