Scottish Anarchist magazine

Online archive of Scottish Anarchist, the magazine of the Scottish Federation of Anarchists.

At least three issues were published in the 1990s.

Submitted by Fozzie on August 31, 2021

Scottish Anarchist #1 1994

Scottish Anarchist is the Journal of the Scottish Federation of Anarchists (the SFA).

"The SFA unites anarchists, libertarian socialists and autonomous revolutionaries across this fair nation. It does this for the express aim of increasing the influence of anarchist ideas and ideals in the class struggle."

Produced 1994.

Submitted by Rory Reid on January 3, 2017


  • The Barricades of Broughton
  • The Pollok Free State
  • McLlbel 2
  • Orwell's 1984. Glasgow's 1994?
  • Hands Off Our Babies!!!
  • Flushing out the Scotnsh Financial Mafia
  • Timex- Labour and Trade Unionism at Its best
  • Spain and Its Relevance Today
  • Anarchism In Glasgow
  • Review: Severely Dealt With
  • From an Egoist Window Pane
  • Ireland -for a lasting peace with justice
  • Computer Networks and Anarchy


Welcome to the first issue of Scottish Anarchist. We hope you will enjoy it

Scottish Anarchist is the Journal of the Scottish Federation of Anarchists (the SFA). The SFA unites anarchists, libertarian socialists and autonomous revolutionaries across this fair nation. It does this for the express aim of increasing the influence of anarchist ideas and ideals in the class

So what can the SFA do for you? Exactly what the name suggests. We do not see ourselves as a new set of leaders. We do not want you to follow us. We want you to think for yourself, feel for yourself, act for yourself.

These ideas may come across as strange, even unusual? Too long have the twin evils of labourism and its "radical' wean Bolshevism dominated working dass political life. Both are ideologies, seeking new sheep for old shepherds. Both want to be our day our laughter with be stronger than the voices they strangle today. We aim to make that day arrive sooner, not later.

But this does not mean we do not want to win hearts and minds. Far from it We in the SFA want to encourage, support and influence the spirit of revolt, the class struggle. We want to be free, but we can only be truly free in a free world. To get that we need you! But the first step lies with you. It's your life.

Scottish Anarchist and the SFA aim to help us to dream again, to fight again, to hope again by providing forums through which we can discuss, talk, think and act. By organising and resisting we can build the new world in the shell of the old.


This magazine will, hopefully, aid this process. Scottish Anarchist aims to bring a unique viewpoint to all issues; events in the class war, like Timex or the struggle against the criminal justice bill; current trends in capital, the state, technology, politics; anarchist and working dass history, both in Scotland and elsewhere on the planet; to name fust a few.

But why a unique viewpoint? Because it is revolutionary, something rare in the state capitalist dominated left.

We aim to be an innovative and, more importantly, an interesting read. Too long have socialist ideas been written in the lyrics of the past. For some, time stopped in 1917. But we do not aim to force reality into or to place ourselves upon the procustean bed of ideology nor experience the dreams of those who do and watch them turn into the nightmare of state capitalism. We must and will sing anew and write the songs of the new world we carry in our hearts in a new language, the language of tomorrow.

And this tomorrow? Anarchy, a free society of free and equal individuals, who have liberated themselves from the authority and existence of state, capital and church and who control their own fates. Such is our aim, our vision. A vision that inspires our actions today, for anarchism is not a thing of the future, but of the present It is not a matter of 'demands', but of living. Something we can forget while surviving under capitalism.


Iain MacSaorsa

"Freedom without Socialism Is privilege and injustice. Socialism without Freedom Is slavery and brutality."
Michael Bakunin


Rory Reid

7 years 3 months ago

In reply to by

Submitted by Rory Reid on January 3, 2017

original uploaded here,


6 years 10 months ago

In reply to by

Submitted by bambule on June 23, 2017

you find the second issue of the Scottish Anarchist here:

The Edinburgh Unemployed Workers Centre (more on this on libcom: Up Against the State: The Battle for Broughton St Unemployed Workers Centre) was threatened by eviction and a meeting of Scottish anarchists was called in the centre. The Scottish Anarchist was the publication of the Scottish Anarchist Federation which was founded in the summer of 1994 in Edinburgh.

Scottish Anarchist #2 1995

Second issue of Scottish Anarchist, the magazine of the Scottish Anarchist Federation.

From 1995?

PDF courtesy of the comrades at Sparrows Nest archive, Nottingham.

Submitted by Fozzie on August 31, 2021


  • Editorial
  • Pollok Free State lives wild and free
  • Edinburgh's Other Tattoo (protests about closure of unemployed workers' centre) - Ellis D Hayes
  • Health Con International - hospital cutbacks
  • Eigg On His Face - tenants on the Isle of Eigg revolt
  • "Netwars" and Activists Power on the Internet - Jason Wehling
  • Top Ten Warning Signs Of What Is Called "Normal" - Janet Foner
  • Have We The Right To Condemn? (controversial article about Tommy Sheridan)
  • Capitalism is losing its Barings? (Nick Leeson, folly of finance etc)
  • Direct Action - 14 Ways To Improve Your Job
  • DNA - Do Not Accept (Criminal Justice Act powers to take DNA samples) - Graham Henderson
  • As We See It - Scottish Federation of Anarchists
  • Spain and its Relevance Today Part 2 - Iain MacSaorsa
  • Anarchism in Glasgow part 2
  • Just Like A Ball And Chain - tagging of offenders
  • McLibel


“How are you going to construct something new, if you do the same old things?”

- Major Moises (EZLN) To the Democratic National Convention, Chiapas, Mexico, October 1994

All across the globe, working class people are rediscovering the relevance of anarchist ideas to their everyday lives and struggles. From the uprising in the Chiapas, to the anti-roads campaign in Glasgow, more and more people are seeing the need for direct action, decentralised organisations and solidarity from the bottom up.

The first issue of Scottish Anarchist helped to put analysis and facts behind the anger against the system. This issue continues that tradition with an analysis of the globalisation of capitalism, the other side of DNA testing and how the use of networks and the internet by activists is causing social elites great worry. In addition we have reports on struggles across Scotland as well as the concluding parts of our articles on the history of anarchism in Glasgow and Spain.

It is only by reclaiming our history, the history of social struggle and working class revolt, can we place any analysis of current events into context and, more importantly, remind us that a better society is possible.

Tom Paine once wrote, “a long habit of not thinking a thing wrong, gives it a superficial appearance of being right”. Today these words take on a meaning which Paine could never have imagined

It's hard to believe sometimes that capitalism has not been the only social system on this planet Its presence is so widespread. It gets into every space of our lives. The market economy has become the market society. Human feelings are beuig replaced by market jargon corruptmg all our ethical and spmtual expressions and relationships. Community is being replaced by commodity. The social breakdown this implies can be seen all around us - poverty, crime, alienation, unhappiness.

However, the seeds of hope still exist. Regardless of what the system tries to do, we are still human beings, with innate emotions, feelings of empathy and solidarity and, most importantly, the ability to think, to learn and the will to rebel.

No one can do it for us. All magazines like Scottish Anarchist can do is prompt thinking and encourage rebellion. The SFA does not want followers, we are not leaders. We want everyone to become a leader. We realise our activities are only really effective when wejoin in union with our equals. Isolated individuals cannot make history. But a union is only as effective as the individuals that comprise it. A “union” of sheep can bleat, but a union of individuals can discuss, enrich each other by our diversity and change the world!

A cooperative commonwealth can only be made up of thinking, acting, feeling individuals. Community can only be created when we reclaim our individuality and end the self-sacrifice of our beings which is required for capitalism to exist.

The future is in your hands.

Iain MacSaorsa


Edinburgh's Other Tattoo - Ellis D. Hayes

A forensic representation of Bowed Joseph Smith
A forensic representation of Bowed Joseph Smith

The story of Bowed Joseph Smith, notorious cobbler and rabble rouser in Edinburgh in the 1780s.

Bowed Joseph is said to have returned to support people resisting the eviction of Edinburgh Unemployed Workers Centre in 1994...

Submitted by Fozzie on September 2, 2021

Councillors were unable to nod off at the year's first meeting of Lothian Region on February 1. The walls of their plush chamber, like the square outside, reverberated to the rhythms of massed drums, beating out rebellion, paradiddling protest, rapping out a tattoo of rage at the violent eviction of the Council-owned Edinburgh Unemployed Workers Centre last December, during which 23 unemployed activists were arrested and charged.

As the drumming reached a crescendo the councillors could hardly hear themselves lie. The blood-stirring primal rhythms were laid on by the Sativa Drummers and the Women's Drumming Collective, a must at any good demo. Both outfits were involved in the occupation of the Centre. Scores of angry protesters accompanied the beat with whistles and yells of "Give us back our Centre!"

For 6 months the Broughton Street Centre had been occupied, as both a protest against the corrupt actions of Lothian Region and their lackeys and as a display of determination to keep the self-managed and unfunded community space open. A stone's throw from the centre of Edinburgh, which is now Europe's fourth business capital, unemployed and homeless activists barricaded themselves in and continued to run a cheap cafe, offer benefits advice, operate a creche, and maintain a wide variety of groups and workshops, while the Labour Council seethed with anger. Their eviction notice had been torn to confetti.

(For the full story of the fight for the Centre and its history see the last issue of Scottish Anarchist)


At dawn on December 1st the sleeping occupation nightshift was yanked from its slumbers by the sounds of the Centre's back doors being smashed in. The Emergency Phone Tree was activated before the nightshift was flung out by the invading bailiffs and pigs. Within half an hour Centre activists and supporters were tackling the police. A sympathetic Herald journalist takes up the story:

"Police and sheriff officers acting on the instructions of Labour-controlled Lothian Regional Council smashed their way into an unemployed workers' centre which was being used as a soup kitchen and shelter for the homeless.

The dawn action involved the ejection of four of the activists, who have been occupying the former school building in Broughton Street, Edinburgh, since last June when the council terminated their lease.

They have used the building 24 hours a day since then, as a cheap, vegetarian cafe during the day, a meeting place for community and political groups, and by night many of those who kept the occupation going were homeless people who would otherwise have been on the streets.

One of those present when sheriff officers and police arrived yesterday was a homeless man, who gave his name as Graham. "They came in about 7.30," he said. "They couldn't get in through the front door but at the same time they were breaking in at the back. They caught us on the hop.

"There were only four of us here. One guy spoke and there were two others in plain clothes plus several police."

Campaigns against the poll tax, Criminal Justice Bill, and VAT on fuel were operated from the building, causing resentment among regional councillors....

Ironically, one of the users of the building was the Beltane Fire Society, which will be involved in the council-sponsored Hogmanay celebrations. Other users included a women's drumming workshop, members of which gathered around the building yesterday to beat out their protest.

"The Centre has so much support that the only way they could evict us was to bring in the police," said one of the organising committee, Mr Michael Stevenson....

A police spokesman said they always back sheriff officers if they were advised that a disturbance is likely.

Councillor Keith Geddes, the leader of the ruling Labour group on Lothian Regional Council, dismissed criticism that a Labour authority should not be acting in this way.

He said: "We took a decision some time ago to terminate the lease. Since then, they have continued to occupy the premises and we felt it was time to restore the premises to council use."

He rebuffed the suggestion that it was wrong for a Labour authority to shut down a building which provided cheap food for the poor and shelter for the homeless.

Calling the occupiers "unrepresentative", he said: "Superficially, it might well appear ironic but, in the long term, we believe we will use the building far more effectively.""

23 protesters were arrested and charged for taking part in the 6-hour struggle against 70 police officers, and hauled off to St. Leonard's police cells. The Labour Council had hoped for a swift and easy dawn eviction. They must have been disappointed.


In the stuffy soundproofed single cells of St. Leonard's, the struggle continued. The stainless-steel cludgies [toilets] proved to be excellent drums and the rhythm of resistance rang around the copshop, made more effective by a 'scream-in' in the women's wing, while the big-gutted turnkeys [cell guards] fretted and yelled threats of dire retribution.

By 1am all the arrested demonstrators had been released. Coincidentally, the blacksmith's van which had turned up to lock the Centre Collective out was discovered near the police station with its windows done in.

The Crown Office dropped the charges against all but three of those arrested. Ten days after the eviction hundreds rallied outside the locked-up Centre to protest its closure while the drums rapped out their tattoo. And on February 1st they were back outside the Council chambers, deafening the toadying wretches within.

As the demo broke up and drifted away some folk were heard to ask "Who was the wee guy with the old-fashioned drum?" Others said that they'd seen no such person, that it must've been a ghost.

Indeed it was. Your reporter, who knows something of such arcane matters, can now inform that it was no less than the rebellious spirit of Bowed Joseph Smith, back from the grave with his drum, to haunt the Council.


Around the year 1760 the Edinburgh Town Council and its well-heeled allies found themselves faced with a formidable opponent in the shape of Joseph Smith who was a frequent, if unwelcome, visitor to the Council Chamber. This was described by a contemporary as 'a low-roofed room, very dark and very dirty, with some small dens off it for clerks. Within this Pandemonium sat the Council, omnipotent, corrupt, impenetrable. Nothing was beyond its grasp, no variety of opinion disturbed its unanimity.' Some things never change.

Joseph Smith was a cobbler who lived in the Cowgate, an area of squalid tenemented poverty in the shadow of the Castle Rock. Deformed from birth - hence the 'bowed' - Joseph was possessed of 'great muscular strength in the arms' and an equal strength of character in the face of oppression which led to his becoming Auld Reekie's foremost and best-respected grassroots organiser.

Chambers, in his Traditions of Edinburgh, says that after Joseph

'had figured for a few years as an active partisan of the people, his name waxed of such account with them that it is said that he could, in the course of an hour, collect a crowd of not fewer than 10,000 persons.....'

To rally a spontaneous demo Joseph Smith

'employed a drum...and, never, surely, had the fiery cross of the Highland chief such an effect upon the warlike devotion of his clan as Bowed Joseph's drum had upon the spirit of the Edinburgh rabble.'

Rabble? At the time the city's entire population was less than 80,000 and considering that the beat of Bowed Joseph's drum could muster 10,000 in an hour, that's quite a rabble. Robert Chambers was a respectable businessman whose brother later became Lord Provost so his bias is understandable. But even he admits that Joseph Smith

'was never known to act in a bad cause, or in any way to go against the principles of natural justice... it was apparent that almost everything he did was for the sake of what he designated fair-play. Fair play indeed was his constant object, whether in insulting the constituted authorities, sacking the granary of a monopolist, or besieging the Town Council in their Chamber.'


When word of council corruption or decisions adversely affecting the poor folk of Edinburgh leaked out it wasn't long before Bowed Joseph's drum could be heard beating out its tattoo of resistance beneath the town's towering 'lands' and up and down its fetid closes, while the townsfolk rallied to its call and besieged the Council chamber.

Bowed Joseph and a delegation would be invited in to the chamber for consultations.

'With one hand stuck carelessly into his side, and another slapped resolutely down upon the table - with a majestic toss of the head... he would stand before the anxious and feeble council pleading the just cause of his compeers, and suggesting the best means of assuaging their just fury. He was generally dispatched with a promise of amendment and a hogshead of good ale...'

The ale was shared around. Direct action gets the goods.

But Joseph was no ego-tripping, careerist politician riding on the backs of the people. When the demo was over, and the cause won, Joseph would return to his Cowgate cobbling. He never sought any office or financial gain. He was a focus, a rallying-point of popular protest, nothing more. Nor did he need a crowd with him to make a point. When the High Court made a notoriously unjust decision, Bowed Joseph stopped the Lord Chief Justice's sedan-chair in the street and demanded of him, Scotland's highest judge, that he explain the justice of his decision. Later, when the House of Lords reversed the court's decision, Joseph dressed 15 scarecrows in rags and wigs, 'representing the judicial attire', one dummy for each of the Scottish Law Lords, and paraded them around the High Street on the backs of asses. There's an idea!

Nor was it only Establishment figures who earned Bowed Joseph's scorn. When the Guild of Shoemakers (which Joseph, as a shoe-repairer wasn't able to join) held their annual parade, Joseph met them at the city gates. Wearing a tin crown and carrying a wooden ruler like a mace, he stooped before the elitist guildsmen and apologised profusely for being only a mere cobbler. The onlookers loved it. The proto-trades unionists were deflated.

But there were more serious issues to contend with.


The news filtered down to Joseph's dank den in the Cowgate.

'A poor man in the Pleasance, having been a little deficient in his rent, and in the country on business,' writes Chambers, returned to find that 'his landlord had seized and rouped (poinded) his household furniture, turning out the family to the street. On the poor man's return, finding the house desolate, and his family in misery, he went to a neighbouring stable and hanged himself. Bowed Joseph did not long remain ignorant of the case; and as soon as it was generally known in the city, he shouldered on his drum, and after beating it through the streets for half an hour, found himself followed by several thousand persons, inflamed with resentment at the landlord's cruelty.'

The city guard, popularly known as the Town Rats, never interfered. They 'peeped forth like cautious snails on hearing his drum' then 'drew in their horns... and shut their door as he approached.'

The irate crowd rallied in a local park and decided on revenge. They marched to the landlord's house. He had already fled so they removed every article from the premises, heaped it up in a pile, and set fire to it

'while the crowd rent the air with their acclamations. Some money and banknotes perished in the blaze - besides an eight-day clock which, sensible to the last, calmly struck ten as it was consigned to the flames.'

It is noteworthy that none of these poverty-stricken townsfolk thought of keeping the money, the clock or anything else for themselves.

On another occasion, during a food-scarcity, the Edinburgh slum dwellers, with Joseph and his drum to the fore, had forced all the meal-dealers to sell their stocks at a low price, or have their shops closed down.

'One of them, whose place of business was in the Grassmarket, agreed to sell his meal at the fixed price, for the good of the poor, as he said, and he did so under the superintendence of Joseph, who stationed a party at the shop-door to preserve the peace and good order, till the whole stock was disposed of...'

The crowd gave three cheers then dispersed with their much-needed foodstuffs.

Next day the merchant boasted to his friends that he had used dodgy weights and short-measured the folk of a quarter of what they had paid for. His boastful words leaked back to the hungry townsfolk. Bowed Joseph set about 'collecting a party of his troops, beset the meal dealer before he was awake and compelled him to pay back a fourth of the price of every peck of meal sold; then giving their victim a hearty drubbing, they sacked his shop, and quietly dispersed as before.' Justice was done.


For twenty years the poor of Edinburgh used Joseph's drum as a rallying call to fight back against oppression and corruption in the Council Chambers. Landlords, monopolists and councillors shuddered at his name. The police could do nothing in the face of such massive popular resistance. Neither could the magistrates who 'patronised him rather from fear than respect.' It is a shining example of people power.

In 1780, while returning from the Leith Races, an annual gala beside the sea and a holiday for the Edinburgh folk, Bowed Joseph, drunk as a Lord, fell from the top of a coach and died. The powers-that-be exacted a subtle revenge. Joseph's twisted skeleton was displayed in the city's medical museum.

Bowed Joseph never exploited his popularity, never ran for office or took money. He never sold out. If the Auld Reekie establishment thought that Joseph's death would mean an end to popular resistance, then they were in for a shock. Four years after his death there were massive food riots in the city. Joseph had been only a rallier, but an exceptionally good one. There have been many like him, men and women, who have disappeared into the mists of time, as Joseph would have had not Robert Chambers written of him. 'History' is the lie of rulers, kings and emperors and their lackeys. The full chronicle of popular resistance in Edinburgh remains to be told, from the tale of the Blue Blanket right up to modern-day accounts of the 70's council-rent strikes, the 80's occupations of council chambers during the DHSS strike which successfully forced the Council to issue food vouchers, to the demos and occupations against the Labour Council's passive acceptance of the Poll Tax - right up to the 6 month occupation of the Unemployed Workers Centre and its smashing by Labour-run Lothian Regional Council.

That fight isn't over yet.


As February's drumbeats boomed around that den of thieves called the Council Chamber, councillor Brian 'Killer' Cavanagh announced that the council had donated £2,000 towards the cost of a booklet called A Guide to Surviving on the Streets of Edinburgh. Cavanagh, the Labour chair of the social work committee and one of those most responsible for the smashing of the Centre, had reached the pinnacle of cynical hypocrisy. £2,000 towards telling people how to live on the streets? Bastard. The police recently admitted that the eviction of the Centre, which was unfunded and self-supporting, cost Lothian taxpayers £5,300. A recent request to the Region from the New Town, Broughton and Pilrig Community Council, who had supported the Centre, asking how much it had cost to guard the evicted centre day and night with a private security firm, was answered with 'this will be the subject of a future report'. Bastards. These politicians are the real beggars, morally, ethically and socially.

Four months after the violent eviction, the once-thriving Centre building remains locked and bolted, degenerating into graffittied dilapidation, a symbol of politicians' determination to deny ordinary people a space to autonomously organise outside Party and Trade Union control.

The Council may have taken back the building - for now - but they have been forced to spend a small fortune to stop it being re-occupied, and have been unable to make good their promises that it will be used for council-approved community uses. The Centre collective's appeals for solidarity from other voluntary organisations have been widely reported in the press. The Herald and Post wrote:

'The Centre spokesman said...."Basically the Regional council is either going to have to keep the Broughton Street building locked and guarded...or rent it back to the community."...
"We are appealing to all charities and voluntary organisations that might be approached to use the building to refuse. If they accepted they would be co-operating with the Region in closing down the centre."
And he warned that if any group did try and use the building, campaigners would take "peaceful direct action" to stop them.'

The eviction hasn't stopped the everyday resistance practised by the Centre activists. Subversion continues from an unlikely temporary home in the basement of a church hall. Advice and solidarity on benefits hassles and poll/council tax arrears, leafleting dole offices, benefit gigs including an extravaganza for International Women's Day, regular minibus excursions to the direct action against the M77 in Glasgow, alternative literature distribution - all are contributing to a continuing culture of resistance. So enraged are the authorities that the iron fist hasn't crushed the Centre that the police have waged a campaign of intimidation against the church where the Centre is based, threatening dire consequences if the Centre is not removed from the church premises.

Now the Centre collective plans a new initiative. The hunt is on for a cheap shopfront which can be rented and provide space for an info-shop, small cafe, meetings, and a general gathering point for the dispossessed.


We look forward to the coming day when the beat of the drum will summon in half an hour 10,000 of those who are currently telly-hypnotised and mortgage-ridden onto the streets to fight for a better life, free from politicians and all of capitalism's stage-managers. Better, of course, if it were 100,000. Better still, a million, or more. Bowed Joseph lives.


The Centre hopes to move to new premises this May or June. In the meantime make contact through the permanent postal address :
The Centre, c/o Peace and Justice Centre, St. Johns, Princes St., Edinburgh (mail only), or ring 0131 557 0427.



Tommy Sheridan: Have we the right to condemn? - Black Sheep

Controversial article from Scottish Anarchist issue 2 in defence of Tommy Sheridan which includes some useful insights into the differences between Scottish Militant Labour and its counterpart in England. Several letters criticising this article appeared in issue 3.

Submitted by Fozzie on September 4, 2021

He has been jailed for refusing to pay fines, arising from the occupation and vandalising of Sheriff Officers premises.

He has been arrested on numerous occasions, the most recent being during the attack on the 'Pollok Free State' camp against the M77 by police and Wimpey employees on the 22nd March.

He is the first socialist outwith the Labour Party to achieve instant public recognition since the days of John McLean, and is a proven communicator, whether on TV or Radio, or in speaking with working class people.

He doesn't drink or smoke, his reputation is intact.

So why does he incur such wrath amongst anarchists and other revolutionaries?

The answer is simple: the Trafalgar Square Riot.

So, why is the Riot so important to the anarchists and why do anarchists south of the border know so little of Tommy Sheridan since that one glorious sunny day five years ago?

The story of the riot is well documented in the Acab Press pamphlet, Poll Tax Riot, 10 hours that shook Trafalgar Square1 . Militant members, the stewards of huge marches that day in Glasgow and London were appalled at what they saw as the degeneration of the massive London march, and the media's spotlight on the battle in the square at the expense of news featuring 100,000 demonstrating in London and 20,000 in Glasgow.

Tommy Sheridan was flown down to appear at the end of the London rally and as the 'leader' of the All Britain Anti Poll Tax Federation was pitched into the controversy surrounding the police attack on demonstrators. Sheridan and Steve Nally, the Militant London activist who was the Secretary of 'the Fed.' were instructed by the Militant leadership, then led by Peter Taffe and the ailing Ted Grant that the riot was a 'godsend' to the Tories and would 'alienate' activists from the anti poll tax movement. The script was that "200 to 250 of these individuals intent on causing trouble" had sabotaged the march (Tommy Sheridan BBC 31-3-90).

Urged by the 'consensus conspiracy' that passes for news coverage, Tommy declared "we condemn it totally" and both he and Nally came out with the statement that "our Federation is going to be conducting an internal inquiry to try and root out the troublemakers" (Sheridan, LWT News 1st April) "...which will go public and if necessary name names" (Nally, ITN 1st April).

In the months to come there was uproar in the APTF, both at federation level and in the local Anti-poll tax groups. Dozens of houses in Hackney and elsewhere were raided by riot police. The media conducted their populist witch-hunt to identify the 'ringleaders'. Eventually the clamour died down. Instead of resistance to the poll tax disintegrating it was Thatcher's government which was rocked and a salutary lesson was learned as to 'who your friends were'. The so-called internal inquiry never got beyond the drawing board, such was the level of outrage that basic solidarity with the marchers attacked by the police, imprisoned and in some cases jailed, had been breached.

A year later Militant Labour was formed in Scotland, most of their members having been expelled from their beloved Labour Party. Militant Labour elsewhere took longer to make an impact, which in Scotland, especially clydeside, was helped by Tommy Sheridan's second place to Labour in the Parliamentary Election of 1992, closely followed by his and another victory in the Pollok ward in the District Elections of the same year.

In Scotland, the media spotlight has continued, as Tommy can always provide "rent a quote", especially during the protests against water privatisation and a continued guerrilla war against the dreaded Sheriff Officers. Recently the attention has dimmed, especially with the emergence of the eloquent Lynsey Keenan of Earth First connected to the M77 issue. Outside Glasgow, Scottish Militant Labour has not made much of an impact with the partial exception of Dundee, and the political arena is still dominated by Labour with the Scottish Nationalists trying to muscle in.

Elsewhere in Britain, Militant has not achieved the impact or benefits from the organisational stranglehold on the late lamented anti poll tax movement, and they are just another trotskyite marginalised sect along with the SWP and all the others, too numerous and unworthy of mention.

Recently in mid February, the Glasgow Anarchists were host to a visit by 20 comrades from Tyneside, kindred spirits from a similar working class city: Newcastle. As with previous sorties by English and Welsh anarchists north there is a culture shock, and this was shown in their reaction to Tommy Sheridan up on the platform in George Square at the start of the M77/ Criminal Justice Act Demo. It is hardly surprising that Tommy Sheridan is viewed in the same light as Nally and the other Militant Labour leaders. In 10 hours the quotes taken from videos of the Trafalgar Sq. riot is followed by the assertion that Militant is "an organisation that is opposed to the working class fighting back". This may be true in England & Wales, Scottish anarchists reserve judgement on this subject. For Scottish Militant, it simply appears false.

The reason being is that Militant strategy has changed considerably from their days as an entrist Tendency. It is certainly true that few anarchists can match the Militant members from Pollok and elsewhere for their dedication to direct action. Nor are they disarmed by the ethic of pacifism, with many arrests associated with 'fighting back' literally, or failing to respect the property of Sheriff Officers2 and their sub-species. Part of this stems from their recuitment of young people from the housing schemes and the everyday common sense of direct action if you have nothing to lose. As mentioned Tommy Sheridan has led by example, even after elected to the Council, and faced a jail sentence and countless arrests.

Of course the appeal of direct action to Scottish Militant Labour has to be understood. There have been examples in history where Communist Party members took part in such actions, and even the SWP at times have to show their 'mettle'. The difference is that Militant now places community struggles at the centre of their strategy, no longer giving it second billing to workplace disputes and confrontation is part of the way people can see through the role of Labourism, as defenders of the status quo.

Even as far as 'controlling' actions, a level of sophistication appears to have been adopted. The Alliance Against the Criminal Justice Bill, rechristined the Defiance Alliance is a case in point. Unlike the front organisation character of the Scottish SWP's "Coalition", the Alliance involves ravers, animal libbers, anarchists and - especially Earth First. Such was the structureless nature of the Alliance, the Scottish Federation of Anarchists tried to bring up the formal structure of the organisation at the February Alliance conference. Yes, Militant are dominant, but such the poor record (outside demonstrations) of anarchist involvement it could be a case of - by default.

This begs the question. We have a right to be lazy, but have we revelled in it for too long. Many anarchists drop out because they've 'done their bit', had their youthful rebellion, got wasted and waken up to the reality of exploitation from such a dreamstate, and in the process collective action goes out the window. We have lacked the sophistication to realise that politics isn't stuck in a mould, and that we have no right to patent direct action as our idea. Possibly, of course, Glasgow Militants are a special case, and the charismatic Tommy has skills rarely seen in the revolutionary mindset. No doubt, taken the longer view, old Bakunin will be proved right again. Lenin's teachings are still followed by Sheridan, down to his assertion in his recent book that there are working class anarcho-syndicalists who understand struggles and the majority are an infantile rabble prone to sectarianism and manipulation by the State, and he believes all English Anarchists belong to the latter camp!

Our criticism of Militant will only stand up if we3 have a voluntary commitment to meet the dedication that their Party demands. Anarchist strategy and organisation will have to develop - the formation of the Scottish Federation of Anarchists is a small step, but isn't enough. Questions will have to answered about who anarchism appeals to, why, and why we let ourselves be marginalised or out manoeuvred time & time again, by the State and by statist revolutionaries. Let's put aside the nonsensical assessment that Sheridan is scarred for life due to Trafalgar Square, respect his and Glasgow Militant's commitment to direct action, match it by our own and, after eating some 'humble pie', rediscover a purpose beyond 'playing hard to get' away from the theatre of demonstrations.

  • 1Libcom note - available on Libcom here
  • 2Baliffs south of the border
  • 3This criticism may apply to Glasgow Anarchists more than some of their English counterparts!


Scottish Anarchist #3 1995

Third and probably final issue of Scottish Anarchist circa 1995.

PDF courtesy of the comrades at Sparrows Nest archive, Nottingham.

Submitted by Fozzie on September 2, 2021


  • Editorial
  • Braveheart - Iain MacSaorsa
  • Hands Off Our Water!
  • Not One Redundancy!
  • Glasgow Anarchist Black Cross
  • This could be A.C.E.
  • Anarchist in Dundee
  • The Black and Red Club
  • Arbeit McFry!
  • Returning Solidarity to Tuzla Miners
  • Pornography and the Sex Industry
  • What's Right With McDonalds?
  • Industry vs Labour
  • International Socialist Ecology Network
  • So you wanna be an Anarcho-Feminist?
  • Scotland and Capitalism
  • William Blake - Poet and Anarchist
  • Anarchist alternatives to state education
  • Land and Freedom
  • Letters
  • Open Eye magazine
  • Viva Tahiti?


Welcome to issue 3 of Scottish Anarchist!

Inside this issue you will find the usual mix of articles, covering a wide range of subjects. With the success of Braveheart, we subject the film and the issues it raises on nationalism to an anarchist analysis. We are sure Alex Salmond will disagree! Following on from last issue’s article on the globalisation of capitalism, we reprint a Noam Chomsky article on the current war being waged upon our class. The development of a “third world at home”, with little islands of elite privilege amidst the general decay, is the natural result of globalisation. The attack on labour is just one part of this process.

In addition, we have two articles on that icon of moderncapitalism, McDonald’ s. The first is an update on what is happening in the McLibel trial, which has reached the issue of workers rights. This nicely flows into the second article, the experiences of someone who had the misfortune to be under the Golden Arches. As capitalism expands and develops, the McDonald’s mode of production has become more and more widespread, so other workers beware! A service industry Industrial Union could be a small step in slowing down this process, as it would in any industry. Hopefully anarchists will be at the forefront in organising the unorganised. There is a lot of potential out there if we can get our act together.

Anarcha-feminism is also highlighted in two important articles this issue. One. a new critique of pornography, places porn into its social context, something which is often ignored in the usual debates on the subject. The other calls upon anarchist women to reclaim their politics, history and their rightful place in the anarchist movement, by their own efforts. These articles are likely to generate discussion within and outwith the movement.

Finally, with the release of Land and Freedom, we anarchists are reminded of the passion ofthe Spanish Revolution and of our ideas, plus the aims of our activity. In these dark times, it's good to see one of the brightest moments of the labour movement brought to passionate life on the big screen. Hopefully it will inspire us all to struggle that bit harder and make the few sparks of freedom and revolt around today that hit stronger, maybe strong enough to slarl a fire which will sweep the world. Who knows? The future can be influenced by our actions.

the editorial collective

“History tells us that every oppressed class gained liberation from its masters through its own efforts"
Emma Goldman


Braveheart and Scottish nationalism

Article on national self-determination in Scotland. Written by Iain MacSaorsa, Scottish Anarchist, number 3, the magazine of Scottish Federation of Anarchists.

Submitted by T La Palli on April 1, 2011

There is no denying Braveheart's power. It is a good film, very moving in parts, with a cracking story-line and excellent acting which makes it feel far less than its 3 hours length. The historical inaccuracies are unimportant as the message of the movie is independent of, for example, forgetting to include a bridge a river at the battle of Stirling. The film gets the basic story right and that's what important in this context.

For those of you who have been hiding up a chimney for the last 6 months, Braveheart is about William Wallace and his fight for Scottish independence against King Edward the first of England (excellently played by Patrick McGoohan). Edward, after crushing Wales/Cymru, turned his state building vision to Scotland, where he used the in-fighting amongst the Scottish nobles to conquer Scotland. William Wallace, a very minor member of nobility, took up arms against the invaders and lead a successful peasant uprising against them until he was betrayed by Scottish nobles and hung, drawn and quartered.

Mel Gibson, who both starred as Wallace and directed the movie, does a reasonable job of the accent and puts some fine words about freedom into Wallace's mouth, particularly at the Battle of Stirling. It is freedom, however, that the movie raises important questions about. One of the best aspects of the movie is that it clearly indicates the different class interests at play in the struggle for national independence. All through the film the Scottish “Nobility” are portrayed as a gang of parasites who are happy to let Edwards rule Scotland as long as they get a few more titles and a bit more land. However, as one peasant foot soldier says in the movie “I didn't come here to fight so they can get a bit more land”. As such, the movie raises the complex nature of national liberation movements as (mostly) cross class alliances. Unfortunately, it then ignores the issue as Mel Gibson astride his horse makes as impassioned pleas to them to fight for freedom. “They may take our lives, but they cannot take our freedom!”

But whose freedom? The movie does not address the issue. Its clear, from the end when we switch to Bannockburn, 1314, its national freedom. But since we are talking about a monarchy, that means freedom for the Scottish King. For the average peasant or partisan, things would not have changed that much. So the questions that national liberation struggle must address is, “Freedom for who? Independence for what?”

Nationalism and Nationality

To begin to answer these questions, we must first define what we mean by nationalism. For many people, it is just the natural attachment to home, the place they group up. These feelings, however, obviously do not exist in a social vacuum. Nationality, as Bakunin noted, is a “natural and social fact” as “every people and the smallest folk-unit has its own character, its own specific mode of existence, its own way of speaking, feeling, thinking, and acting; and it is this idiosyncrasy that constitutes the essence of nationality”[1]. But nationality is not the same as nationalism. Nationalism is far more, and a lot less ethically, than recognition of cultural uniqueness and love of home. Nationalism is the love of, of the desire to create, a nation state.

Anarchists have long noted the fundamental difference between society and state. In fact, in the words of Rudolf Rocker, the “nation is not the cause, but the result of the state. It is the state that creates the nation, not the nation the state”[2]. Every state is an artificial mechanism imposed on society by some ruler in order to defend and make secure the interests of privileged minorities within society. Nationalism was created to reinforce the state by providing it with the loyalty of a people of shared linguistic, ethnic, and cultural affinities. And if these shared affinities do not exist, the state will create them by centralising education in its own hands, imposing as “official” language and attempting to crush cultural differences from the people's within its borders. This can obviously be seen in Scottish history, when English Monarchs banned the pipes, the kilt and Gaelic.

While imperialism often brings these attempts at cultural destruction into the stark light of the day, the same processes go on within a seemingly “whole” nation as well, the example of Yorkshire in England springs to mind.

This is hardly surprising as the state is a centralised body, invested with power and a monopoly of force. It preempts the autonomy of localities and peoples and in the name of “nation” crushes the living, breathing reality of a nation (its peoples and their cultures) with one law, one culture and one “official” history.

Anarchism and National Liberation

This does not mean, however, that anarchist are indifferent to national liberation struggles. Far from it. In the words of Bakunin, “I feel myself always the patriot of oppressed fatherlands … Nationality … is a historic, local fact which, like all real and harmless facts, has the right to claim general acceptance … Every people, like every person, is involuntarily that which it is and therefore has a right to be itself. Nationality is not a principle; it is a legitimate fact, just as individuality is. Every nationality, great or small has the incontestable right to be itself, to live according to its own nature. This right is simply the corollary of the general principal of freedom”[3].

Unlike most nationalists, anarchists recognise that almost all “nations” are in fact not homogeneous and so consider nationality to be far wider in application than just lines on maps, created by conquest. With this in mind, anarchists think that recreating the centralised state in a slightly smaller area cannot solve what is called the “national question”. Further more, as internationalists, we hold that we “should place human universal justice above all national interests. And we should once and for all time abandon the false principle of nationality, invented by the late despots of France, Russia and Prussia for the purpose of crushing the sovereign principle of liberty” [4]. Therefore it goes without saying that national “liberation” movements that take on notions of racial, cultural or ethnic “superiority” or “purity” or believe that cultural differences are somehow “rooted” in biology get no support from anarchists.

Nationality is a product of social processes. Social evolution cannot be squeezed into the narrow, restricting borders of the nation state. As Bakunin noted, with respect to the Polish struggle for national liberation last century, anarchists, as “adversaries of every Stare, … rejects the rights and frontiers called historic. For us, Poland only begins, only truly exists where the labouring masses are and want to be Polish, it ends where, renouncing all particular links with Poland, the masses with to establish other national links”[5].

Nationality, like any right, results from social life and is only to be concerned with itself when the right is denied. With this in mind, we must discuss an anarchist approach to the “national question” in Scotland, and by implication, elsewhere on our beautiful planet.

The “Braveheart” Problem

We will not bother to prove that Scotland, like Wales and Ireland, is a colony of the English Empire and a separate country. For most thinking Scots it does not need to be argued, our rights to self-determination are denied. We will move on to the real core of the problem, what does independence actually mean today and what should the response of anarchists be to struggles for national liberation.

When addressing the implications of independence, we must start from the obvious fact that any country has class and hierarchical divisions within it. Scotland is no exception, with 7% of the population owning 84% of the wealth. Obviously, if we are talking about national freedom we have to take into account the people who inhabit the nation. How wealth is disrupted will have an impact on society and the distribution of freedom within it. As Noam Chomsky indicates, “in a perfectly a perfectly functioning capitalist democracy … freedom will be in effect a kind of commodity … a person will have as much of it as he [or she] can buy”[6].

Would a capitalist Scotland be fundamentally different for most people who would still be powerless economically and socially? Looking around the world at all the many nation-states in existence, we see the same differences in power, influence and wealth restricting self-determination for working class people, even if they are free “nationally”.

These vast differences in power and freedom are just as true on the international level as it is within a country. Commenting on Clinton's plans for devolution of welfare programmes from Federal to State government in America, Chomsky makes the important point that while “under conditions of relative equality, this could be a move towards democracy. Under existing circumstances, devolution is intended as a further blow to the eroding democratic processes. Major corporations, investment firms, and the like, can constrain or directly control the acts of national governments and can set one national workforce against another. But the game is much easier when the only competing player that might remotely be influenced by the “great beast” is a state government, and even middle-sized enterprise can join in. The shadow cast by business [over society and politics] can thus be darker, and private power can move on to greater victories in the name of freedom” [7].

The power of global capital has increased massively over the last 30 years, something which must be taken into account when discussing the social impacts of self-determination for Scots within a world capitalist framework (these important points are discussed in greater detail in issue 2 of Scottish Anarchist).

The distribution of wealth, and so power, within a country has important implications for any national liberation struggle. Braveheart does make it clear that when push came to shove, most of the Scottish Nobles sided with their class brothers on the English side. In the 1707 Act of the Union, the Scottish Parliament happily united Parliaments in order to get better access to the English Empire and new markets and wealth. The interests of the ruling classes then were a-national, not much has really changed.

National liberation struggles usually counterpoise the common interests of the nation and assume that class is irrelevant. It is what we will term the “Braveheart problem”, namely that nationalist movements, seeking in increase autonomy for certain parts of society but not for others.

This does not mean, however, that anarchists are indifferent to imperialism, whereby one nation imposes its will on another. As Murry Bookchin notes, “no left libertarian … can oppose the right of a subjugated people to establish itself as an autonomous entity – be it a [libertarian] confederation … or as a nation-state based in hierarchical and class inequalities” [8]. But saying this, we do not elevate this into a mindless article of faith, which much of the Leninist influenced left has done this century, and elevate opposition to the oppressor into calling for support for the oppressed nation without calling first inquiring into “what kind of society a given 'national liberation movement would likely produce”. To do so means to “support national liberation struggles for instrumental purposes, merely as a means of weakening imperialism”, which leads to “a condition of moral bankruptcy” [9] as socialist ideas become associated with the authoritarian and statist goals of the “anti-imperialist” dictatorships in “liberated” nations [10].

The “Braveheart problem”, as Kropotkin noted in 1897, is the “failure of all nationalist movements … [which] lies in this curse of all nationaist movements – that the economic question … remains on the side”. For Kropotkin, socialists living in a country with a national movement have “a major task: to set forth the question (of nationalism) on an economic basis and carry out agitation against [economic and social] serfdom, etc., at one with the struggle against (oppression by) foreign nationality” [11]. We will now contrast the anarchist approach to national liberation struggles with that of Leninism, the approach most commonly used this century.

Two approaches to the problem

Like the good Social Democrat he was, Lenin supported the right of nations to self-determination. “In so far as the bourgeois of the oppressed nation is fighting against the oppressor so far are we in all cases, more decisively than any others, in favour of it, because we are the undaunted and consistent enemies of all oppression” [12]. Ignoring the most obvious contradiction in this sentence, namely how can the “consistent enemies of all oppression” support the class who oppresses the working class, we have to wonder if Lenin is serious in suggesting that socialists support cross-class alliances against one form of oppression and ignore all others, particularly class oppression and that national liberation struggles come before the class struggle. Elsewhere, he makes this suggestion clearly by stating that “it would be utterly false to think that the fight for democracy diverts the proletariat from socialist revolution. To the contrary … the proletariat which fails to conduct an all sided, consistent and revolutionary struggle for democracy cannot prepare for victory over the bourgeoisie” [13]

Lenin's ideas still hold relevance for much of the socialist movement in Scotland. The same point, namely that independence would be a step towards creating socialism, was made by Scottish Militant Labour (SML) and Liberation members at the recent Scottish Socialist Forum, recently held in Glasgow.

These ideas imply two things, firstly a “stages” approach to the social struggle, and the first stage being to demand a Scottish nation-state and secondly, that such a nation-state would be “neutral” and could be used to “deliver” important reforms and even bring about socialism.

The second of these myths was demolished in issue 2 of Scottish Anarchist, where the power of international capital and the non-neutrality of the state was discussed in great detail [15]. Now we will deal with the first point.

To suggest that the struggle for independence is a key to socialism within Scotland implies that, in the words of Bakunin, “a political revolution should precede a social revolution … [this] is a great and fatal error, because every political revolution taking place prior to and consequently without a social revolution must necessarily be a bourgeois revolution, and a bourgeois revolution can only be instrumental in bringing about bourgeois Socialism”, ie State Capitalism [15].

From the speeches by SML members at the Scottish Socialist Forum this conclusion can easily be drawn. Instead of arguing that socialism means the abolition of the wages system, the end of “jobs” by the revolution of work by self-management, the communalisation and decentralisation of the “economy” and the creation of a confederation of communes, based on community and workplace assemblies, speaker after speaker talked about universal wage labour, “training” for young people, “minimum wages” and the “nationalisation of the banks”. This is state capitalism, the creation of one big boss, the state – not socialism,

Socialism was seen by most people at the Forum as something which the party “delivers” for people, from top down, by the actions of leaders, with working class people playing the role of passive voters. This “vision” was reinforced by numerous mention of the word “support” in the context of social struggles.

Instead of the revolution of everyday life and the (often difficult) work of creating self-managed alternatives in our communities and workplaces, socialist activity is constrained and forced into the individualistic and atomising mould of capitalist politics. Utilising elections and creating “democratic” states, only leads to one thing, the “subordinat[ion] of the movement for economic emancipation to an exclusively political movement … They [the marxists] have tied the working class to the bourgeois towline” [16]. That this is the result of electioneering can be seen from the history of Marxian Social Democracy, the British Labour Party and (more recently) the German Greens and should leave no honest investigator in any doubt.

Socialism, for anarchists, is the self-liberation of working class people, by their own efforts, creating and using their own organisations. There can be no separation of political, social and economic struggles. The struggle against imperialism cannot be separated from the struggle against capitalism. In response to national oppression, the anarchist programme is clear, “it must not go towards constituting an 'intermediate stage' towards the social revolution through the formation of new national States. Anarchists refuse to participate in national liberation struggles. The struggle must spread to establish economic, political and social structures in the liberated territories, based on federalist and libertarian organisations” [17].

That this approach can be successful is indicated by the actions of Nestor Makhno in the Ukraine during the Russian Revolution, to take just one example. Makhno, as well as fighting against both Red and White dictatorship, also resisted the Ukrainian nationalists. In opposition to the call for “national self-determination”, i.e. a new Ukrainian state, Makhno called for working class self-determination in the Ukraine and across the world. In the areas protected by the Makhnovist army, working class people organised their own lives, directly, based on their own ideas and needs. True, social, self-determination [18].

Until such a time as a film about Makhno is made, Braveheart will have to do. It should be given credit for raising some important points concerning the struggle for national self-determination, although it does not really address them. We hope that we have done so here. So, so and see Braveheart, its an excellent movie. But also check out Ken Loach's new film Land and Freedom as well. This gives some sort of idea what social self-determination would be like as it deals with the Spanish revolution and what the struggle for freedom must also involve if its not to prove illusionary [19].

Free in a Free World

For anarchists, “cultural freedom and variety … should not be confused with nationalism. That specific peoples should be free to fully develop their own cultural capacities is not merely a right but a desideratum. The world would be a drab place indeed if a magnificent mosaic of different cultures does not replace the largely decultured and homogenised world created by modern capitalism” [20].

With this in mind, the work for anarchists within national liberation movements is clear. We must raise the “awkward” questions, we must as “independence for who?”, “freedom for what?”. We have to ensure that the moment when people start asking “who and what are we fighting for?” comes sooner, not later. For any cross-class national liberation movement this is the great fear and probably explains the SNP's fear of calling mass direct action (that and the deadening effects of electioneering on the spirit of revolt). Is freedom for abstracts like “the nation” or is it for the individuals who made up the nationality and give it life? Oppression must be fought on all fronts, within nations and internationally, in order for working class people to gain the fruits of freedom. Any national liberation struggle which bases itself on nationalism is doomed to failure as a movement for extending human freedom.

And while we unmask nationalism for what it is, we should not disdain the basic struggle for identity and self-management which nationalism diverts. Nor must we passively wait for an abstract world revolution. Social struggle occurs in a given place on the surface of the planet. As we live in Scotland we want it to occur here. We must encourage direct action and the spirit of revolt against all forms of oppression – social, economic, political, racial, sexual, religious and national. And while fighting against oppression, we struggle for anarchy, a free confederation of communes based on workplace and community assemblies. A confederation which will place the nation-state, all nation-states, into the dust-bin of history where it belongs.

[1] Michael Bakunin, The Political Philosophy of Bakunin, ed. P.Maximoff, p.325
[2] Rudolf Rocker, Nationalism and Culture, p.200
[3] Michael Bakunin, quoted in Anarchism and the National Liberation Struggle, Alfredo Bonanno, p.19-20
[4] Michael Bakunin, The Political Philosophy of Bakunin, ed. P.Maximoff, p.325
[5] Michael Bakunin, quoted in Bakunin, Jean Caroline Cahm, in Socialism and Nationalism, volume 1, Eric Cahm and Vladimir Claude Fisera (editors), 1978, p.22-49, p.43
[6] Noam Chomsky, The Noam Chomsky Readerm ed. James Peck, p.189
[7] Noam Chomsky, Rollback III, Z Magazine, March, 1995
[8] Murray Bookchin, Nationalism and the National Question, Society and Nature, p.8-36, No.5, 1994, p.31 (This essay is an excellent summary of the anarchist approach to nationalism and is recommended for further reading).
[9] Bookchin, op. cit. p.25-32
[10] Needless to say, foreign intervention (as in the case of Vietnam, Nicaragua or Cuba for example) will just reinforce the authoritarian tendencies of the new states and so must, in general, be opposed.
[11] Peter Kropotkin, quoted in Kropotkin and the Anarchist Movement, Jean Caroline Cahm, in Socialism and Nationalism, volume 1, Eric Cahm and Vladimir Claude Fisera (editors), 1978, p.50-68, p.56
[12] Lenin, The Socialist Revolution and the Right of Self-Determination of Nations
[13] Lenin, On the Right of Self-Determination of Nations
[14] See “is Capitalism Losing its Barings?” by Pearl in Scottish Anarchist, issue 2
[15] Michael Bakunin, The Political Philosophy of Bakunin, p.289
[16] Michael Bakunin, Bakunin on Anarchism, ed. Sam Dolgoff, p.290
[17] Alfredo M. Bonanno, Anarchism and the National Struggle, Bratach Dudh, p.12 (This is also an excellent introduction to this issue).
[18] For more information on Makhno and the Revolutionary Insurgents of the Ukraine, see Voline, The Unknown Revolution, and Peter Arshinov, History of the Makhnovist Movement. Both are available from AK Press.
[19] For more information on the social revolution in Spain, see issues 1 and 2 of Scottish Anarchist. Issue 1 contains an extensive book list for further reading.
[20] Murray Bookchin, op. cit., pages p.28 to p.29

The published article was originally titled "Braveheart"


Yorkie Bar

13 years ago

In reply to by

Submitted by Yorkie Bar on April 1, 2011

There is no denying Braveheart's power. It is a good film

Eh, no.

T La Palli

13 years ago

In reply to by

Submitted by T La Palli on April 1, 2011

Yes but its quite a good article.

Submitted by Boris Badenov on April 1, 2011

Yorkie Bar

There is no denying Braveheart's power. It is a good film

Eh, no.

Self-hating scotchery aside, it is an excellent film. Makes me lol everytime.

Chilli Sauce

13 years ago

In reply to by

Submitted by Chilli Sauce on April 1, 2011

Scottish Federation of Anarchists

Are they an active, current organization?

Letters - Tommy Sheridan

Responses to an article in Scottish Anarchist defending Tommy Sheridan, including Tyneside Anarchist Group and the author of the original piece.

Submitted by Fozzie on September 4, 2021

From: BM Hurricane London WCIN 3XX

Dear Comrades

It is always useful to overtum sacred cows, and Black Sheep’s article on Tommy Sheridan certainly did that. However, I feel they missed the point. Sheridan may be an admirable activist, committed to his politics and at the forefront of many popular campaigns in Glasgow. However it is precisely his politics with which we disagree.

Slagging anarchists off for not matching Sheridan’s revolutionary zeal does not excuse his behaviour. The fact is that when the crunch came, Sheridan sided with the law. I notice you make no apologies for the uncharismatic Nally, who probably works as hard for his cause as Sheridan. Why did they do it? The answer is enshrined in their Leninist politics, it is nothing to do with any personal failings they might have. Because their idea of democracy is one where the Party controls all, and they were the representatives of the Party, they could say what they liked and not have to worry about being held to account. This is compounded by Militant’s support for their behaviour, and more recently, their lies about it.

If Militant Labour believed their representatives were wrong, then they should have apologised and taken steps to ensure it didn’t happen again. If they didn’t think so, then at least they would remain consistent in their anti-working class stance. However, they have been telling contacts of theirs attracted to anarchism that the whole episode was taken out of context because of the influence of anarchists in the media. It beggars belief that they think anyone will take this seriously.

Respect Sheridan’s qualities by all means, but never forget he is a prisoner of Leninist politics, and will make the same mistake if put in the same situation again. The reason Sheridan has grudging respect for some anarcho-syndicalists is because of their working class orientation and willingness to get their hands dirty. Glasgow has a strong tradition of anarchist working class activity, draw on that and you can prove him wrong about Scottish anarchists and show that there is a better way than Lenin.

In solidarity

S.E. London

In reply to Black Sheep’s article “Have we the right to condemn”

The main thing that interested us in the article was the fact that, the writer seems to have a very low opinion on English and Welsh anarchists and their commitment to direct action. The author conversely has a high regard forTommy Sheridan and Scottish Militant as a whole for their commitment. The article seemed to home in on a small incident that happened during our thoroughly enjoyable trek up to Glasgow for the M77/Anti-Criminal Iustice day demo in February. Some of our members shouted “grass” at Sheridan, this outburst resulted in threats of a good thrashing by some Millie security, so to avoid the demo turning into a big scrap, a begrudging apology soon followed. This incident seems to have prompted the author into a long obscure ramble on Sheridan and Scottish Militant and how great they are in Poflok.

Firstly TAG found it very offensive that it was suggested that we found Glasgow a “culture shock”, we just did not understand the situation. On the l contrary our experience of Glasgow showed us that as cities and as people we have very much in common. The main thrust of the article seemed to tr'y to get around the simple fact that after the Poll Tax riot Sheridan was prepard to name names, a thing that he has never publicly apologised for. These rioters (and we would contest that it was only 200+ rioters, more like 2000+!) were not just an ‘infantile rabble’ of anarchos causing trouble, they were working class people - Sheridan was prepared to pass on names and addresses of people involved in the anti Poll Tax movement to the police, that is a fact, a fact that the article cannot get away from.

Can you really be sure that if anything happened at the Pollok/M77 demos that overstepped the bounds of the Millies analyses of direct action, we wouldn’t see a rerun of Tommy’s outbursts in 1990? The article goes on to say that, “It is certainly true that few anarchists can match the Militant members from Pollok and elsewhere for their direct action”; dedicated to direct action! In 1992 (Red Action 63) Sheridan was instrumental in organising (although unsuccessful -as the BNP laughed at the idea) a public debate between Militant and the Fascists. Trying to poach VOTERS from the BNP? Also if our memory serves us right at the demo in February - the Militant stewards were as bad as the police i.e. stopping people walking on the paths at the side of the march and generally being ‘in charge’ of the whole event.

Also let us not forget that Militant is NOT anti state. The whole philosophy of Militant is that of the vanguard. Militant’s analysis of Pollok may have led them to take the course of action that they have done, but nationally Militant by the very nature of their ‘Party’ disempower working class people. Scottish Militant are part of this movement, and to gloss over this misleads the reader.

As for the accusations of anarchists in England and Wales being lazy and ineffectual when it comes to direct action - this is absolute rubbish!

We can’t speak for other groups in England and Wales, but the majority of TAG members have been involved in direct action for many years, from hunt sabbing, our own road protest (Cradlewell Bypass) to anti fascist work. TAG has been the only group in Newcastle to physically confront fascists and have been successful in stopping them from selling their papers in Newcastle for over 2 years.

Even more damaging was the fact that it seemed to suggest that Scottish Anarchists as a whole “reserve judgement" on Militant and Tommy ‘Bakunin’ Sheridan. On speaking to Glasgow anarchists inFebruary we found this not to be the case. We would hope for a GAG group response to the article.

Overall we found the article very confusing - what was the point of the article? Was the writer trying to be conuoversial and to get people's backs up’? - If so it worked - we’re fucking furious.

In Solidarity

“Black Sheep” stands condemned
(or is that shorn!)

As the writer of the controversial article about Tommy Sheridan/Militant Labour and anarchist outrage in Issue 2 of Scottish Anarchist, I was not surprised at the reaction it created. However, many connected to the Glasgow Anarchist Group were.

Much of the article I stand by, and perhaps in places my sense of mischief (humour) didn’t go down well - for example, “He (Sheridan) doesn't drink or smoke, his reputation is intact”!! I did feel that we had let visitors down in the past, such as our “twinned” group in Tyneside, by not briefing them properly about the situation in Clydeside, the distinctive approach of Militant Labour here, and his “folk hero” status....

I do accept that my depiction of anarchists as predisposed to the “right to be lazy”, mostly involving people temporarily rebelling against inevitable incorporation into the world of careers was over the top. It was meant to be provocative, and although it contained a grain of truth, there are many class struggle (and environmental) anarchists who display an incredible amount of commitment in terms of the work they put into campaigns, direct action, etc., and inevitably they feel “written out” of history and unappreciated by those, including me, who should know better!

There is, however, a sense that anarchist strategy does drift, is reactive, and eschews any reasonable assessment (such as goals achieved, links with long-term aims...) due to an irrational/spontaneous ethos which is often anti-theory, anti-strategy.

The comments about “culture shock” appear to have been misunderstood. For the benefit of Tyneside and other comrades, I did not mean to infer they did not understand working class existence/struggle. The “culture” I was referring to was the distinctive “Scottish” question (see “Braveheart” article elsewhere in this issue), not principally the “class” question. That said, there are anarchists whose attachment to marginal declasse politicised crustie lifestyles have served Leaders such as Sheridan in their ploy to caricature all English and many Scottish anarchists as drop out public school-kids turned crustie layabouts!

I also wish to retract my criticism of fellow Glasgow anarchists, since the level of activity over Summer ’95 illustrates a high degree of organisation and commitment. As a libertarian communist opposed to dogmas, in favour of being heretical, I am aware that my criticisms have incurred condemnation, and in the light of day deserve to be modified.

“Black Sheep”