Black Flag 210 (1996)

Black Flag issue 210 cover "Drugs Death and Kropotkin"

Issue of the London-based anarchist magazine Black Flag from the 1990s. Text below is partial contents only, taken from the old blackened.flag site. Complete contents in PDF at the foot of the page.

Submitted by Fozzie on April 1, 2018


  • Editorial
  • Liverpool dockers still out of control
  • What about the workers?
  • JSA - Volunteering and Workfare
  • Free Water - Victory in sight for Dublin anti- water charges campaign
  • International Shorts - Wharfies ban Indonesian ship, General Strike in South Korea
  • Rise Above
  • Spyros Dapergolas - Greek Anarchist On Hunger Strike
  • Satpal Ram - Attacked by Screws
  • Defend Brian Higgins Campaign
  • NAFTA - Auto Restructuring and Mexico's Maquiladora Zone
  • Bradford 97
  • Community organising in Southern Italy
  • Drugs
  • Abortion and the Church
  • Kropotkin: Syndicalism and Anarchism
  • International Day Against Police Brutality
  • Nigeria: Internet Censorship
  • News from the Kate Sharpley Library
  • Reviews
  • Class War
  • Letters: "Educating who about what?", Unabomber

Editorial...the poverty of journalism

In The Guardian Weekend of November 16th was the latest in Freedom's war of words against Albert Meltzer. Badly written by Richard Boston it restated many of their lies about anarchism and Albert Meltzer in particular. How can anyone call Freedom "consistently lively“ unless half dead themselves? And Freedom is the only group mentioned, complete with their oft-repreated lie that it was founded in 1886 by Prince Kropotkin, rather than started before the war as Spain and the World and renamed when the current proprietor seized control of the assets. There can be no doubt it was fed to Boston by Freedom he even admitted that the lie about Stuart Christie was told to him by amember of Freedom. Everything else anyone is doing is written out of thispotted history, drawn straight from Woodcock and Marshall, for whom anarchism (pronounced dead in the 60s by Woodcock) is merely a cash cow to be milked from the ivory towers of academe. Of the barrage of protest this execrable inaccurate shit produced, the Guardian published but two, with a “proper balance“ friendly to Freedom. A lengthy and detailed rebuttal of Vernon Richards' lies about Albert's role in supporting the anti-Franco resistance by Octavio Alberola, co-ordinator of that resistance in the 60s, was put in, albeit heavily cut. And Emma Goldman wrote from beyond the
grave, noting how Boston wrote women out of his “history of anarchism“. The Guardian's editors clearly know so little about the subject to let that one through - but that's hardly surprising. Back in the real world, our response is clear. An unofficial boycott of Freedom has long been in place. This is not on a personal basis but a political one. We don't know most of the individuals involved and apart from their lies about Albert couldn t care less about them on a personal level. But we do object to their pretending that the working class traditions of anarchism don“t exist. Anarchism is drawn from those very working class traditions of Self-Organisation, Federalism, Direct Action, Solidarity and Libertarian Communism. Leaders and personalities do not lead us to it - we draw from our experience of the realities of working class life, combined with our ability to think for ourselves and follow our own ideas. Historians have long had problems with writing about anarcho-syndicalism, in particular, because there are no famous people who sat down and wrote it all out for others to follow. They tried to make Sorel fit the bill but he didn't. The Liars and Liberals of Angel Alley try to write us off as a 'minor revolutionary current“, presumably as opposed to the supposed major quietist current. Anarchism will never be media friendly. Our task is to take anarchism back to Its roots in working class resistance.

JSA: Volunteering and Workfare

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Graham Short

Free water: Victory in sight for Anti-Water Charges Campaign

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

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

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

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

Greek Anarchist On Hunger Strike

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

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

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

International Shorts

Wharfies ban Indonesian ship

Waterside workers and port employees in Darwin, Australia, placed a 24 hour ban on the Indonesian ship Fujar Kanguru on December 17th. This is part of the Aussie dockers protest action against the detention and trails of Indonesian union leaders Muchtar Pakpahan and Dita Sari now under way in Jakarta. The Maritime Union of Australia said there was " prospect of Mr . Pakpahan or Ms Sari receiving a fair trial."

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

General Strike In South Korea

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

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

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

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

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

Saptal Ram: Attacked by screws

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The fight to free Satpal continues!

Messages of support can be sent to; Satpal Ram E94164

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

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

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

News from the Kate Sharpley Library

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

Kate Sharpley Library
c/o BM Hurricane

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

International Day Against Police Brutality

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

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

If you have access, their web sites are:

in english:

en francais:

Nigeria: Internet Censorship

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

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

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

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

Defend Brian Higgins Campaign

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rise Above

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

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

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

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

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

Letter: Mike, Manchester

Dear Comrades

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

Best wishes to you all

Mike, Manchester

Text above originally from here:


BlackFlag210.pdf (12.81 MB)



9 months 1 week ago

Submitted by Fozzie on July 8, 2023

PDF added.