In Belfast today, a small group of anarchists, abolitionists, and anti-authoritarian communists has formed around old and new anarchist infrastructure.
For wont of a better label, we are Belfast Anarchists/Ainrialaithe Bhéal Feirste – leave the fancy names and acronyms to the statists, we’re here to build community solidarity, smash the state, and abolish capitalism (if the sea doesn’t swallow us before the insurrection).
We are a group with shared anarchist values but representing slightly different tendencies inside the anarchist, autonomist, and abolitionist family. Anarchists often struggle to pass on the flame to the next generation as by our very nature we tend to prioritise the here and now over long-term building, so while there have been many anarchist groups before us but most of us only know of them through myth and legend. Though relatively small in number, we are made up of women, gender non-conforming folks, men, and queer people. We are proud to span that divide Wolfe Tone sought to bring together, but we are not struggling for some bourgeoisie state. Rather we want a world free from domination, where all are able to flourish without fear of incarceration, capitalism, or petty nationalisms. Those who organise with us are involved with plenty of other organisations seeking to build a new and better world right here in Belfast and across the North.
As a group, we have worked to keep fascist propaganda off the walls of this city. The pandemic and subsequent lockdowns have been a breeding ground for far-right and anti-Semitic conspiracy theories. Anarchists helped oppose fascist Irish Freedom Party and their stooges in Yellow Vest Ireland by joining revolutionary socialists and republicans in chasing them out of town. ‘Anti-lockdown’ groups were busy covering lampposts in far-right talking points, so we got busy replacing them with solidarity messages to the people of Rojava, anti-cop propaganda, and anticapitalist slogans. When we discovered British Movement stickers calling for the deportation of migrants and countless other racist dogwhistles, we took them down, covered them up, and plastered anti-Nazi posters in Loyalist strongholds.
When TERF bile appeared on the streets surrounding City Hall, we anarchists tore it down and are committing to a propaganda campaign to stand with out our trans and gender non-conforming comrades and the wider city. There can be no tolerance for fascists, be they National Socialists or TERFs.
But who could forget our homegrown authoritarians and bigots? Loyalist talking-heads and the tired, bitter voices of religious fundamentalists have stoked anger in our most deprived communities and are promising to bring sectarian hatred to our streets. Beatings and shootings in paramilitary-dominated areas across the North have not stopped. Women and trans individuals are still prevented from accessing adequate healthcare. Religious conservatives from both traditions have formed alliances to harass those leaving abortion providers. The authoritarian streak that cuts across the religious divide keeps our communities in bondage and prevents class consciousness. As anarchists, we must rekindle the radical class politics needed to bring our communities together and unite against the tyranny of capitalism, imperialism, and the state. We will look out for ourselves without the opportunistic meddling of state, para-state, and paramilitary organisations. We have much work to do.
However, a united working class offers a chance to build a new world in the ashes of the old – free from the sectarian, patriarchal, racist, and homophobic divisions exploited by those who claim the title of ‘political leaders’ and ‘Ministers’.
These stop-and-start lockdowns have been a learning curve for many people in Belfast and across the globe. Being exposed to the relentless brutality of capital and the state has radicalised many towards liberation politics. Watching helplessly as British, Irish and EU governments alike put the free movement of goods and capital ahead of the free movement of refugees and asylum seekers only became more potent when the borders were shut too late to prevent hundreds of thousands needlessly dying. All the while cabinet ministers, politicians families, and corporate bigwigs consolidated their positions, and got rich off the genocidal commitment to ‘getting the economy moving again’.
The Black Lives Matter uprisings across Amerika, and subsequent solidarity protests across the world, has radicalised a new generation of young, liberation-focused activists and caused white people (like ourselves) to seriously examine our role in upholding white supremacy. The tired old rhetoric of state socialists and assimilationist politicians pales in comparison to the thriving and vibrant conversations surrounding liberation for Black people, Women, Trans people, Queer people, and the oppressed everywhere. Prison and police abolition is now in the mainstream discourse; union agitation has grown and grown; the old world of patriarchal violence and white supremacist ‘civilisation’ is being challenged at every turn. The politics of death that the ruling class relies on is under serious threat as a new generation watches as cops worldwide brutalise, rape, and kill indigenous people, women, and minority ethnic and religious groups. An Injury to One is an Injury to All.
Over the last six months – and closer to home – anarchists in Belfast have taken part in solidarity actions alongside the revolutionary union, the IWW in their struggle to abolish the wage system and free us from the bosses grip. As comrades across Britain took to the streets to fight against the encroaching policing of life, Belfast Anarchists have dropped banners in solidarity #KilltheBill. In Ireland, we watched once again as our comrades in Palestine were catapulted to the top of the world’s consciousness as Zionist cops pulled them from their homes and supplanted them with colonisers. We stood on white lines alongside those who have struggled against colonialism in Ireland and in Palestine, joined as activists emptied Asda’s shelves of Israeli goods, and carried the ‘No War but Class War’ message alongside hundreds in a spontaneous march on the BBC in support of the people of Palestine.
We are setting up a new news-sheet for anarchist and liberationist groups, Caora Dhubh (Black Sheep) and we hope to share news and views from anarchists, feminists, abolitionists, environmental activists, hunt-sabs, queer and trans liberationists, and everyone struggling against systems of oppression in the world we all share. Slowly but surely, we are making new connections, and writing a new chapter in Belfast’s anti-authoritarian left. So as Loyalist bosses are promising a “long-hot summer” to destabilise society for their own nationaistic ends; as fascists seek to mine the growing pool of Anti-Vaxxers for cannon fodder; and as TERFs try to police trans bodies, we must unite our communities in common struggle to fight against the bosses, the politicians, the capitalists, and all who labour to keep us down. For a world where all are free.
Dlúthpháirtíocht go deo.
Belfast Anarchists/Ainrialaithe Bhéal Feirste