Black Flag 231 (Mid 2010)

This issue is both a celebration of big anniversaries and big voices who are sadly no longer with us, while also keeping an eye on the future for information.

Submitted by Rob Ray on May 21, 2011

ALSO IN THIS ISSUE

  • Cover story: Why parliament has lumbered us with a dodgy digital future
  • Interview: Flag gets hold of one of its founders after 40 years for a chat about him and the magazine
  • Debate: Scouring the best thinkers in search of an answer to to the question: Why vote?
  • Breathing Utopia: Freeing information in a post revolutionary world
  • Anniversary: Celebrating the century for Britannica’s classic introduction to anarchism
  • Theory: The problem with nationalism
  • Radical Reprint: Marking Colin Ward’s life through his work on housing
  • Theory: On prefuturist anarchism
  • Reportage: Looking at the NHS
  • Overview: Libertarian approaches to healthcare
  • History: Looking into the background of the Internationale
  • Anniversary: The Poll Tax riots
  • Interview: A last chat with radical historian Howard Zinn

REVIEWS

  • Dear Granny Smith
  • Hob’s Choice: All the best new pamphlets
  • Review Debate: Non-Leninist Marxism
  • Malatesta’s Anarchy

Black Flag is stocked in radical bookshops across the UK and available from AK Distribution and Active Distro. The editorial address is Black Flag, BM Hurricane, London, WC1N 3XX, UK. Each issue costs £3 + £1 p&p. UK cheques payable 'Black Flag'.

Alternatively, you can buy online at AKUK.com

Email blackflagmag AT yahoo.co.uk for more information

For other issues of Black Flag, go to:

Black Flag 230 (Late 2009)
Black Flag 229 (Mid 2009)
Black Flag 228 (Late 2008)
Black Flag 227 (Mid 2008)
Black Flag 226 (Late 2007)

Files

BF231.pdf (6.51 MB)

Rob Ray

11 years 8 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

NB// Can an admin please delete the preview verison of this (http://libcom.org/library/black-flag-231-out-now)

Rob Ray

11 years 8 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Oops forgot to hit the "list file" button - actual download is http://libcom.org/files/BF231.pdf

Prefuturist anarchism - Raz Chaoten

An article arguing the division between lifestyle and class struggle anarchism is a false one, published in Black Flag magazine, with which we do not agree but reproduce here for reference and discussion.

Submitted by libcom on May 8, 2010

Errico Malatesta, an Italian Anarchist revolutionary and propagandist in the 1920s wrote two articles entitled “Let’s Demolish…and then?” and “Postscript to ´Lets demolish…and then?” In these he wrote of the need for revolutionaries to have firm and practical ideas about what we could replace the institutions we wish to abolish with. A good and clear example would be food: in a hypothetical situation in which somehow the working class (not limited to actual employed urban workers, but as a general term to describe those that do not constitute, and are exploited by the ruling class) managed to destroy the institutions of the state and capital, how would we feed ourselves the very next day? If we do not have solid answers to questions such as these, all talk of revolution is foolish and perhaps even dangerous, as a successful insurrectionary period against the established order would most likely simply result in chaos, out of which a new oppressive order would arise, rather than a society based on the principles of anarchism. If people’s experience of post-revolutionary life seems to be significantly worse than what preceded it, it is only to be expected that they will put trust in authoritarian figures promising a return to stability - and such figures, history shows, are always to be expected to reveal themselves in like circumstances.

If we accept this line of reasoning, it seems imperative for those interested in working to achieve such a revolution to experiment in the here-and-now with “anarchic” alternatives to the hierarchical structures which today, whether we like it or not, meet so many of our basic needs. If such alternatives are discovered, it then becomes imperative to raise awareness as much as possible of their existence and the practicalities of how they function. For instance, if an ingenious and highly feasible alternative to policing and incarceration is devised by a small collective of revolutionary experimenters, they must spread the knowledge of it as much as possible amongst the general population. Therefore, if a successful insurrection ever takes place there will hopefully be enough people with knowledge of this new system to be able to implement it immediately, or without significant delay. Thus, if the mass of people perceive that their quality of life has significantly improved as a result of the revolution, it is likely that they will keep faith in it and work to advance its ends, which after all, should be their own, or else what’s the point?

This revolutionary experimentation, which I shall henceforth refer to as “prefuturist anarchism”, cannot be limited merely to material questions. It must also be about experimentation in different modes of relating both to one another, and our environment, for a genuine revolution is a fundamental change in social relations, with consequences for all aspects of our lives. Prefuturist anarchists would ask the question “how would I behave after the revolution, in a given situation?” This is in line with prefuturism in general, which is a philosophical school that conceptualises the present in terms of it’s relation to an as-yet-undefined future, asking the question “what would I do now, with the benefit of hindsight?”.

The great appeal of prefuturist anarchism is that it is not necessary for its participants to actually believe in the likelihood, or even possibility of an anarchist revolution coming about. They may simply like the idea of anarchism, or even just prefer the “anarchic” alternatives to material, social and environmental relations to the mainstream. There are many people in such a condition, which I will refer to as “anarcho-cynicism”. Anarcho-cynics may never join a revolutionary organisation or even discuss the idea of revolution as a serious possibility. But this would not stop them from participating in, say, workshops on consensus decision making, or a co-operative enterprise of some kind. Thus what many revolutionary anarchists dismiss as “lifestylism” is actually integral to the class struggle, as long as it meets the above criteria of being combined with attempts to spread the “anarchic” alternatives beyond the limited circles in which they are currently practiced. Anarchist revolutionary strategy is, by necessity “a strategy of having many strategies”, as an American comrade once put it. Workplace agitation (which most revolutionaries put so much emphasis on) is one such strategy, “lifestylism” is another, and it is meaningless to debate which is the more significant as to be ultimately successful they must complement each other.

The practice of mutual aid and cooperation in the here and now almost always helps the cause of revolution, the exception of course being cooperation with the bosses, the State, or any other source of authority when they try to prevent revolutionary activity. To me this is what George Fontenis meant when he wrote in the “Manifesto of Libertarian Communism” that anarchism is not a humanism, and that there is not one humanity but two (which he called the ruling class and the working class, others may prefer different terminology) - we do not apply the same ethical standards to our class enemies as we do to each other (i.e. mutual aid and cooperation). This is contrary to “anarcho-pacifists” who take lifestylism to such an extreme that it does indeed cease to be revolutionary.

“Revolutionary” activity itself can be said to be prefuturistic, when it is undertaken in non-revolutionary circumstances. We imagine ourselves in a post-revolutionary mode of existence, in which class society and the institutions, ideologies and relations that sustain it have been abolished. We then imagine ourselves looking back, with hindsight, to the present, and we ask, “what did I do back then which helped to achieve this?” We then base our action in the present on such a thought process, and do what we think must be done in order to one day make possible an anarchist revolution.

This is not to say that we believe such a revolution to be inevitable - one of the fundamental errors of certain branches of Marxism. All that we can ever know about the future is that is has not happened yet. This truism is the existential basis for pre-futurist thought: the condition of being “before the future” or “prefuturist”, is fundamental to human existence. However, recognition of the agency of our conscious desires allows us to know at least one more basic fact about the future: that our actions, conscious or not, will affect it, possibly in ways that our desirous to us. We have all experienced desires that came to fruition on the basis of action we took as a result of the very same desire. So if the future is up for grabs, at least in the sense that it is not predetermined, why shouldn’t we be the ones to try and grab it?

If a hypothetical post-revolutionary future is desirous to us, why should we not work to achieve revolution? Not to do so would be to deny ourselves, at least so it seems to me. This line of argument may not be enough to convince the proponents of anarcho-cynicism, but the beauty of prefuturist anarchism is that it does not need to. As long as they participate in activities that may have a knock on effect on making possible a revolution in the future, whether or not they do it for that reason, then they are revolutionaries, and so is anyone else who participates in such activity.
So enough of “class struggle anarchists” moaning about “hippies” and “lifestylists”. To commit yourself to living differently from the norm in this society is truly a struggle in itself, and one which goes hand in hand with the struggle to liberate the working class. And enough of lifestylists and Anarcho-cynics dismissing revolutionary ideology and its adherents as close-minded idealists stuck in the past. Class society still exists, as is evident by a moment’s contemplation of social reality, so opposition to such a society should not be considered a relic of a by-gone age but an urgent necessity for the present.
Our struggles are one.

Toward a revolutionary future, by whichever means seem necessary to us in the present.
Towards Anarchy!

Steven.

12 years 9 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

this article makes assertions, but with no sort of evidence to back it up. So basically it seems to be 1500 words saying "can't we all just get along?".

I don't mean to be harsh, but I don't really see the point of this article. Eating out of bins and not using deodorant (lifestyleism) has nothing to do with creating social change, and this article doesn't have any evidence to make me think otherwise.

Ed

12 years 9 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Of all the years to travel back in time to, why did I choose 2004? :confused:

Joseph Kay

12 years 9 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

well to play devils advocate, eating out of bins can be useful. skipped food helped feed hundreds of people in the Sussex Uni occupation. Of course then it was a practical means to sustain a collective direct action rather than a lifestyle choice...

Invictus_88

12 years 9 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

One can readily accept the value of prefuturist anarchism (the main point of the article) without accepting all of the things which exist under the umbrella of Lifestyle Anarchism.

Cooked

12 years 9 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

I have personally stayed away from anarchism mainly due to a dislike of the lifestylist element. I do however find the almost religious condemnation of all lifestylist things on this site a bit odd. I suspect personal traumas or over enthusiasm after recent conversions to the new faith ;)

Similarly the "economic" argument that you shouldn't do this or that because it is ineffective and wasteful of energy does not take into account that people have different abilities and feel able to contribute in diffrent ways.

The reactions to these tendencies go way beyond normal constructive criticism which would help people develop into more mature politics. The word sectarian comes to mind...

(My comments reflect beyond this thread)

Rob Ray

12 years 9 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Mm it's not my personal favourite article in the magazine, the version we published stripped out some of the more repetitive/pretentious bits to get it down to page-length.

Nyarlathotep

12 years 8 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

The whole concept of "lifestylist" is a bit distorted, in my opinion. Bookchin was just making a general point about the poor quality of left-wing social revolution (or what passed for such) among the post-Woodstock generations...now "lifestylist" has become a derrogitory smear for anyone who doesn't follow the neo-"platformist" party line. (Which would probably actually include the late Bookchin) If these socialist ideologues, "libertarian" or otherwise, had any sort of social power, it would be the Rengo Sekigun all over again.

Bookchin's original "Social Anarchism or Lifestyle Anarchism" (1997) is not even in the running for his most interesting essay. I agree with his criticisms of, say, bohemianism, but Bookchin himself is guilty of "mak[ing] assertions, but with no sort of evidence to back it up"....for example he tries to make the historical case that "social anarchism" and (Stirnerite, not Tucker-Spooner) "individualist anarchism" were two deeply contradictory and irreconcilable schools of thought. For an alternative view I suggest reading Avrich's "The Russian Anarchists".

Another example is Bookchin's wack-job attempts at etymological interpretation of various words ("freedom", "autonomy", etc.) Not only does he fabricate a historical social rift that didn't actually really exist, he claims without evidence that only good social anarchists use the word "freedom" while bad, liberal-infested egoist individualists use words like "liberty" and "autonomy". Again, besides being historically untrue and a total fabrication from Bookchin's mind, (as any historical survey of European anarchist literature will tell you) this goes beyond legitimate self-criticism and into nut-bar, disciplinarian Rengo Sekigun thought-police territory.

Here's a good example of how Bookchin lacks any sort of vigor in much of his criticism:

More recent works on lifestyle anarchism generally sidestep Stirner's sovereign, all-encompassing 'I,' albeit retaining its egocentric emphasis, and tend toward existentialism, recycled Situationism, Buddhism, Taoism, antirationalism, and primitivism

So we have an alleged academic conflating existentialism, Max Stirner, Situatonism, Buddhism, Taoism, and John Zerzan-style "primitivism"...I might as well say that college Republicans are the same thing as Lyndon LaRouche and the Flat Earth Society. "Lifestylism" is just a laundry list of regions of intellectual exploration that need to be banned so the free-thinking individual doesn't learn to question the party line.

Joseph Kay

12 years 9 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Nyarlathotep

now "lifestylist" has become a derrogitory smear for anyone who doesn't follow the neo-"platformist" party line.

i really don't think this is true, not least because like many of the posters here i'm critical of both lifestylism and neo-platformism. it's not a smear, it's a real tendency that substitutes lifestyle change for social change, for example this woman spoke recently at the Cowley Club in Brighton. now of course the term can be applied innapropriately, but when used correctly it's perfectly valid to criticise it.

Which is why I think there is much validity to Bookchin's observations on the post-Woodstock anarchists. Bookchin obviously spent years carefully studying the Spanish Civil War, so I would be disappointed if he didn't realize that bohemian slumming and dumpster-diving has nothing to do with an actual protracted class-war.

At the same time, with his original essay on lifestylism, Bookchin began to paint a broad ideological condemnation of anyone who disagreed with his specific philosophical background, a tendency which his followers (who, like all followers, are of significantly lesser intellectual quality than the original) tend to exasperate. Thus any anarchist who studies Buddhism or Taoism, or doesn't have some sort of slavish, knee-jerk, cookie-cutter agreement with young Marx's criticism of Stirner in "The Holy Family", or is more interested in Foucault than Noam Chomsky, or argues, like Postone, that Marx's critique of capitalism is a critique of social modernity, is lumped in with John Zerzan and Crimethinc.

Joseph Kay

12 years 9 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

well, any term can be misused. that doesn't mean criticism shouldn't be applied to that which it properly denotes. the article states:

Prefuturist Anarchism

Workplace agitation (which most revolutionaries put so much emphasis on) is one such strategy, “lifestylism” is another, and it is meaningless to debate which is the more significant

which is just fuzzy 'i'm ok, you're ok' thinking. there's literally no point in strategy unless you evaluate its efficacy. some things are utterly inneffective (like Katherine Hibbert's book), others may have some use, others still may be more promising. but the article says we shouldn't make such judgements, but just do it all because it's all necessary - a baseless assertion.

Rats

12 years 9 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Jeez, hasn't this person read Conquest of Bread?
The basic theory is that we take into account our needs, and our history, and hopefully through a correctly balanced equation we can get a socially and ecologically sustainable answer. Amirite?

also; opinion on dumpster diving is surely contained to a national context. Anyone else here experienced the joys of an australian supermarket dumpster? They have more variety than the shops themselves.

Anarchia

12 years 8 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

also; opinion on dumpster diving is surely contained to a national context. Anyone else here experienced the joys of an australian supermarket dumpster? They have more variety than the shops themselves.

Yes, you can get a lot of good stuff from dumpsters in Australia. Obv though, there's nothing "wrong" with dumpster diving, the point is that there's nothing remotely revolutionary / anarchist / communist (or, I would prob argue, even political) about it. If you want to do it (because you're poor, or because you'd rather spend your money on an iPod, or because it's nighttime, you're hungry and the shops are closed) then obviously you should, but don't pretend that you're in any way doing something that will help to bring about a revolutionary situation.

Rats

12 years 8 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Word up comrade asher.

Anarchia

12 years 8 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

I should have added, nor should you pretend that it in any way means you can escape capitalism, nor that it is a method that could be adopted by a great mass of people.

Farce

12 years 8 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

This bit from the AF's introduction pamphlet was actually written before Prefuturist Anarchism, but I still think it works pretty well as a reply:

The Limits of Prefiguration: Lifestylism

The labels ‘lifestylist’ and ‘individualist’ are often used, frequently unfairly, as insults and so we have to be very careful when we use them. When we talk about ‘lifestyle’ politics we’re talking about a kind of politics that focuses in some way on ‘dropping out’ of capitalism, on getting ‘off the grid’ and living without relying on capitalist exploitation. This can mean many things. It can be something small scale like living in squats and surviving by stealing from supermarkets or taking the perfectly good food that they throw out (‘skipping’ or ‘dumpster diving’). Or it can be something much larger like a project to communally farm a piece of land or establish a new community.

The reasons that people have for doing this kind of thing are very good ones. They see the harm that capitalism does every day and want no part of it. By stealing or taking what is thrown away they try to stop giving support back to the bosses that exploit us and people all over the world. By going back to the land and trying to be self-sufficient in food and power they try to live with as few links to global capitalism as possible. More than this, often these kind of political lifestyle choices involve building and living in communities based on solidarity and mutual respect. Many involved in this kind of activity would argue that this is ‘building the new society in the shell of the old’.

Whilst we respect many people who make these personal lifestyle choices, we reject this as a useful form of political action. The main reason for this is that it is not something that the majority of people can easily involve themselves in. Those with significant debts, dependants, health problems or any number of other things that limit their freedom of action find it very difficult, if not impossible, to ‘drop out’.
There is no possibility for building a lifestylist mass movement. Indeed, lifestylism does not attempt to overthrow or destroy capitalism; it only attempts to wash its own hands clean of the blood.

This is, in fact, a huge political problem with lifestyle responses to capitalism. Often this form of politics leads to a kind of elitism and snobbery on the part of people living ‘political’ lifestyles. Ordinary people become ‘sheeple’, hopelessly brainwashed by their jobs and the media and as much part of the problem as the people that own and run the economy. In its most extreme forms, such as primitivism, this leads people to openly call for the extermination of the majority of the human race and a return to a hunter gatherer lifestyle.

This kind of attitude is not an inevitable consequence of dropping out, but it is very common, and it is the result of an individualist way of looking at capitalism. Capitalism does not exploit us as individuals: it exploits us as classes or groups. We are exploited as workers, as women, as non-white minorities or even majorities. We are oppressed as gay or transgender, as professionals with some perks, or temporary workers with none, as ‘consumers’ in the west and as disposable labourers in the global south.

If we respond to the damage that capitalism does to us as individuals then the only logical answer is to abstain. You live without a job, without shopping, without relying on the systems of exploitation that surround us. If this is impossible, then you minimise your impact. You get an ‘ethical’ job, buy ‘ethical’ products and reduce your contribution to exploitation that way. From here it’s only a short step to despising the people who aren’t as ‘enlightened’ as you, who keep capitalism going by ‘refusing’ to abstain.

However, if you respond to capitalism as a member of a broader exploited class, then the logical response is collective. You show solidarity with people in the same situation as you, you fight where you are for better conditions, and for more control over the conditions of life. A collective response like this is always oppositional. It always has to fight capitalism rather than trying to go round it. It is, in potential, the beginning of a mass movement and the basis of a new society based on the recognition of our common interests.

In the end, it is this that the ruling class are afraid of, not people dropping out, and it is this that we should be looking to try and build.

Joseph Kay

12 years 8 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Cooked

The word sectarian comes to mind...

fwiw i know the author of this and we work together on various things. political criticism ≠ sectarianism.

which is just fuzzy 'i'm ok, you're ok' thinking. there's literally no point in strategy unless you evaluate its efficacy.

Obviously I am with you on this - I'm just explaining why I don't rely so exclusively on the term "lifestylism" to articulate these sort of criticisms.

also; opinion on dumpster diving is surely contained to a national context. Anyone else here experienced the joys of an australian supermarket dumpster? They have more variety than the shops themselves.

You're missing the point. Grocery shopping and dumpster diving are both just efforts that the majority of humanity must make to survive under capitalism. Both activities signify our dependence upon the global economy. The majority of the human race already survives off of "dumpster diving" so there's nothing fundamentally paradigm-shifting about advocating it. Beyond simply rejecting legalistic ethics in all aspects of life, (since here in the US dumpster-diving is illegal) it's just self-indulgent wankery by segments of the working-class that wouldn't be dependent on dumpster-diving in the first place and are only doing it so they can wallow in a sense of abject squalor rather than participate in our collective liberation.

Yorkie Bar

12 years 8 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Obv though, there's nothing "wrong" with dumpster diving, the point is that there's nothing remotely revolutionary / anarchist / communist (or, I would prob argue, even political) about it. If you want to do it (because you're poor, or because you'd rather spend your money on an iPod, or because it's nighttime, you're hungry and the shops are closed) then obviously you should, but don't pretend that you're in any way doing something that will help to bring about a revolutionary situation.

To be honest this says everything that that pamphlet says on the subject, better and more succinctly.

The word sectarian comes to mind...

fwiw i know the author of this and we work together on various things. political criticism ≠ sectarianism.

Yes you are correct there is nothing in your comments or this thread suggesting sectarianism. My apologies for bringing issues observed elsewhere in the forums to this thread.

Jenni

12 years 8 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

i don't see a problem with being 'sectarian' about the notion that lifestyle choices have anything to do with class politics. the basis of the article is like doing science backwards, starting with a theory you like and then finding/concocting the evidence; it begins with the assertion that lifestylism is revolutionary and then desperately tries to validate this using vague philosophy and even vaguer appeals to 'working together'. the whole point of class struggle is that it doesn't need to be cleverly justified, it just exists as the only way people can really affect their conditions.

JoeMaguire

12 years 8 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Borrowed heavily from leftist groups where the word is banded about all the time, sectarianism is now taken to mean you essentially have a consistent criticism or argument against another group. A kind of battleships for the lefty trainspotters. In essence I think you would arguably have to be in the same movement for it to be valid, this applies arguably to the liberal fringe as it does anarchist/leninist divide. Whether were talking communist or/and libertarian politics is almost by and by. When in reality sectarianism means to simply put your own groups [or relative body/bodies] needs above those of the needs of the class. Its simply there to call out people who are in reality building fiefdoms or cliques rather than advancing struggle, when it seems to be forever used to be a catchism for almost anything.

My understanding of the term was that it describes the tendency of (particularly fringe) religious, political, cultural groups to feel more antipathy toward, and direct more energy against, groups who hold views similar to their own than towards groups who really are their opponents.

I am foreign though and english is not my first language.

Sectarianism as described above seems to be an incredibly strong force, that appears in every fringe grouping. Very much worth while keeping it in check.

JoeMaguire

12 years 8 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Sectarianism as described above seems to be an incredibly strong force, that appears in every fringe grouping. Very much worth while keeping it in check.

Were talking about political sectarianism. Not really. People can choose to organise in numerous ways and still not hamper the class in any definitive sense. I would have thought it was referring to people who wreck practical activity aimed at wider benefit because it chooses to follow a sect mentality. For example there was a demo two years ago called by locals and trade unionists against the BNP's - Red, white and blue festival and UAF from what I remember decided to call for a separate demo elsewhere. Its unprincipled nonsense like that which needs to be called sectarian.

Raz Chaoten

12 years 8 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Hi everyone.
Thank you for at least not saying explicitly "this guy is a hippy scumbag who will be first against the wall when the revolution comes".
yes, i spend my time between squats and protest camps, yes i eat food from bins. Shock horror, i even have long hair and write folky reggae songs. ( really dont get what peoples problem with that song is by the way, ever heard of constructive criticism? as opposed to just "this guy wrote this song i dont like so therefore dont listen to anything he has to say")

However, in "prefuturist anarchism" i dont say, anywhere, that people should live the same lifestyle as me, nor do i believe it. It wouldnt be possible and wouldnt be to most people's tastes. I do not claim that living like this is a "strategy" for social revolution. What i DO say is a strategy for social revolution, and which none of you have addressed, is "prefigurative experimentation", or "prefuturism".

In my life as a dirty lumpenprole scumbag hippy that ought to be crushed by a big fucking workers hammer, i have come across certain things that fall under this category, but which are not inextricably bound up with a certain lifestyle and which i beleive can be applied to other things.

A good example is the idea of a "safer spaces policy" which was used during the anarchist movement conference last year, which was full of "I'm definitely not a hippy" types like some of you seem to be. However, the context within which i'm more familiar with it is the political squatting scene. Safer spaces entails asking people to question aspects of their own behavior to ensure that they are not acting in an oppressive manner towards others. It's not about asking of yourself "should i nick this bit of food rather than paying for it" but "should i snap a sarcastic comment at this person or should i calmly explain my point".

"After the revolution" we would surely want society to have more of a culture of this, we would want all the world to be one big "safe space", otherwise it would not really be a society free of all forms of oppression. So trying our best in the here and now to apply this to the spaces in which we operate (whether they're squats or ridiculously overpriced hired university buildings) is both an experiment to give a clearer picture of the future we're fighting for, and a way of materially improving our lives in the present (because hopefully less people feel too intimidated to speak their mind and contribute with useful ideas).

I dont deny that many of us hippy squatter types are indeed, very smelly. I was called up on this only yesterday. Also, reggae can be very repetitive and boring. No doubt about it. But we are still human, and not only that, we are the class allies of the proletariat because the interests of the bourgeoisie are contrary to our own (they want us to work for them, or take their dole money, we want to be autonomous). We also have real, functioning brains capable of abstract thought, much of which is not complete bollocks. So yeah, basically i am saying "cant we just get along?" Mutual aid? ever heard of it.

P.s. i didnt study anthropology but you werent far off the mark. What a capitalist i must be!

Joseph Kay

12 years 8 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Raz Chaoten

"After the revolution" we would surely want society to have more of a culture of this, we would want all the world to be one big "safe space", otherwise it would not really be a society free of all forms of oppression. So trying our best in the here and now to apply this to the spaces in which we operate (whether they're squats or ridiculously overpriced hired university buildings) is both an experiment to give a clearer picture of the future we're fighting for, and a way of materially improving our lives in the present (because hopefully less people feel too intimidated to speak their mind and contribute with useful ideas).

i've not come across 'safer spaces' before but i think the general point is fair enough, i think most people here would subscribe to some form of prefigurative politics. as i said above, my criticism is the idea it's meaningless to debate whether workplace agitation or "lifestylism" is more meaningful action. i think it absolutely needs to be debated, whatever your answer to that is (and i certainly don't think class struggle is confined to the workplace nor even to economic issues). now of course even if "lifestylism" is reected as a strategy, that doesn't mean you shouldn't live such a lifestyle. and fwiw i'd put against the wall before the hippies ;)

Raz Chaoten

12 years 8 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Yes, clearly it is. yet many people dont seem to draw much of a link between the future they want to see and their behavior now. Lik mare people who call themselves anarchists and go around intimidating and discriminating against others on the basis of their lifestyle choices.
On the other hand some people, like who i would call actual hippies, think that their behaviour now and the future world is literally one and the same, ie that there doesnt need to be a revolution. I spend a lot of time arguing against these people so thats why i get pissed of when people assume i'm one of them cos of my appearance etc.
then there's insurrectionists who see the necessity of armed revolution, as do i, but dont really develop much of an idea of where to go from there, or even how to get to a point where an insurrection would actually achieve something, rather than being just a minority of violent people wondering why noone else is joining in.

So what i'm trying to do is to get people to join up the dots. Theres the class struggle, which for the purpose of this we can think of as people struggling for their material interests while class society still exist, whether by fighting for better pay or by "dropping out" like squatters (and believe me i'm much better of materially now than i was before, and it is still a struggle).
How do we get from the class struggle to revolutionary insurrection? The moment when we collectively destroy the oppressive institutions of capitalism?
All these arguments about whether you should be an industrial network of workplace resistance groups, or be an anarchosyndicalist union, dont seem to be to contribute anything to that debate.
Then finally, how do we get from the insurrection to the free society? This is where classical anarchist writers (to me) are worth reading: kropotkin, Magon, Malatesta. All these thought they were living in a time when the revolution could happen within a generation. So they thought long and hard about what anarchists would need to do to prevent an insurrection just turning into a new form of oppression. People today dont seem to think about these questions, they just mutter something vague about workers councils or spontaneity.

Life has changed a lot since the time of the classical anarchists. The same questions they tried to answer need to be asked again, but with modern answers. But i think that too many anarchists dont really see revolution or the free society as a serious possibility, its just a nice idea for some escapism, or its a theorectical construct. But capitalism is in crisis, insurections are already taking place in many places. And where are we? are we giving advice to the masses on how to take power over their own lives? maybe some of us. But when we talk collectivly we dont seem to really be sharing tips on how best to do this.
We seem to be bitching and calling each other names over the internet.

We need to remember that the future's coming and that we play a role in shaping, whether by our action or our inaction. Thats why i use the word prefuturist, so that i never stray too far down abstract theorectical ally's, and always remember what the whole fucking point is.
I advise others to do the same, hence why i wrote something and tried to get it published. I'll be writting a lot more on the same subject, taking people's criticisms on board. So please keep this thread going, as long as you're not gonna just childishly insult my creativity.

Raz Chaoten

12 years 8 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

didnt see "joseph kay"'s response.

i guess i'm saying that i agree that just living an alternative lifestyle vs workplace struggle isnt a useful debate. But prefigurative experimentation has to be considered an important part of class struggle, so when particular "lifestylist" thing can also be considered a prefigurative experiment its is a pointless debate.

I also totally agree that non workplace struggles are still part of class struggle. I see my activity as class struggle activity and i dont have a job. but some types of community organising overlap a lot with "lifestylism", like communal volunteer and donation-based meals, safer spaces, squatting, and even skipping. It all depends how its being done.

mons

12 years 8 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

I agree with you that we should behave in the now in a way that 'prefigures' how we wish a future society to be. For example, we want a future society without sexual oppression, so we should not discriminate against others on the basis of gender or sexuality. Equally, the 'safe spaces' thing you mention sounds reasonable, yes we want a safer society in the future now, and so keeping spaces safe now seems sensible. Nobody would dispute this. Also, this probably aids struggle, as it makes things more inclusive.
When it comes to things like skipping it's slightly different, because I don't see how that is an activity I'd like to do in the future, and cannot see its potential for changing society at all either. That's not to say it's bad, it just isn't revolutionary. As Asher says:

Obv though, there's nothing "wrong" with dumpster diving, the point is that there's nothing remotely revolutionary / anarchist / communist (or, I would prob argue, even political) about it. If you want to do it (because you're poor, or because you'd rather spend your money on an iPod, or because it's nighttime, you're hungry and the shops are closed) then obviously you should, but don't pretend that you're in any way doing something that will help to bring about a revolutionary situation.

Why do you think

living an alternative lifestyle vs workplace struggle isnt a useful debate

? Surely it is. It is worthwhile determining what factors aid struggle, and recognising some things do more than others. Otherwise we might as well just play scrabble and consider that revolutionary. Again, this is not to preach or moralise, we are not saying don't do it. Just I don't see how it is a substitute for actual workplace or community organising.

Jenni

12 years 8 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

to be fair he isn't saying it's a substitute, he's saying it's an equally important stategy to coexist with class struggle. the problem i have is that it can't be equally important because i think for something to be of equal importance it has to have equal relevance to most people, and living alternative or experimentary lifestyles is pretty alien to the majority. i think, anyway. class struggle politics exist because they make sense in peoples lives/jobs/communities whatever, id argue thats even more important right now just as we're faced with a massive load of cuts. i guess this is why there's the (admittedly) knee jerk over the top response to people saying that living anarchically in the here and now is just as important, they dont want class struggle politics associated with something that's irrelevant to most of the people they know and meet, whether its work-based or whatever community based stuff is going on. just a thought anyway. on the other hand Raz i apologise for being unnecessarily rude, it was uncalled for. my bad. and as yuo say clearly you're not the "class enemy" or owt. ;)

Then finally, how do we get from the insurrection to the free society? This is where classical anarchist writers (to me) are worth reading: kropotkin, Magon, Malatesta. All these thought they were living in a time when the revolution could happen within a generation. So they thought long and hard about what anarchists would need to do to prevent an insurrection just turning into a new form of oppression. People today dont seem to think about these questions, they just mutter something vague about workers councils or spontaneity.

I think this is a massive strawman. Obviously, I can't speak for any groups other than those I've been a part of, but I think that in my experience of class struggle anarchism there is a lot of reflection on how to prevent new forms of oppression emerging though our actions. F'r instance, we rotate the editorship of Resistance on a regular basis in order to minimise the influence of the individuals who produce it - obviously, that in itself isn't going to eliminate all hierarchy, but equally it's hardly the behaviour of people who just trust the workers councils to sort everything out.

Ed

12 years 8 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

I dunno Raz, I've got to say I agree with Jenni's earlier comment where she said you started with an idea you liked and went backwards to find whatever you could to make your conclusion seem plausible.. and to do so I feel like you've kind of peppered your comments here with assertions and (without wanting to be rude) really loose usage of certain words..

So say, when you say class struggle is about people struggling for their material interests and then lump in fighting over pay and 'dropping out' (eg squatting), you define all these things so loosely that it loses all meaning. So say, yeah, squatting can be part of the class struggle but then that's really different from 'dropping out'. The post-war squatters movement weren't trying to 'drop out', they were trying to rebuild their lives; it was class struggle precisely because they weren't trying to drop out but to fulfill their human need for shelter regardless of property rights etc. Dropping out is about trying to escape from capital, class struggle is about imposing our needs onto it.

By imposing our needs onto capital we make our human needs more important than capital's and prefigure a world where human need is the only factor in social activity. Equally, when we organise co-operatively, use mutual aid and solidarity to do this, we prefigure a world where this (rather than hierarchy) is how we organise to fulfill these human needs. It's in struggle (that is, class struggle, not just 'struggling' as in 'life being difficult') that we prefigure a libertarian communist society.

Moreover, the other thing that I don't understand about 'alternative' lifestyles is that surely they're only 'alternative' in certain contexts. For instance, some cultures/communities are more communal than others, some are matriarchal, some practice polyamory, some have more or less features than others that we may find desirable in the future society we wish to build.. to me, I don't see what experimenting with alternative lifestyles adds to the struggle for this society anymore than any of the other types of already existing societies/cultures do (except, perhaps, that people doing the 'experimenting' have pretensions of it creating something more than it will).

The last thing (coz i've got shit to do before I go to bed), is this bit when you say:

Raz

Thats why i use the word prefuturist, so that i never stray too far down abstract theorectical alleys

I have to say that when I read some of your article, this is exactly what you're doing, especially in lines like:

This is in line with prefuturism in general, which is a philosophical school that conceptualises the present in terms of it’s relation to an as-yet-undefined future, asking the question “what would I do now, with the benefit of hindsight?”.

or

All that we can ever know about the future is that is has not happened yet. This truism is the existential basis for pre-futurist thought: the condition of being “before the future” or “prefuturist”, is fundamental to human existence.

If anything, here 'prefuturism' obscures the meaning and (in my opinion, though I allow you to tell me I judge it too harshly) is basically an opportunity to use long words to say "we need to think how our actions now help us shape the future we want". In this sense, prefuturism isn't anything new and (if I'm to be really honest) I think it quite patronising to assume that no anarchists since - Kropotkin? Fontenis? - have thought about this..

Right, bed time..

Nyarlathotep

12 years 8 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Dropping out is about trying to escape from capital, class struggle is about imposing our needs onto it.

I thought it was about imposing communism

Ed

12 years 8 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

The final imposition? You bloody pedant.. ;)

Raz Chaoten

12 years 8 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Skipping and other things associated with "dropping out" (i always forget that people can't tell when i'm being sarcastic or flippant in my choice of words over these forums) i would argue can be useful for community organising.

I am involved in 2 particular community campaigns in the brighton area, to do with defending particular spaces, such as a piece of ancient woodland, and a community garden. None of these things are "drop out" spaces, they have all mobilised many people who'd never been involved in political action before, and this is partly because both these spaces were threatened by the Tescos corporation. I see that as a class conflict, the interests of tescos shareholders being opposed to those of the community, which is why it was possible to mobilise so many people.
However in both cases there is a core group of activists who have to dedicate all their time into keeping the campaigns and spaces going. this means they can not have a full time job, and subsist largly on food they got from skips. If it wasnt for their "alternative lifestyle" the whole thing would collapse.

But i'm not arguing for alternative lifestyles. I think maybe i misphrased something earlier. I was trying to say i agreed with joseph kay's point when i said that it wasnt a useful debate about whether lifestyle vs class struggle was important. The reason i think its not a useful debate is because merely having an alternative lifestyle is self evidently not useful to the class struggle, so why debate it? I would of thought by the very fact i post on lib com and am a member of a class struggle anarchist organisation it would be obvious that i beleive in class struggle.

So please try not to turn this into a lifestylist vs class struggle debate, thats not what i'm talking about in the article, and i take peoples point about some of the language being flowery. thats just how i write when i'm jotting stuff down, i didnt have time to proof read the article before it was published.

the main point is the point malatesta was making in the text i reference at the beginning (when did i claim that prefuturism was origional or that no other anarchists had thought of it? malatestas name is like the first thing in the article!). It's about the need for the revolutionary minority to have clear suggestions for the reorganisation of social life that can be put into place as soon as an insurrection makes space for them to be realised. There's a text by Magon "New Life" which also deals with it, in a kind of utopian best-case-scenario imagining of how it could be.

This is why i dont just use the word "prefiguration", because its not as simple as just "lets not be hypocrites". Even if revolutionary organisations have the most amazing non-hierarchical structures, this in itself is no guarantee that they will be able to help bring about the end of hierarchy. Its not just their internal dynamics but what they DO, and what they SAY.

what i think they need to DO is experiment with libertarian forms of social organisation to the greatest extent they kind within the limiting confines of existing capitalist society. What i think they need to SAY, is to communicate the results of these experiments to the masses, so that their successes can be replicated.

I dont think existing organisations or informal groupings of anarchists are fullfilling this role, and given the insurrectionary potential of the current crisis this is a terrible shame, as it makes it very unlikely that these unfolding insurrections will actually bring us any closer to communism, no matter how militant

a valid criticism that someone in afed made (that was actually about the argument i'm trying to put across as opposed to just an irrelvent rant about lifestylists) was that these experiments would be insufficient to actually help much in the post revolutionary reorganisation of society. This is because everything would be different then, so what we learn now wouldnt apply.

But in a big post insurrectionary situation people's habits of thought and behaviour would still be influenced by their social conditioning under capitalism. Indeed, overcoming said conditioning is the first step to any kind of prefuturist experimentation, at least to the extent that allows the experiment to work. For example if you're used to taking orders and being renumerated for your labour power under some kind of wage system, in will be hard to adjust to living in an eco village or something, where work is voluntary and food etc is shared communally on a "take what you need" basis.

If you can analyse the pyschological processes that people go through when making these transitions, by doing interviews etc from a variety of differnt people involved in different projects and from different backgrounds, you may at least be able to write a book or pamphlet that would at least be helpful reading to people trying to adjust to postrevolutionary life, even though it obviously wouldnt have absolutly all the answers.

The point about experiments is precisely that their results are recorded and analysed, the experiment itself is evaluated and conclusions are drawn and then published. I believe that "social scientists" should be doing exactly this, as all other branches of science do. Far too much revolutionary theory is arrived at on a very unscientific basis, relying on biased interpretations of histrorical events if not outright conjecture.

If we do not want simply to interpret the world, but to change it, as Marx said, we have to be real scientists, not just ideologues.

Just to make it more clear, here are a few examples of the kinds of experiments i think would be possible to carry out in the here and now, and which the conclusions of which would be at least of some use in a hypothetical post revolutionary future. Many of them are things that are already being done, but not for that reason, and usually not properly written up, analysed or evaluated:

Collectivist agricultural projects
Voluntary kitchens, "Free Shops" and other examples of communal distribution of resources
"Community self defence" groups
Conflict resolution mechanisms in non-hierarchical communities

these are just a few, theres others i've thought of, and if anyone wants to add to the list please do. the point is that these are all things i've heard of that people are actually trying to do now. the experiances that the people involved are going through of sorting out the nitty-gritty details of how these things actually operate, trying to resolve the unexpected problems that have come up and trying to overcome their ingrained hierarchal mentality, are experiances that i think it would be useful for revolutinaries to reflect on, analyse, and communicate to the "masses".

A final point is that i do not think the "masses" would ever rise up and try and expropriate all they need to build a selfmanaged soceity, unless there was a widespread belief that self management would materially improve the quality of their lives. This is something people need to be convinced of, and need to be convinced of on the basis of EVIDENCE not just propaganda. As far as i can see the only way we can get this evidence is from what i call prefuturist experimentation.

Steven.

12 years 8 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Raz, regarding your initial point about "skipping" being related to class struggle as it helps with a campaign you involved in in terms of feeding the key activists - again you are confusing individual lifestyle choices with political/economic activity.

Your argument is comparable to me saying that if the activists got their food shopping from Waitrose, shopping at Waitrose "I would argue can be useful for community organising".

Like other people said, I have nothing against individuals living in whatever way they want. However what I do have a problem with is people telling others they have to live in a certain way or they are not "radical" enough. The problem with life stylists is not that they are smelly or whatever, it is that they think their personal lifestyle choices are ones which everyone should adopt, failing to realise that firstly it would not make any difference if everyone did adopt them, as they are about living within capitalism, not struggling against it, and secondly that it is never something which the majority of people can do - because by definition only a small number of people can live off the waste of others, and even then only in a couple of the richest countries.

Raz Chaoten

12 years 8 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

yeah, sorry for telling you you should adopt the same lifestyle as me.
Oh wait, no i'm not, because i didnt!

If anyone who's actually read my article or my responses wants to talk about the argument i'm trying to make, please do so here.

If people want to rant at lifestylists, go find some and rant at them, instead of at me.

Nyarlathotep

12 years 8 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Throughout this whole conversation all you have done is get defensive and resort to irrational, emotionally charged pieces of sophism whenever your ideas are challenged. If you don't want your ideas to be challenged, then don't write an article in the first place

Just because I disagree with you doesn't mean I want to send all the hippies, squatters, and dumpster-divers to a proletarian gulag.

The main problem with "prefuturism" is that it's totally incoherent...it's not at all possible to live our lives as if we were living in a post-capitalist context, because materially speaking, we are not. While I agree that the most crucial way to challenge capitalism is to undermine it's ability to function as a relationship, "prefuturism" just sounds like "be here now" asceticism that teaches us to transcend our exploitation through acts of purity.

In short this hardly seems like some sort of valuable new tactical development. I say this as a garbage-eating deadhead who avoids paying rent like the plague

JoeMaguire

12 years 8 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Part of the reason I asked for this to be posted up is that it tries to raise ideas that are never usually formulated. I understand Raz is trying to reach out beyond the politicos who have usually run the gaunlet of the tired left who seem to inhabit most anarcho groups and I can appreciate that. I can also appreciate it does try to challenge certain orthodoxies that have developed around the libcom millieu. That said I have problems with it and if time allows I may try to respond appropriately.

Ed

12 years 8 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Raz, for fuck's sake, can you engage with the arguments being put to you? Without wanting to be rude, I find your method of debate quite dishonest. You keep shifting your goalposts claiming we're talking about something you didnt say. For instance, you say in one of your posts:

The reason i think its not a useful debate is because merely having an alternative lifestyle is self evidently not useful to the class struggle, so why debate it?

but in your original article you say..

To commit yourself to living differently from the norm in this society is truly a struggle in itself, and one which goes hand in hand with the struggle to liberate the working class.

So which is it? You can't have it both ways. And you can't just throw a hissy fit every time someone takes issue with something you've said

Similarly, its unfair and dishonest of you to claim that Steven. is just saying that you are trying to make everyone live your lifestyle. He doesn't even mention your lifestyle. There are three points he makes:

1) That individual choices are not political ones and that though skipping might feed activists involved in certain campaigns, so might shopping at Waitrose (or Tesco or Lidl or wherever) and that this is not necessarily a radical/revolutionary activity.. it's how people feed themselves under capitalism..
2) That 'alternative lifestyles' are "about living within capitalism, not struggling against it"
3) That these 'alternatives' are "never something which the majority of people can do - because by definition only a small number of people can live off the waste of others, and even then only in a couple of the richest countries."

Do you want to address these points rather than dismiss all criticism as a "rant at lifestylists"?

Raz Chaoten

But in a big post insurrectionary situation people's habits of thought and behaviour would still be influenced by their social conditioning under capitalism. Indeed, overcoming said conditioning is the first step to any kind of prefuturist experimentation, at least to the extent that allows the experiment to work. For example if you're used to taking orders and being renumerated for your labour power under some kind of wage system, in will be hard to adjust to living in an eco village or something, where work is voluntary and food etc is shared communally on a "take what you need" basis.

Coming in slightly late to the conversation, much of what I would have said has already been said. Picking up on the section above though: I can't really see it.

I live in a town of probably 300 people. You're not going to convince people to revolt based on an idea that they will have to move out of the towns into 'eco villages'. Some people may want it, many will not: they enjoy the bustle of towns and cities.

It's when ideas such as this lifestyle choice are equated with Anarchism that the ideology takes a step backwards in terms of being to reach out to any except those people who quite fancy this lifestyle.

I also don't think you'll convince people with the notion of work being voluntary. Most thinking people realise that work will need to be done, and very few people will be wanting to support people who choose to opt out of any work. Perhaps it depends how you're defining 'work' and 'voluntary'.

It's about the need for the revolutionary minority to have clear suggestions for the reorganisation of social life that can be put into place as soon as an insurrection makes space for them to be realised.

I can't say I read all of your post, cos it was pretty long, but you might find the debate in this thread useful (or not, I didn't read all of that one either).

Stuart Christie interviewed for Black Flag in 2010

Interview: Ade Dimmick talks to the famed author, agitator – and Black Flag founding member – Stuart Christie for the magazine’s 40th anniversary on anarchism and us.

Four decades on from its first issue, Black Flag is one of the few remaining publications from that time. So it is a great pleasure to be able to interview its founding editor, or at least the surviving half of that editorship, Albert Meltzer having died in 1996, as we enter the next ten years of struggle.

Submitted by Fozzie on August 30, 2020

When Black Flag was launched did you expect it to still be going 40 years later?

Didn’t really think about it actually, our only concern was to get the next issue out and doing the other things we were doing.

Would you care to talk a little about the founding of Black Flag?

When I came out of prison in Spain one of my concerns was the lack of a pro-prisoners defence group, to which Albert suggested we relaunch the long-defunct Anarchist Black Cross, which we did. The result was Black Flag, which was subtitled “the organ of the Anarchist Black Cross.”

We made an announcement about its launch at a meeting of the Anarchist Federation of Britain in Soho Square, London, that year – either late ‘67 or early ‘68.

At first it was duplicated, then Albert bought an offset-litho printer — and I learned how to use it from Ted Kavanagh who had worked with Albert at the Wooden Shoe Bookshop (and on Cuddons’ Cosmopolitan Review).

We were based first of all in Coptic Street, then Albert rented premises in Kings Cross – and from there we moved to what became the Centro Iberico in Havelock Hill – all paid for entirely out of Albert Meltzer’s own pocket.

History tells us there was some antagonism with the editors of Freedom?

Yes, there was a lot of antagonism with Freedom, but that had to do with the history – personal and political – between Albert and Vero Richards, and to a certain extent with Philip Sansom, tensions which went back to the 1940s and early 1950s. Richards was a very patrician – and divisive – figure and as editor-in-chief, publisher and freeholder of Freedom, he behaved as though the anarchist movement were his personal fiefdom. It’s not uncommon in all political movements; there were close parallels with what happened with the CNT and the FAI secretariats/committees and the rank-and-file activists who supported armed resistance after the Liberation in France in 1944. Germinal Esgleas, Federica Montseny and Roque Santamaria did much the same thing to marginalise Laureano Cerrada Santos who was a pivotal figure among the activists and the action/defence groups, much as Richards did to Albert, disparaging him and putting him down at every opportunity.

Are you surprised how Freedom has changed in recent years?

Not particularly surprised, just pleased.

How do you view the movement of today compared to when Black Flag began?

It’s not really helpful to compare then with now: the political and social context of the 1950s and 1960s, the degree of radicalisation of the baby-boomer generation and all the expectations (and possibilities) we had for change. But probably most important of all was the fact that behind us was a powerful and radical rank-and-file working class labour movement, the trade unions, particularly the shop-stewards movement. The anarchist movement today faces serious problems of apathy and alienation – and the lack of a cohesive labour movement. Then we had an industrial proletariat, today it is a service-industry precariat, and an increasingly rootless one at that. Anyway, these are problems that this and future anarchist movements will resolve in their own way, and probably a lot more imaginatively than we were able to do.

Are you surprised by the relative lack of struggle in response to the current economic crisis compared to the 1970’s?

We are living in different times, but I’ve no doubt the pendulum will swing our way again.

With 50 years of experience, do you have any suggestions on what we, as a movement, should be doing?
Absolutely none, other than keep spreading the word — and example!

Are you optimistic about the growth of the movement?

I’m always optimistic, not that the numbers game is at all important, I’d leave that to the SWP, but what is important is its continued existence and the influence of its ideas and the impact of its voice.

Where do you think today’s movement can make the best mark on events?

Education, example and action.

What sort of response do you hope to see from the wider working class to the current situation? What do you expect?

At the moment, not a lot, but I hope to be surprised.

A few years ago you cast a vote for George Galloway’s Respect party – has your politics changed much since writing and publishing seems to have become your primary focus?

No, neither my politics nor my world view have changed in any meaningful way since I was 18 except I can no longer call myself an anarcho-syndicalist as there is no organised labour movement to speak of – although I was, until recently, a member of the NUJ. Also, while some people who need to get a life might see it as hair-splitting, I did not vote FOR Respect, I voted AGAINST the Labour Party on that particular day. I woke up that morning more than usually angry about Blair’s war so, as it happened to be voting day, I thought to myself I’d make a gesture – other than throwing a brick through the party office window – Respect being the only party opposing the war and with the least chance of getting elected. By the way, writing and publishing have always been my primary focus – as I keep telling the police! Nothing new there.

This is the sixth issue of Black Flag published by the “new” collective since the re-launch in October 2007. What do you think about it?

I must say I am extremely impressed not only with the production values, which would have enthused Albert no end – I can see him beam with pride even now – but with the extraordinarily rich mix of editorial copy. Congratulations! For me it’s not a question of agreeing or disagreeing with what the contributors are saying, I’m very impressed with the broad range of views, themes and subjects you’re covering – in fact what you appear to have done is seamlessly combine the politics of the original Black Flag with the cultural aspirations of the old Cienfuegos Press Anarchist Review. If I had any criticism at all it would be that it could do with a bit more humour...

You are a prolific publisher, writer and anarchist film buff. Tell us a bit about the film archive you’ve been building...

I’m not a particular film buff, anarchist or otherwise. It just so happened that a few years back when video-streaming technology and improved broadband became available we decided to set up a community internet TV/video station in Hastings. It coincided with some of the CNT-FAI films from 1936-37 becoming available on DVD, which I decided to put up on the site so it all built up from there. The communal TV station idea went down the tubes because we didn’t have the funds to sustain it, the guy who originally funded it having been made bankrupt. So, having learned a little about how to do it, I set up the christiebooks web site with a view to making available as many anarchist/libertarian oriented films as possible – all part of the educational process. We now have an archive of about 800 plus films to which we’re adding more on a regular basis. We have a growing number of audio broadcasts as well, and are trying to build up a photographic and poster archive along with pdfs of out of print texts – books, magazines, pamphlets and such like.

Would you like to tell us what you are doing at the moment? Have you got any interesting new projects up your sleeve?

The main problem is trying to keep the site going – it is quite expensive and we don’t get any sponsorship apart from the occasional donation from generous comrades, but you can number those on the fingers of a one-handed man. Apart from that my time’s mainly taken up with editing the second part of the McHarg memoirs – Pistoleros! 1919.