Letters and updates from Black Flag #213 1998. Including race and anarchism, problems with Larry O'Hara, Class War after the 1997 split.
Review: Asian Dub Foundation - Real Areas For Investigation (RAFI)
Asian Dub Foundation have just produced their second CD. Like their debut, its stunning; a mixture of hard beats, guitars, polemic and a determined stance against injustice, but produced by a group of working class Asian kids and so pretty much ignored by the music press.
ADF stand out because they're political at a time when politics in music has been reduced to Oasis sipping red wine at private receptions with Tony Blair.1997 has been the year that the music press "discovered" that Asian musicians like Nitin Sawhney and Talvin Singh were producing breathtaking, inspired music that left the average white student guitar band sounding like the redundant middle class shite it always was. Young Asian kids had developed a network of clubs that allowed real space for creative musical experiments. But the music press refused to acknowledge the political battles that had allowed this space to exist at all.
ADF are an in-your-face reminder that Asian youth identity in the UK is a product of struggle, from the battles fought by Asian trade unionists at Spiralynx and Fords in the 70s, the self defence campaigns around the Newham 7 and Newham 8 in the '80s, through to the struggle against organised racism and fascism in the '90s. RAFI includes a track dedicated to Saptal Ram, "Naxalite"- a celebration of a peasants uprising in West Bengal, and "Assassin"- about Muhammed Singh Azzad,who assassinated the ex governor general of the Punjab, O Dwyer, in revenge for the Amritsar massacre.
Criucially, RAFI shows up the fact that white working class East Londoners have got a lot more in common with Asian kids from East London than with middle class wankers like John Tyndall.The "community of sound" ADF refer to isn't some hippy dream space; it's a multi racial culture of struggle - against police oppression, against racism and for self education and organisation, "against the lies you've been given". This is of course, another reason why the music press don't want to know - they can tolerate Sean Ryder or Liam Gallagher dribbling on about cocaine and smack, but let anyone come forward with an agenda which isn't about drugs or liberal "love everybody" shite - and just watch'em run scared.
ADF are great - because of what they say and because they represent the most slamming fusion of drum and bass with slashing guitars and ranting MCing I've heard yet. Go out and get RAFI.
Caption: "A BULLET IN THE HEAD WONT BRING BACK THE DEAD BUT IT'LL FREE THE SPIRIT OF MY PEOPLE."
Dear Black Flag,
It's good to see the discussion of race and class in your publication. I would like to add a little to that discussion. First let me say I write as being an anarchist nearly 30 years and a member of the IWW for 28 years and as a shipyard worker. Thus my views are class based. But I do not view myself as a traditionalist anarchist because I view anarchism as an evolutionary process of class based anti-state ideas, not as something from the past that must be held onto. In other words anarchism must evolve. As for the question of eurocentrism. Yes, anarchism has eurocentric origins as a philosophy and movement that came out of Europe. Though it is also true that there have been ideas and movements close to anarchism throughout the history of the world, but what we call anarchism has its origins in Europe. Given the fact that there is no way that it could be without its Eurocentric influences. For no other reason than the fact that no one has yet been able to com-pletely analyse the effects of the eurocentric conquest. The effects go beyond just domination and exploitation. They also include language, culture and our understanding of non-eurocentric ideas. I believe that anarchism can evolve into a non-eurocentric movement but to do so it must not deny eurocentrism but come to understand and dismantle it. The following are 4 areas that would be a good place to start.
1. Much of the left and sometimes anarchists deal with communities of people of colour as missionaries, saviours. This I believe comes from the Eurocentric idea of superiority. I see this a lot in the US, the idea that whites know best. This attitude can be seen in the way that white radicals are unable to hear what people of colour say to them or to write off what they say as unimportant.
2. The next area is a real sticking point. White radicals and most anarchists define their views on spirituality on the European experience with dominating churches which are part of the ruling class. They carry this over to indigenous people who do not seek spiritual imperialism and rather than stand with them, many do nothing more than continue the eurocentric conquest. I see this first hand because I have spent many years doing support work for Leonard Peltier, Big mountain and other Native struggles. This is something that is very real. Over the years I have never been able to get any real support from anarchist groups, including the ABC for these struggles. I have been told time and time again by anarchists that Native struggles are not anarchist struggles. So how can you hope to organise in unity when in fact you are a continuation of the Eurocentric conquest?
3. As for the question of nationalism. The first problem is the word nation. It has come to mean more than just the nation state. Here in the US it has come to mean three different forms. First there are the natural nations, some may call this tribalism. Then there are the nations of oppressed people. The eurocentric process of conquest includes the assimilation of people into the system of exploitation. That does not mean they are assimilated into one big group of oppressed people, rather they are taken out of the natural nations and grouped together. For example there is not a bureau of Hopi or Lakota affairs but a Bureau of Indian Affairs. These groups of people become nations of oppressed people and while it is true that we must struggle against the nation state it is also important to understand that there must also be a struggle by the oppressed nations for their own self-determination. This struggle has been called revolutionary nationalism and has included such organisations as the Black Panthers, the American Indian Movement, SNCC, the Brown Berets and it has taken an anarchist form in Black Autonomy international. The last form of nations is the nation state, the ruling structure of conquest.
4. Marxists and many anarchists define what is a worker or working class struggle by a eurocentric standard. That being only some type of industrial proletarian. This leaves out most indigenous people around the world. My view is that all those that do useful work or belong to the same exploited class, regardless of whether they can find work or not, belong to the same class. Thus, the struggles of Native people against capitalist corporations is as much a working class struggle as any factory strike. And that makes a prisoner like Leonard Peltier a class war prisoner.
Yes, all oppressed people can join together around other issues, or networks that take on many issues. Back in the '80s there was a network called the survival network, in time it had a large member-ship with Native people and Black revolutionary nationalists making up more than 3/4s of its members. It had a statement that included radical environmentalism, pro-working class and anti-statism. But the white radical, including anarchists, all but a few, would not join it or support it. At the same time another organisation came into being, Earth First!, which back then was racist, sexist, pro-USA and pro-AIDS, and white radicals joined that organisation. It is true that they led a fight against those things but still why would they not join an organisation that had already overcome those things from the start? The reason was they would not join an organisation where they would be a minority. The survival network folded because the vast majority of the people in it were directly involved in struggles, many were prisoners and those who tried to sup-port them became overwhelmed.
So if we are to organise amongst people of colour we need to be able to make some changes:
1. We must understand Eurocentrism, both in the system of oppression and within our own movement and work to dismantle it.
2. We need to learn to hear the words of non-european people.
The reason that the SNCC and the Black Panthers told white radicals to go back in to there own communities and organise is because white radicals in the US had become debased from their own communities and thus could not offer much in the form of an alliance. Also if white radicals do not organise and educate within their own communities then the only words people in these communities hear are from our enemies. I have for years done support work in the communities of people of colour (when asked), I do not push anarchism or the IWW on them. But they know I am an anarchist and a Wobbly and many of them read the paper I work on, Bayou la Rose, and not once have any of them criticised me for what I am. The problem is that most of the time there are few other wobblies or anarchists working with me, so I am all they see. Because I do not work as a missionary, but rather in solidarity, many doors open up to me. The point is that if we wish to combat racism and eurocentrism we can no longer be part of the eurocentric conquest. Rather than being ideological missionaries we need to use our actions and organising as propaganda by deed. We must understand that self-determination can only come from the op-pressed. White people are not oppressed by nation or race, thus in those forms there will be separate organisations. But there is also the common oppression by class and the organisations in that struggle should not be separate.
Lastly the problem I have with the WSF statement and others like it is that they seek to tell people what is anarchism and what is not. Rather, all they are doing is giving one view of it. Anarchism is a diversity of ideas and movements. It is that diversity that allows anarchism to grow and that is where our strength lies.
Arthur J. Miller
Bayou La Rose
P.O.Box 5464 Tacoma,
WA 98415-0464 USA.
Dear Black Flag
I was surprised to read your apparent endorsement of Larry O'Hara's "research" techniques (BF 211). Like BF, our publication Green Apocalypse was used by Searchlight in their attack on O'Hara and like BF yes we too "do have significant political differences" with Searchlight as with O'Hara himself. Indeed I find it odd that there is so much shock and horror about Searchlight's collaboration with the state - they never pretend to be revolutionary. It's as if generalised amnesia has gripped these so called revolutionary movement. Anti-fascism was the rallying cry of the British state and its allies during the Second World War during which thousands of workers were drawn into an inter-imperialist struggle. Implicit to anti-fascism is the idea of a broad front which includes liberals, social-democrats, Stalinists - all of whom will use any means necessary to thwart social revolution. Simply revealing Searchlight's links with the state is not enough. In the end it is necessary to understand that working class community self-defence is only weakened by anti-fascism's cross class alliances. However the chief problem with O'Hara's "research" is that he publishes half-baked theories which he does not trouble to back up with evidence. He is happy to make disgusting allegations as if they were of little account. It's as if he doesn't understand the appropriate way to deal with snouts. Severe action requires firm evidence. O'Hara is happy with the smear. When anyone dares criticise him, rather than accepting that he might have been wrong, he then smears those who have found fault with him. In fact O'Hara's poison stirs up as much shit as Searchlight. In the light of your advertisement for Searchlight for Beginners, I feel that you should clarify your position as regards O'Hara's smear of Louise Bernstein. In his section on "Spooks on the Internet" he suggests that she was involved in some operation and implies that she may have been instrumental in your comrade Leo Rosser's death, quoting Albert Meltzer's I Couldn't Paint Golden Angels in support of this. As things stand it seems that you are endorsing his viewpoint...
Leutha Blisset, Unpopular Books.
BF: We don't endorse this suggestion. We think its fantasy and, sadly, has to under-mine confidence in other parts of O'Hara's work.
You may have noted some new, original graphics in our pages in the last few issues. They come from anar-chist graphics, a new group dedicated to producing general graphic propaganda. They invite artists and others to write to them at : Anarchist Graphics, Box 5, 167 Fawcett Road, Southsea, Hants PO4 ODH
They think it's all over......
Matters continue to arise from the break up of the old Class War. Class War, the paper, is out again and the old federation is contactable through PO Box 467, London E8 3QX and is what you expect.
If you want to know more about the discussions and ideas raised by the "dissolution" of the Old Class War, get hold of "Smash Hits", a collection of articles from former and current members of Class War and people who are from other groups or backgrounds. The discussion groups which took place in London over the summer and autumn 1997 showed that discussion groups might not be the way forward. Smash Hits contains a good spread of views, some extremely personal. The most interesting are from the non-Class War (old or new) perspective, particularly one on local organisation from Gravesend Resistance. It could turn out to be a useful forum for discussion. It's free from BM 5538 London WC1N 3XX. Send a donation or stamps to cover post-age. There is due to be a conference in Bradford from May 1-4,1998 to continue this process. Contact 0117 907 3667.
"Animal" is a humble new mag by people around Class War in London No. 1 had articles on crime, RTS, and Class War. No 2 was on football with a piece on the Dublin "riot" and C18 by Larry O'Hara. No 3 promises articles on organisation. With longer, more in depth articles than Class War and an independent line choosing themes rather than "news" it should get interesting. £1 from PO Box 467, London E8 3QX.
It seems likely that, as usual, the situation outside London is more positive, if "Bristle", an excellent local mag from Bristol, is anything to go by. Covers the usual subjects with a clear Bristol slant.
Check our contacts page for them and for other local groups rising from the um....ashes.
Stick 'em up
From the evil twisted minds that brought you the anti-election stickers: Plans are afoot for another huge run of stickers with slogans that don't date like: "New Labour New Bastards", "The Great Royal Debate: Do we hang them or do we shoot them?", "Shoot the Suit" etc to brighten up your zero tolerance neighbourhood. 250,000 stickers will be £2000. The more money up front, the more can be printed. So: donations [cheques payable to "Active Distribution"], advance orders, better ideas for stickers, to: Stick 'Em Up, BM Box 5538, Lon-don 5538, London WC1N 3XX.