Poor Substitute

A contribution to the "Reflections on J18" collection, originally from an article in Freedom newspaper.

The following extracts are from an article in Freedom Press at the beginning of the summer (written by Nick S)....

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The left, though, whatever their rhetoric (and this goes for many anarchists too) conduct their politics entirely at the level of the moral and through entirely symbolic means. They don't live in the communities they purport to address and they have nothing practical to offer those communities to improve their everyday lives. The left (and again, this has to include much of the anarchist movement) has believed it can win by ideology alone......... On 18th June, in what purports to be an exercise in freeing ourselves from the shackles of capitalism, a good many of us will converge on the City of London, to take part in "an international day of protest, action and carnival aimed at the heart of the global economy, the banking and financial centres". If proof were needed of our movement's resort to entirely symbolic activity, none better could be found. Most people who suffer at the hands of capital don't do so in the heart of the City, they suffer through paying high rents on run down estates while local resources go to service local authority debts to the City, they suffer through hospital waiting list increases as bed capacities and staff numbers are lost due to health authority private finance deals. They suffer through exploitation at work, through higher prices and lower wages, through the increased cost of entertainment - football season ticket costs, club door prices, etc. Their quality of life is diminished through the actions of capital, but a demonstration in the City will do nothing to alleviate the conditions of exploitation. Hence, none of those most in need of liberation from the "roar of profit" (Reclaim the Streets leaflet) will go near such an event, because the "sounds of rhythms of party, carnival and pleasure" are a poor substitute for money in your hand and decent accommodation, and will take us no closer to their realisation.........

Lorenzo Kom'boa Ervin has suggested that the anarchist movement could learn much from the methods of the Black Panther Party, of which he was a member. Specifically he has referred to the Panther's attempts to establish a survival economy for poor black communities, with the Panthers organising survival programmes to move towards community self-determination. Panther groups organised breakfast programmes for poor families, set up and ran medical centres in poor neighbourhoods, organised free transport for prison visits and established armed self-defence units to monitor and prevent police brutality. "Panthers established a network of community service projects designed to improve the life chances of African American people........

As Huey P. Newton, one of the Party's founders, noted: "In their quest for freedom [people] have to see first some basic accomplishments in order to realise that major successes are possible"........

The Euro elections should have made it clear to all of us; if we allow our politics to be reduced to the 'theatre of pseudo resistance', we will be as irrelevant to most people as New Labour and the Socialist Labour Party are seen to be. If anarchism is committed to bringing about the autonomous organisation of working class communities its time for us to prove it in practice, and prove it where it matters most.........

----- Nick S / Freedom Press