Irish Anarchist Review Issue 01 - Summer 2010

Issue 1 of Irish Anarchist Review magazine.

Submitted by R Totale on January 16, 2022

Welcome to the first issue of The Irish Anarchist Review, the new political magazine from the Workers Solidarity Movement. This magazine will explore ideas and practical struggles that can teach us about building a revolutionary movement today. We decided to cease printing Red & Black Revolution, and start this project, aimed at provoking debate and discussion among anarchists and the left. For this purpose, we will be pursuing a non-sectarian approach, taking ideas from various left currents, mainstream discourse, and reflections on experiences of life and struggle. We will take, print, and discuss, anything that we find useful for our needs. We hope that readers will have a similar attitude, and will use the magazine to discuss, debate and develop ideas. We will also welcome submissions and responses to articles.

This issue is shaped by the current financial crisis, and more particularly, by the reactions of the Irish political and capitalist classes, as they pursue an aggressive strategy of cutbacks. We have seen the implosion of the building sector, the foundering of the banks upon corruption and incompetence and the failure of our foreign investment based economic model. Moreover, we have seen that the government response has been to protect the banks and builders by transferring wealth from social services, public pay and increased taxation straight into bank bailouts and NAMAland. This needs to be identified for what it is: an act of outright class warfare.

We are faced with a situation where a strong and organised response to government attacks is absolutely necessary, but is constrained by the prevailing ideology and practice of partnership. The most pressing concern for Irish radicals today is to build a labour movement that rejects the corporatist mentality and service-delivery model of ICTU and poses instead workers self-organisation as the basis for struggle. With this in mind, this and future issues will look for inspiration in revitalising class-based politics.

The weakening of Irish organised labour through the ‘Celtic Tiger’ period is examined by James R’s article, and he poses some requirements for the emergence of a class movement that can deal with the threats of the present while bearing a vision of a better future. Andrew Flood looks at some of the positive elements of recent struggles, emphasising the possibilities for self-organisation and direct action made visible in the recent struggles.

We feature two articles that try to learn from the experiences of radicals internationally. Ronan McAoidh reviews the work of Swedish group, Kämpa Tillsammans!, which argues that affinity between workers, not just union organisation, is the basis of successful struggles. An interview with Alex Foti explores organising tactics that try to deal with the growing trend of flexible working conditions.

The reviews also tie into this theme, assessing the development of an American working-class counter-culture and, by looking at workplace blogging, discussing some ways in which this can be done today.

Overall, this issue attempts to learn from the current weakness of the Irish working class, and explores both the origins of this weakness and some routes towards a combative class movement, capable of disrupting the ruling class offensive on living and working conditions and posing an altogether different vision of society, and, most importantly, a way of getting there.



Reflections on the 24th November
On the 24th of November something extraordinary happened. Some 250,000 workers acted together in a day-long strike against the public sector wage cuts planned by the government. The vast majority of these workers had never gone on strike before, yet across almost all workplaces the strike involved 90% or more of those working.

Capitalist crisis and union resistance in Ireland
Late 2008 saw the Irish capitalist class wage a major ideological struggle against the Irish working class. They called for workers to bear the brunt of the capitalist crisis. Print media, TV and radio carried segment after segment where well-paid commentators argued that workers, in particular public sector workers, were earning too much, had overly generous pensions and that the public had unrealistic expectations of public services.

The usefulness of Faceless Resistance
Although Faceless Resistance as a concept has been discussed among radical circles in Sweden for several years, it has only recently begun to be noticed in the English speaking world, primarily due to delays in texts being translated. In this article I will look primarily at the work of Kämpa Tillsammans, who developed the core ideas of Faceless Resistance, but I will also situate these ideas in their historical and social context and introduce other tendencies that have been influenced by and adapted some of the theory.

Mayday had become like a funeral - interview with Alex Foti
In the middle years of this decade, Alex Foti became known across activist circles for involvement in the Euromayday Parades. In a special themed issue of Green Pepper, Foti and the Chain Workers Collective sketched a very attractive understanding of the work discipline of contemporary capitalism. In their understanding, society had found itself in a situation of profound disjuncture with our working pasts - life today was defined by contingent employment rather than the traditional job for life.

The unions after the celtic tiger
A rather strange figure is moving to centre stage in Irish politics, that of the trade unions - absent from mass struggles until recently and weakened over the decades of social partnership, they are now the only possible source of a movement that can confront attemps to transfer the cost of the recession to working people. This statement does not come with out some qualms.

Checkout: Life On The Tills
“Anna Sam”, as you might guess, is a pseud- onym, the handle of a French blogger who decided to put her years behind the till to good use on a website describing the day-to- day experience of supermarket workers in all its tedious glory. In a way it’s refreshing to discover that the psychology of the checkout girl / boy appears to be the same wherever you go - my own days at Centra and the like are well imprinted on the brain, but they could have been an atypical reflection of my general misanthropy, grumpiness and ill will towards the rest of the species.

Review: The IWW and The Making of a Revolutionary Working Class Counter culture
The book can be read in a number of ways; on one hand it rescues the IWW from Stalinist critics that fashionably flounced after Russian Bolshevism; it gives insight to the politics and personalities of the union itself and rescues Hill the man. But as suggested by the subtitle, it’s Rosemont’s treatment of how the IWW built a counter hegemonic working class culture that is the most interesting facet of this brick thick work.


We couldn't fit all the articles written for IAR1 into the printed version. Here are additional articles that were just published online:

Shifu and the possibilities for Chinese Anarchism

In July 1914, the Shanghai Association of Anarchist Communist Comrades published its statement of principles, concluding with the resolution that, "the implementation of anarchist communism depends on the strength of our party. If we wish to increase our party's strength, uniting as a whole body and advancing together is our most important task today. Wherever they are, all our comrades should unite with those who share the same purposes and establish groups in free association.” The key member of this group was a Chinese anarchist known as Shifu who was to die a mere nine months later. Although the group carried on after his death, the core concept of this paragraph was never to be implemented.



Shifu and the possibilities for Chinese Anarchism

An article about the life and political development of Chinese anarchist Liu Shifu and his impact on the early Chinese labour movement.

Submitted by Reddebrek on September 21, 2016

In July 1914, the Shanghai Association of Anarchist Communist Comrades published its statement of principles, concluding with the resolution that, "the implementation of anarchist communism depends on the strength of our party. If we wish to increase our party's strength, uniting as a whole body and advancing together is our most important task today. Wherever they are, all our comrades should unite with those who share the same purposes and establish groups in free association.” The key member of this group was a Chinese anarchist known as Shifu who was to die a mere nine months later. Although the group carried on after his death, the core concept of this paragraph was never to be implemented.

Edward S. Kreb's 'Shifu, Soul of Chinese Anarchism' is a study of the life and politics of Liu Shaobin, the man who would later take the name Shifu. Like many of the first generations of Chinese republican revolutionaries, he was born into an elite family and began his political engagement as a radical nationalist involved in assassination politics. Following a premature explosion in Hong Kong, he was jailed in 1907, and began reading 'New Century', a journal produced by a group of Chinese anarchists in exile in Paris.

His conversion to anarchism was not immediate and on his release from prison in 1910 he returned to nationalist assassination attempts. In October 1911, his group played a key part in sparking the republican revolution when they assassinated General Fengshan with an enormous bomb on the streets of Guangzhou and within a couple of weeks Liu was riding into the city at the head of an army of 10,000 revolutionaries.

The republican revolution ended the Manchu dynasty's centuries of rule, but, like many revolutionaries, Liu rapidly became disillusioned with the regime that followed. As happened in the preceding generation to the European left republicans, this led him and others to break with republicanism and become anarchists. Assuming the name Shifu, Liu made the break with a group of comrades at a retreat at West Lake in Hangzhou, forming the 'Conscience Society.’

This organisation oriented itself towards engagement with the Socialist and Chinese Socialist Party, both mass organisations whose programs already contained many anarchist concepts, and this can be seen in the Conscience Society's program, which outlined rules that would make better revolutionaries, including proscriptions on everything from eating meat to joining a political party. This concern flowed from the experience of the corruption of the revolutionaries that made up the new regime but also because the anarchists over the past decade had put forward a critique of traditional elite Chinese culture that would culminate a few years later in the New Culture Movement. Shifu’s initial activity was taken up with polemics over the nature of socialism with the leaders of the Socialist parties, and later, with a Buddhist Monk called Taxiu, he attempted to win over one of the largest monasteries to anarchism, reform movements in Buddhism in the period suggested the possibility of winning over large numbers and resources to the anarchist movement. Taxiu was a significant figure because he was one of the few revolutionaries from that period who was from a proletarian background, most were the sons and daughters of the elite.

In the summer of 1912, Shifu organised the Cock Crow Society in the province of Guanghzou and began a phase of more widely-directed propagandism and education, publishing anthologies of anarchist writings in print runs of 5000, as well as teaching Esperanto . At that time, Guanghzou had a very radical republican government which had banned foot binding and its main figure, Chen Jiongming, was very influenced by anarchist ideas. The aftermath of the republican revolution and the huge size of China meant that for a period local government could carry out such radical experiments before the imposition of the central state and the warlord period that followed brought an end to this period. Although Jionming forbade Shifu from his distribution of anarchist anti-militarist texts among the soldiers, but his tolerance allowed the group some space to develop until he was replaced in 1913 by Long Jiguang, the personal appointee of republican ruler Yuan Shikai.

The politics of the group rapidly developed in this period and the first 'Cock Crow Record', published late in the summer of 1913, listed communism, labour unionism, opposition to militarism, religion and the family, vegetarianism, language unity and world community as its goals.(1) Parts of China were then under foreign occupation, and Shifu argued for a worldwide people's revolution to end western imperialism, insisting that the national revolution against imperialism should not have priority.

Following the arrival of Long, Shifu’s group fled to Shanghai in February 1914, where they established the Association of Anarchist Communist Comrades. Here they were visited by the US anarchist Alexander Berkman and the Japanese anarchist Yamaga Taiji. In Shanghai, the Association published ‘The Voice of the People’ setting out the goals and methods of the Anarchist-Communist Party(2), a complete anarchist communist program for a new society.

In the pages of ‘Voice of the People’ Shifu advocated the methods necessary to reach that society. He emphasised the production of propaganda to spread an understanding of anarchism alongside anarchist involvement in acts of ‘resistance’, such as strikes, and in ‘disturbances’ like riots and insurrection. These methods would build momentum towards the "the great revolution of the people", leading in turn to the "great world revolution." Shifu suggested that this revolution would start in a European county, naming Russia as one possibility, predicting that then, "Labour unions will strike, armies will mutiny, and the European governments will fall one after the other; our people in North and South America and in Asia will also rise in rapid succession." (3)

By October 1914, 'Voice of the People' was reporting on strikes in Shanghai, and although Shifu became sick and died early in the following year, his comrades carried on the struggle, and 'Voice' reported on the Shanghai foundry and textile strikes of 1916. In early 1917, members took jobs in the tobacco and shipping industries, as both an entry into the labour movement and from economic necessity.(4) Liang Bingxian went on to found the journal Labour in 1918 which declared "It should be workers themselves who organized, from the bottom upward and from locally outward. There should be no leaders, only those who take care of business; the principle of equality should be upheld. Labour organization should be for the ultimate purpose of social revolution, not to achieve political power."

Shifu was seen as one of the key influences on the New Culture Movement that erupted in the aftermath of World War One, and the ideas that he and other Chinese anarchists had advocated became the Movement's core program. Even Mao acknowledged him by name in 1919. However the aim of 1914, of uniting all the anarchists who shared a common purpose never materialized. The number of Chinese anarchists grew massively but they remained divided into tiny and more or less informal groups that were incapable of combating the rapid rise of the Communist Party from 1923 on which meant that many ended up choosing between the two main organized groups when the bloody split happened between them in 1927, the nationalist KMT and the Leninist CCP.

WORDS: Andrew Flood

Further reading
A much longer article on the Chinese Revolution by the same author appeared the North Eastern Anarchist 14. A version of that article can be read online at

[1] p118, Shifu: Soul of Chinese Anarchism, Edward S. Krebs, Rowman & Littlefield, 1998
[2] Voice of the people 19, p131, Shifu: Soul of Chinese Anarchism, Edward S. Krebs, Rowman & Littlefield, 1998
[3] p131, Shifu: Soul of Chinese Anarchism
[4]p154, Shifu: Soul of Chinese Anarchism

This article is reproduced from Anarchist Writers


The Usefulness of Faceless Resistance

An article that looks primarily at the work of Kämpa Tillsammans, who developed the core ideas of Faceless Resistance, and also situates these ideas in their historical and social context and introduces other tendencies that have been influenced by and adapted some of the theory.

Submitted by R Totale on January 16, 2022

Although Faceless Resistance as a concept has been discussed among radical circles in Sweden for several years, it has only recently begun to be noticed in the English speaking world, primarily due to delays in texts being translated. In this article I will look primarily at the work of Kämpa Tillsammans, who developed the core ideas of Faceless Resistance, but I will also situate these ideas in their historical and social context and introduce other tendencies that have been influenced by and adapted some of the theory.

As with many other countries around the turn of the century, the radical movement in Sweden was massively re-invigorated by the anti-globalisation movement. The highpoint of this movement in Sweden was the protests during the EU summit in Gothenburg in 2001, which culminated in several protesters being shot and a convergence centre being brutally raided. Similar to developments in Ireland, America and England, the momentum and energy aroused by the anti-globalisation movement turned to a period of self questioning and internal discussion as activists began to look for the next step. In Sweden, thanks perhaps to an already existing tradition of syndicalism going back almost a hundred years, this next step took the form of a focus on workplace- based confrontation with capitalism.

At this stage, study groups based in cities around Sweden had already begun to engage with the alternative Marxist tradition, from Italian operaismo trends of the 60s and 70s, to the autonomist Marxism of Harry Cleaver, and back to intensive reading of Marx’s original works. These study groups sometimes formed the nuclei of future movement initiatives; in Stockholm for example, fare-dodging initiative, the Women’s Political Forum, the Rohnin publishing house, strike support group ‘Stockholm United Commuters’ and web-magazine ‘The Daily Conflict’ all developed out of a study group called Stockholm Autonomist Marxists. At the same time a tendency within SAC (the syndicalist union) called Folkmakt (People’s Power) was engaging with different theoretical tendencies and developing a critique of the bureaucracy within SAC as well as the activism of the anti-globalisation movement.

One group that developed in this fertile environment was a collective with members from Malmö and Gothenburg that became known as ‘Kämpa Tillsammans!’ (Struggle Together!). They started from the position that while the left wing typically sees class struggle on a formal level, consisting of union conflicts, strikes, pickets and negotiations, they ignore the daily experience of work and the struggle against it.

This position was informed both by theoretical perspectives and practical experi- ence in the workplace. After beginning their first permanent jobs in a factory, members joined the union and tried to work within it to improve conditions. However they found the union organisers completely uninterested in their grievances and unwilling to take the conflicts further. The organisers were in fact surprised that these youngsters working temporary contracts were even members at all! Gradually, the young workers decided that the real action was not happening within union structures, but within the informal organisation of workers.

The group’s practical frustration with union-based organisation developed their engagement with Marxist tradition, particularly that which stressed the importance of our daily experience of work for theory. The Italian operaist tradition argues that the composition of the working class is in flux and thus developed the practice of ‘workers’ inquiries’ to constantly renew the vitality and relevance of revolutionary theory. The orientation of such inquiries resonated with Kämpa Tillsammans’ own experiences and they concluded that the most fertile space for investigation, and intervention, lay in what the Indian group Kamunist Kranti called “constant innumerable, insidious, unpredictable activities by small groups of workers” . Such ‘unpredictable activities’ defied acceptance of a passive role in either the production process or in pursuing grievances, and so was constantly hampered by the workers’ own representatives as well as their bosses.

“No methods of struggle or organizational models can correspond to the class composition forever. Regardless, a large part of the left is not able to renew politics when society changes. They stick to their old truths and try desperately to represent an out-of-date understanding of the working class. The class struggle has inevitably left the institutionalized left behind and made old political truths obsolete. This is an important explanation to why communist parties, unions, and other leftist organizations that used to have considerable political relevance in the past, are totally out of touch today.” - Kämpa Tillsammans! No peace in the Class War!

Central to the practice of Kampa Tillsammans is the understanding that radical theory must be closely tied to the actual reality of class composition. As the organisation of the production process changes, in response to diverse factors, from market conditions and new technologies to the development of class conflict, the working class also changes, and this will be embodied in its forms of organisation and methods of struggle.

For example, the early workers’ movement in Central and Western Europe was based upon an organisation of work in which production was carried out primarily by skilled workers, concentrated in factories. These workers organised in craft unions and demanded control of production. Operaist academics argued that both this form of struggle and its goal were related to the specific conditions of work, and not to any objective theoretical ‘correctness’. They pointed out that the resulting struggles forced capitalism to alter this organisation of work, and with the implementation of both new technologies and management techniques (conveyor belt-assembly and Taylorism, respectively), re-arranged the production process, de-skilling work, lessening the skill basis of workers’ power, and thus undermining the hitherto dominant organisational form, the craft union. From this re-organisation older forms of struggle became irrelevant, and new forms developed to suit the changed context.

This analysis has a direct consequence for revolutionaries; since class consciousness and methods of struggle are constantly shifting, revolutionaries cannot simply accept the theories of past generations. We have a duty to investigate this changing composition in order to circulate the lessons from it, and derive theory to match the reality. Thus the centrality of the workers’ inquiry; in this process, militants constantly engage with the experiences of class struggle to challenge their own preconceptions and create a constantly evolving revolutionary theory.

While traditional workers’ inquiries tend to be quite formal, often involving questionnaires and formal interviews, the members of Kämpa Tillsammans chose instead to document their own (often humorous) work experiences, draw lessons from them and publish them on the internet. They deliberately chose the medium of story-telling because they wanted workers to engage with the stories in a way that is not possible with formal surveys. Kim Muller of Kämpa Tillsammans explains that they wanted to change the popular idea of what it was to be a worker; workers do not communicate with each other via “written pamphlets or leaflets but by talking and storytelling”, thus stories provide a far better way to develop a new workers’ discourse than dry analysis and documentation.

This practice has since become popular in the Swedish workers movement, with many militants reporting on their workplaces online on sites such as (for health workers) or Arbetsförnedringen (for job seekers). The practice of workplace blogging can easily spread work experiences, showing the political dimensions in daily conflicts as well as giving clues about the changing composition of the working class.

One such blog, ‘Postverket’ is written by Postal Service workers. They see it as a way of developing the discussions that start in the canteen or on the shopfloor and circulating them among other workers in different sections and in other parts of the country. In turn, the discussions on the blog can serve as the basis for further discussion and action within the workplace.

The writers have found that, once introduced to the blog, their co-workers start to read it and discuss it with other workmates, helping to develop their ideas and sharpen their criticism of the bosses and the work.

Thus for the Swedish movement, workplace blogging has a number of different functions. On the one hand, by publishing online, workers can transcend their individual workplace to connect their experiences and ideas with those of other workers on the other side of the country. It allows for the deepening of political arguments and critique. On the other hand, workplace blogs can create a new discourse of work, and help to form the basis of a new working class identity. For many people, the mention of ‘working class’ summons up a dozen grey clichés, none of which are relevant to their experiences. Stories and experiences from modern workplaces can help to popularise a more relevant conception of work and class, that can in turn help to propel working class mobilisations.

These struggles, or practices, that struck management directly and made our lives immediately easier we came to call “faceless resistance” for lack of a better name. This was during a time when the left, our political environment, to a large degree saw that it was “calm” or “peace” at the workplaces, in stark contrast to our understanding of our situations at the workplaces. I still argue that an everyday class war is occurring and no peace is possible as long as capitalism exists.

What Kämpa Tillsammans found in their investigations led them to develop the term Faceless Resistance. This referred to all of the small acts of workplace resistance that go unnoticed by the traditional left, but are vital to their understand- ing of class struggle. This list is nearly endless, but can include things things such as taking extra toilet breaks, stealing cash or other things from the workplace, clocking out early or calling the boss an asshole behind his back. While these examples may seem trivial, they are important since they represent the struggle between our aspirations for a decent human life, and the constant pressure to reduce our lives to simply another input into the production process. What’s more, struggling in this way can supply their reward immediately, as, for instance, as instead of going through a protracted union negotiation for less work hours, by skipping out early one achieves this goal directly and becomes conscious of one’s own power in so doing.

Of course, this is not to imply that class struggle does, or should, consist solely in these small isolated acts of defiance; but that these small practices build collectivity between workers that can then be the basis of larger struggles. This ‘worker’s collective’ has much in common with the ‘affinity group’ style of organising that members of Kämpa Tillsammans had learnt from the anti-globalisation movement. They suggest that the collective can be built up in 3 stages: 1) work together, 2) have fun together, 3) struggle together!

In the workplace we often naturally develop a sense of solidarity, as we co-operate to solve problems and pass the time. However, there are nearly always barriers between workers that limit the development of collective action such as hierarchies based on race, sex, work roles and seniority. Management frequently exploit these divisions by, for example, assigning different jobs to men than to women, or giving foreigners the worst jobs. It is necessary to break down these hierarchies in order to develop the solidarity between workers, and open the door to collective action.
The affinity between workers can be developed by playing around and having fun, inside or outside the workplace. While many companies try to use evenings out and ‘fun events’ for building team spirit and good relations between management and employees, Kämpa Tillsammans argue that having fun together away from the bosses is vital for building a strong workers’ collective. Of course, the point of that these actions is not to be best friends with all your co-workers; this is a ‘politics of small steps’, by starting with these small actions one can build the solidarity and trust between workers that will allow progressively bigger struggles to be taken on.

One of the unusual features of the Swedish labour market is its high level of union organisation (80% of workers in 2005) in comparison to England or Ireland. This of course raises the question of how the ideas of Faceless Resistance relate to union organisation; do they oppose it, complement it or ignore it? The presence in Sweden of the SAC, a large syndicalist union, throws this question into sharper relief. Kämpa Tillsammans tend to remain ambiguous on the question of union organisation, stating that they are neither for or against union organisation; unions are a fact of life for workers in capital, and so long as people have to sell their labour, unions will be there to handle the deal.

For Kämpa Tillsammans focusing on the question of union organisation is a mistake, the real power in a conflict comes from workplace militancy, regardless of whether this is expressed through a union or not, arguing that ”regardless of the view on the role of the trade unions, every successful struggle at workplaces came from the solidarity between workmates; a strong workers’ collective.” Thus the role of revolutionaries should be to build the workers’ collective, rather than building the union organisation. The union framework for disputes can be used by the workers when it is appropriate and discarded when it is not, but the foundation for struggle must always be the solidarity and organisation of the workers.

Despite this ambivalent attitude towards union struggle, the ideas of Faceless Resistance have proven adaptable to a union context both within SAC and the LO (the main union confederation). Kämpa Tillsammans’ ideas helped to influence the recent re-organisation of SAC, which shifted the union’s orientation away from a service model of unionism, based on the management of disputes, and towards a more combatative position, giving workers more power over their own conflicts and increasing the role of the local sections. This went hand in hand with an opposition to ‘organisational chauvinism’, i.e. a recognition that helping to win conflicts rather than members should be the primary activity of the union.

Meanwhile a network of workplace militants organised within the LO called Folkrörelselinje have incorporated ideas of Faceless Resistance into their own trade union practice, which works within the union to build strong workplace collectives. For them, Faceless Resistance can be another tool in the organisers handbook, that can be pulled out to suit certain contexts where other tools might not be appropriate.

The concept of Faceless Resistance is a very useful one for revolutionaries today. The financial crisis and the cut-backs and redundancies it has entailed has opened up again the possibility of a widespread workplace militancy that had for so long seemed dead, and many young militants now have the opportunity to engage in meaningful organising
in their workplaces. Kämpa Tillsammans’ lessons about building workplace collectives as the basis for struggle seem especially relevant when the failure of the union organised fightback has exposed the weakness of their workplace organisation. A workplace strategy that focuses on organising within the union is not obviously useful in situations where there is no union in a workplace, or where the union exists in name only. This is not to say that revolutionaries should refuse to work within unions, but that this decision should always be a pragmatic one, made on the basis of the specific conditions within the workplace and the tactics most likely to develop militancy among the workers.
The practice of workplace stories and blogging is also very relevant. In a society where discussions based around a traditional class identity have come to seem passé and out of date, the formulation of a new discourse of class is vital. This cannot be predicated on the old bases of class identity, but instead on the daily experiences of work and the often invisible struggles against it. Workplace stories can provide a way for revolutionaries to communicate directly with workers, to construct a new class identity, and help build the movement that will abolish the wage system.


Links to readings:

A Thematic History of the Swedish Radical Movement Since 2001
First English translation of Folkrörelselinje!
Hamburgers vs value - Kämpa Tillsammans