Black Flag 215 (1998)

Black Flag 215 (1998)

Issue of the London-based anarchist magazine Black Flag from the 1990s.


  • IWW Organising
  • The Barrel of a Gun
  • Knowle West Riot
  • Bent For The Cause - Cops and Cocaine
  • Prisoners: London Class War
  • Gandalf Three, the state nil
  • Decline and Fall of the First International
  • They Call It Suicide: We Call It Murder
  • Nikos Maziotiz: communique from an 'anarchist urban guerilla'
  • The Black Panthers
  • Captain Jack White
  • Omagh Bombing
  • Irrationalism: Steve Both Against "The Machine"
  • Letters

IWW Organising

On 20th August I got a call from Mark Harper to say that he had quit his job 3 seconds before being fired. He said it was a spur of the moment thing.

I drove over to Wrafton, a village on the edge of Barnstaple on the coast of rural north Devon ahead of the meeting and talked with Mark.

We arrived at the church hall just before 4 p.m. to be met by fws Veronica Clanchy and Ray Carr from the South Coast, and also met the President of the local trades council who had been giving Mark some support but who turned up to the meeting with the intention of recruiting to TUC affiliated unions (he had already been to IWW members homes to persuade them to join TUC unions rather than the IWW). Just before the meeting was about to start there was a bit of a commotion outside - we had the spectre of the factory owner (and local Conservative Party big wig) and his personnel officer seeking entry to the meeting. We told them they were not welcome to attend a private workers' meeting and escorted them from the premises. (No violence or restraint techniques were used). However they hung around the hall and this stopped a number of workers from coming to the meeting out of a sense of fear. We decided to turn the screws on them by photographing their pathetic attempts to bust our union.

When I told the meeting what had happened I got a cheer and applause! Not something I am used in an IWW meeting. Anyway there were 40 workers at the meeting despite Mark's dismissal making advertising difficult.

The TUC rep went first saying how important it was for workers to be in unions so that they could get individual legal representation and support in the event of an accident. He went on to say that the workers should join one of three unions MSF (Manufacturing Science and Finance - a supervisors union), AEEU (Amalgamated Engineering and Electrical Union - skilled maintenance workers) and TGWU (Transport and General Workers - for production workers). He said that being in an affiliated union was very important, but didn't say why and then said that the IWW offered some opposition to the TUC. First thing I did was point out the absurdity of the workers in one factory being split into three unions. I then explained how the IWW was indeed different from the TUC in respect of membership control, cheaper dues, with half remaining with the local branch, no political affiliation, all three TUC unions are affiliated to the governing party, no paid officers, with volunteers carrying out all the work of the union, including negotiations, individual representation, and taking cases to industrial tribunals no insurance and benefits how we were based on industrial unionism, transnational, and mentioned our organising efforts in the US, Canada, Australia, Germany, etc, and that we believed that bosses and workers had nothing in common. I asked a couple of times if the workers controlled their own factory would they run it like it was run?

I also said that as a union we would not abide by this country's crushing anti union laws and that if members wanted to break the law collectively that is what we would do.

There followed a lively question and answer session and the meeting finally broke up after an hour. Everybody there took an application form and many took multiples to distribute around the plant. A couple of workers came to the meeting on their day off and some had travelled many miles to get there.

We agreed to organise a training course for those who wanted to become union delegates and shop stewards. A couple after the main meeting and said that there had been a slow down in the plant after Mark's termination and, rather than put people off they had been galvanised.

We waited till 6.30 just in case any night shift workers wanted in but no one else came, however it transpired that someone had been signing up twilight and night shift workers anyway.

The next day Mark phoned with some good news. The workers had decided collectively to go IWW - They will become the Wrafton Pharmaceuticals branch of the Chemical and Pharmaceuticals Industrial Union 430. They have elected delegates to get things going and are already working on a set of demands to put before the boss. The first is outright recognition and they want to get membership up to 50% (200 workers) quickly. They have pages of grievances and at the moment seem very buoyant.

A very successful time was had by all and it certainly has given me a lot of inspiration for the future. If nothing else it proves that we have the right message and can organise even where there is TUC opposition.

Why am I so surprised that we can be this successful? I don't know. I read over the weekend that only one in five UK workers in the private sector were unionised and that the trade unions were having a hell of a lot of trouble convincing workers of their relevance. Having seen the TUC presentation I can see why. Maybe just maybe we are on the verge of something good.

Kevin Brandstatter IWW -UK

Send solidarity greetings to: Mark Harper 17 Barn Park, Wrafton, near Barnstaple, Devon EX33

The Barrel of a Gun

In his 1998 analysis of the US financial system, "Wall Street" (VERSO), Doug Henwood gives us a brief tale of his experiences as a worker in a Manhattan brokerage; "One morning, riding the elevator up to work, I noticed a cop standing next to me, a gun on his hip. I realised in an instant that all the sophisticated machinations that went on upstairs and around the whole Wall Street neighbourhood rested ultimately on force. Financial power, too, grows out of the barrel of a gun."

August 1998 gave us three illustrations of how gun law capitalism works.

The collapse of the Russian economy caused a ripple of panic amongst Western financiers when the Russian Central Bank suspended conversion of the rouble into dollars and declared a 90 day moratorium on paying $10 billion of short term debt. A surprisingly nervous editorial in The Economist (surprising because Russia has such little economic weight anyway) noted "the sickness that started in Asia is spreading still, claiming victims far beyond its source. Investors cannot find time to count their mounting losses, so busy are they trying to guess where the plague will strike next. The recent (and mainly downward) gyrations in stockmarkets bear witness to the new surge of fright and confusion - and to mounting concern that the turmoil in emerging markets will end in world-wide depression."

The dismantling of state capitalism in Eastern Europe heralded a new order of low wages, mass unemployment and corporate asset stripping. Integration of the former Soviet economies into the global economy meant the expropriation of land, labour and resources and the reduction of living standards to Third World levels. Eastern Europe became a playground for speculative capital. Multinational corporations have rushed in to take over Russia's reserves of oil and natural gas. A 1994 Guardian article noted "The hundreds of millions of dollars spawned by Western aid programmes have mainly benefited the Western companies which headed East to board the aid gravy train." A 1996 International Monetary Fund loan of $10 billion was linked directly to the privatisation of agriculture and the ending of human service and fuel subsidies. The Guardian's economic editor, Larry Elliott, interviewed by Tribune, summed the mess up: "they've been told to stick with free-market "reforms" when workers and pensioners have not been paid for months. Output is about half of what it was when communism collapsed. Things are much worse in rural areas and large chunks of the economy are operating on the basis of barter. They were told "just get on top of inflation, shut down all your inefficient factories, throw loads of people on the dole and when you've done all that we might give you some money."

Russia does almost no trade with the United States, and precious little with the European Union. So why the panic? Simple. As the Canada-based economist Michel Chossudovsky observed (The Globalisation of Poverty-Third World Network 1997) "The movement of the global economy is "regulated" by "a worldwide process of debt collection" which constricts the institutions of the national state and contributes to destroying employment and economic activity. In the developing world, the burden of the external debt has reached two trillion dollars; entire countries have been destabilised as a consequence of the collapse of national currencies, often resulting in the outbreak of social strife, ethnic conflict and civil war." IMF sponsored reforms are used to regulate labour costs to establish a "cheap labour economy." Debt has become the prime medium for the transfer of wealth from poor to rich, whether through servicing external debt from Third World to First, or the use of tax revenues to service public debt, while handing out, at the same time, tax breaks and subsidies to big business. The end result, as Larry Elliott comments, is "all market constraints have been taken off. The ability of a shock in one country to affect another and ricochet round the world has become immense over the past 20 years.".

As capital becomes more voracious in its pursuit of global profits, so it becomes more exposed. It is this that has made the financial pundits start to panic. "As for the sentiment that it is not merely the international capital market but the basic principles of capitalist economics that need to be questioned, one can only despair that the thought has even surfaced." (The Economist 5/9/98) The threat of Russia's proposed moratorium on short term debt and Malaysia's leader Mahathir Mohammed announcing controls on cross border flows of capital, "a kind of financial autarky", as the Economist put it, made the penny drop. The bubble won't burst if no-one bursts it!!!

In August 1998 the US launched air strikes against targets in Sudan and Afghanistan. The ostensible justification was retaliation for bombings of US embassies allegedly carried out by Muslim activists under the direction of Osama Bin Laden. This is bullshit. There is no clear evidence of any link between Bin Laden and the embassy bombs. Support for Bin Laden grows with every US action. Even accepted on its own terms, the military strike reeks of hypocrisy given that the US is the main defender of Israeli aggression in the Middle East at the United Nations. (In 1996, when Israel attacked a civilian refugee camp the US blocked any attempt at condemnation by the UN Security Council.)

The real basis for US military sabre rattling against the "threat of Islam" is neither defence of secular virtues nor of its territorial integrity. It is the fear of "financial autarky"- that the nature of Islamic regimes such as the Talibhans is such that they are likely to attempt to resist incorporation into the global economy on the terms set out for the Latin and Eastern economies. The cruise missile strikes were a shot across the bows for any government in the region considering the option of doing anything other than rolling over and playing dead for the IMF.

Similarly, in the aftermath of the Omagh bombing by the Real IRA, Tony Blair moved to pass "emergency legislation" which amounts to the backdoor introduction of internment. Part of the reason for this was to show a clenched fist to the nationalist community should they consider rejecting the dubious carrots of the Belfast Agreement. The legislation, however, went much further, by including provisions for convictions of groups conspiring to commit "terrorist acts" abroad. Obvious targets for this arm of the legislation include dissident groups in the UK who dare to oppose "friendly states" in the Middle East - such as the Egyptian oppositionist Arab Observation Centre and the Advice and Reformation Committee which aims to expel the US from Saudi Arabia. The demonisation of Islam dates from the 1970s oil crisis, when the Arab oil producers asserted their economic clout against the US. The new legislation is part of the same process.

Whenever and wherever someone rocks the boat, the "sophisticated machinations" of capital disappear and the gun barrel is produced. The panic of the last few weeks should serve to show us how easily the boat can be rocked. Moreover, the increasing globalisation of capital has left it vulnerable and over exposed. Chossudovsky has, correctly argued that there are "no technical solutions to this crisis" - that the globalisation of poverty requires co-ordinated international resistance by our class. "What is at stake is the massive concentration of financial wealth and the command over real resources by a social minority...The "globalisation" of this struggle is fundamental, requiring a degree of solidarity and internationalism unprecedented in world history. The global economic system feeds on social divisiveness between and within countries. Unity of purpose and world-wide co-ordination among diverse groups and social movements is crucial." We have, still, a world to win.

Knowle West Riot

Coming only weeks after the massive police mobilisation brought out to prevent "mob violence" at the Reclaim the Streets demonstration at Easter, Bristol police were thrown into complete disarray when Broadbury Road police station in Knowle West was attacked by a huge crowd of rioters.

Bottles, bricks and petrol bombs were rained down on police lines and the station following a protest over released child killer Sidney Cooke.

Only days earlier residents in St Pauls had protested angrily at the idea that Cooke should be housed in a bail hostel there. When it was alter rumoured that he had been taken to Broadbury Road, local residents came out to voice their objection.

After receiving no hint of confirmation or denial form the police that Cooke was being held there , tempers boiled over when officers in riot gear started lining up outside the station. Heavy handed police tactics coupled with their unswerving arrogance was all that was needed to tilt the protest into full scale conflict.

Residents from all parts of Knowle converged on the station and gave full vent to their anger. The arrival of police reinforcements along with dogs and more vans served only to inflame the situation . Local residents were having none of it. In the ensuing riot 46 officers were injured, windows in the station smashed and several cars set alight.

Police had plainly forgotten how quickly a community can react against them. The following day police spokesmen moved swiftly to lay the blame upon "outsiders" and the catch-all rentamob. Failing to explain just who these "outsiders" and "mob" were. The same mob they vowed but failed to stop at the Reclaim the Streets demo perhaps ?

By the large number of Knowle West residents choosing to riot a number of messages were delivered. Particularly that out on the council estates there is still a genuine hatred of the police that can be ignited at any moment: That places like Knowle can only be dumped on for so long before reacting. That there are common links between the black working class of the inner city and the white working class of the estates. That the liberal bleaters calling for "calm" and "tolerance" are hypocrites in that none of them are offering child sex killers a place to stay in their homes and communities. And amongst the dross of the media reportage- the sparkle of class war summed up by one resident's quote: "Why doesn't he go to Clifton or Sneyd Park- but I don't suppose there is any chance of that ?"

[ Bristle Box 25,82 Colston St, Bristol BS1 5BB ]

Prisoners: London Class War

From 1995-96 Class War subscribers in prisons rose to around 200. Issue 67 was banned by the prison service and prisoners often had to fight to receive copies. Good contacts were built up by many of the CW groups. With the "review process" this stopped and, with no paper coming out, contacts inside prisons have been lost. London Class War are trying to build up the class war prisoners network .Class War is still free to prisoners. They want to work with ABC and others, including ex-class war members, who believe in the ideals of prisoner support work. All class war prisoners, those interested in, or breaking, the law can contact Class War Prisoners at PO Box 467, London, E8 3QX

Gandalf Three, the state nil

On 23rd July 1998 the Gandalf Three had their conviction for conspiracy to incite persons unknown to commit criminal damage contrary to section 1 (1) and (3) of the Criminal Damage Act" quashed by Court of Appeal.

It was ruled by the court that the original charge was badly worded as it said "Criminal Damage" but quoted the section of the act that refers to Arson and where a charge of arson is made the specific word arson may be used.

The Court also ruled that because the original trial judge did not tell the jury they had to be sure we had incited people to carry out arson as well as criminal damage there had been a fundamental misdirection. The convictions were quashed unconditionally.

Hopefully this will hasten the collapse of the charges that continue against Robin Webb and Paul Rogers.

This is a real victory for the three defendants but because the convictions were quashed on a technicality suing the police is not a real option. The court did, however, not rule that reporting direct action cannot be an offence. The absurdity of this is that if, for example, we reported that on 8/8/98 the words "Scum" and "Class War" were painted on the London HQ of the Countryside Alliance this could, in the terms of the original charges be incitement. So everyone's learnt their lesson then.

Decline and Fall of the First International

This text comes from the book "Bakunin: The Philosophy of Freedom" by Brian Morris, published by Black Rose (but we believe out of print). In this chapter Morris looks at the decline of the International and Bakunin's conflict with Marx.

Between the Basel congress of the International in 1869 and the end of 1871 there had been a great growth of the International in both Italy and Spain, largely due to the influence of Bakunin. In 1870, at a general congress in Barcelona one hundred and fifty societies from thirty-six regions constituted the Spanish Regional Federation and adopted as their statutes those of the Jura Federation (drawn up by Bakunin). Thus, while the International was experiencing a marked decline in membership in the industrial countries, particularly in Britain where Marx lived, it was expanding in the Latin countries in leaps and bounds. And, wherever it was spreading it was doing so, as Paul Thomas writes, "under the mantle of Bakuninism." 1 Thomas even hints that Marx's "The Civil War in France" was a calculated move, using the symbolism of the Paris Commune to reunify a disparate movement. But there was little awareness at that time among most adherents of the International of the doctrinal differences separating Bakunin and Marx - except in Switzerland. And it was in Switzerland that the latent schism between two very different concepts of socialism - Marxism and collectivist anarchism - first began to be articulated in institutional terms.

At the end of 1869, Nicholas Utin arrived in Geneva and in January 1870, as Bakunin was leaving for Locarno, Utin established himself as an editor of L'Égalité. Utin had an intense dislike for Bakunin and soon took every opportunity to denounce him as an advocate of Pan-Slavism - though Bakunin had long since abandoned his nationalist tendencies. A Russian exile like Bakunin, Utin also began to spread the old rumour that Bakunin was a Tsarist agent. Later that same month, January 1870, Utin organised a Russian section of the International in Geneva - in direct opposition to Bakunin's Alliance - and applied to the General Council in London for recognition. He also asked Marx, who he addressed as the "Venerable Dr Marx", to become the representative for Russia on the General Council. Marx found all this rather strange but seems to have accepted the proposal especially as Utin mentioned that it would be among the tasks of the new section to publicly "unmask Bakunin." Thereafter, Utin continued to supply Marx with a steady flow of information, or misinformation, about Bakunin and played a considerable part in poisoning relations between the two men, although Marx had long harboured quite unfounded suspicions that Bakunin was simply a political intriguer out to "wreck" the International. If anything, Bakunin did far more to expand the membership of the International than did Marx himself, who had little influence on the English trade unionists. Significantly, after having helped to destroy the International, Utin made his peace with Tsarism, returned to Russia and ended his days as a wealthy government contractor. 2

In April 1870, the annual congress of the Federation Romande, consisting of sections of the International in French-speaking Switzerland, was held in the little town of La Chaux-de-Fonds in the Jura. Utin took the opportunity, in Bakunin' absence, to launch a bitter personal attack on him, quoting from Nechaev's "Revolutionary Catechism" to imply that Bakunin recognised neither justice nor morality and that he was essentially a nihilist. This all arose in the debate regarding the application of the Geneva Section of the Alliance for admission to the Federation. Guillaume spoke in defence of Bakunin and the Alliance was admitted by a majority vote. This led to a virtual split in the International in Switzerland with the Geneva sections under Utin following Marx and the General Council, while the Jura sections became fervent supporters of Bakunin. James Guillaume and Adhemar Schwitzguebel were leading members of the latter group, which became known as the Jura Federation. The General Council eventually agreed to accept both the Geneva Federation and the Jura Federation as affiliated bodies of the International. It is important to stress that this split represents a genuine disagreement within the International between the libertarian and State socialists. G.D.H.Cole expressed this cogently. He wrote:

"This conflict of views was not the outcome of any "conspiracy" either on Bakunin's part or on that of Marx. It arose out of real differences both in attitude and in the character of the movements of which the International was made up. Bakunin and Guillaume, and the Spanish and Italian leaders, did carry on increasingly active propaganda against Marx and the General Council; but there was nothing particularly conspiratorial about it, unless one counts Bakunin's habitual tendency to give his most commonplace activities a conspiratorial tone. Marx for his part, intensely irritated by what he regarded as the unrealistic folly of the anarchists, had developed an aggravated form of conspiracy-mania which led him to see the entire anti-authoritarian movement as a sinister conspiracy directed against himself. 3

The conflict between Marx and Bakunin, however, came to a head in the sham conference of the International held in London in September 1871. Given the widespread support for Bakunin and his anarchism among the Internationalists in Spain, Belgium, Italy and the Jura, it was clear that Marx and the General Council could only defeat him by upstaging him. 4 The London conference was therefore largely a private and secret affair. It consisted only of the General Council and invited guests, almost entirely partisans of Marx. Two delegates were invited from Switzerland - Utin was one, but none fro the Jura Federation, only one from Spain and none from Italy. Because of the war, Germany had no delegates and France was represented only by refugees, mostly Blanquists. The dice, as E.H.Carr put it, were well and truly loaded against Bakunin. Besides implying that anarchism was almost a heresy and forbidding the formation of separate sections, one of the most important decisions taken by the conference was to declare the necessity for workers to form their own political party, independent of bourgeois parties. With the complete absence of the anarchists and the support of the Blanquists, this was easily carried.

The Swiss groups of the International, all Bakuninists and hostile to Marx, immediately organised their own conference at Sonvillier in the Jura in November 1871. Bakunin could not attend, and the leading spirits of the meeting were Guillaume, Spichiger and Schwitzguebel. They immediately repudiated the London decisions, refusing to recognise that the London conference was a properly constituted organ of the International. They denounced the autocratic powers assumed b the general Council and called for the reaffirmation of an International that was composed of a free federation of autonomous sections rather than one governed by a General Council. The congress produced the "Sonvillier Circular", which demanded an immediate congress of the International to debate its structure. The circular was sympathetically received not only in Span and Italy, but also Belgium. As a result, the General Council was obliged to announce a congress at the Hague in September 1872. It was clear that this meeting would prove to be an important encounter between the Marxist and anarchist (i.e. Bakuninist) sections of the International. as it turned out, it proved to be the last real meeting of the First International.

The Sonvillier Circular was a critique of the basic doctrine formulated by the General Council of the International, namely the importance of the "conquest of political power by the working class." The circular counterposed this doctrine with the notion that a social revolution should involved the "emancipation of the workers by the workers themselves" and that:

The future society must be nothing else than the universalization of the organisation that the International has formed for itself. We must therefore strive to make this organisation as close as possible to our ideal. How could one expect and egalitarian society to emerge out of an authoritarian organisation ? it is impossible. The International, embryo of the future society, must form now on faithfully reflect our principles of federation and liberty, and must reject any principle tending toward authority and dictatorship. 5

Bakunin enthusiastically welcomed the Sonvillier Circular and devoted his energies to actively propagating its principles. Marx responded to it by issuing, as a circular from the General Council, a pamphlet entitled " Fictitious splits in the International." it was printed in Geneva and sent out to all sections of the International. It outlined Marx's own views on Bakunin, and his opinion of events surrounding the formation of the International Alliance of Socialist Democracy. Marx was critical of Bakunin on a number of grounds : his advocacy of total abstention from politics; his attempt to create and "international within the International" thereby creating confusion between the programme of the International Working Men's Association (identified with Marx's own ideas) and Bakunin's makeshift programme; his assertion that making the International an embryonic egalitarian society would only weaken the organisation in its fight against the exploiters. Marx seems to have seen Bakunin's Alliance as a kind of sectarian organisation like those of the early utopian socialists, which could only inhibit the formation of the International as a "militant organisation of the proletarian class of all countries." He also saw the various radical manifestos by Bakunin as "verbiage" which would be useful in promoting the aims of the reactionaries, the implication being that one shouldn't publish radical manifestos in case they upset or helped the bourgeoisie. Yet Marx's pamphlet indicates an underlying ambivalence, for he wants to believe that the splits in the International are all of a "fictitious" nature and that the Bakuninist groups are "sham sections" that have either no reality or are small cliques composed not of real workers but of "lawyers, journalists, and other bourgeois doctrinaires". This coming form a man who studied law at university, earned a living as a journalist (as well as being supported by Engels) and whose whole lifestyle was thoroughly bourgeois. Marx was also obsessed with the idea that Bakunin was an intriguer who intended to replace the General Council with his own personal dictatorship. Guillaume and other supporters of Bakunin found Marx's pamphlet full of personal slander. Bakunin is said to have described it as a "heap of filth".

The all-important congress at the Hague was duly held in early September 1872. Sixty four delegates attended the congress, the majority of whom were supporters of Marx, for the Italians had decided to boycott the meeting. In August 1872 , the first national congress of Italian Socialism was held in Rimini and there formed an Italian Federation of the International. The congress denounced the "slander and mystification" of the General Council, and Marx's "lust for authority". and therefore resolved to break all solidarity with the General Council. It proposed "to all those sections who do not share the authoritarian principles of the General Council to send their representatives to Neuchatel in Switzerland for the purpose of opening..... (an) anti-authoritarian congress". 6

Bakunin, who could not attend the congress, lost much of his support at the congress, and only six delegates, two from the Jura and four from Spain, were supporters of Bakunin. The General Council made up largely of Marx's followers and Blanquists and the German state socialists formed the bulk of Marx's support. Again Marx had engineered a conference that was packed with his own supporters. But it was clear that Marx aimed to defeat Bakunin- and the ideas he propagated- not only by weight of numbers, but also by destroying his personal reputation. To this end, Engels drafted a long report at the request of the General Council aiming to demonstrate that Bakunin had founded a secret society, the Alliance, (the main organ of which was the Central Committee of the Jura Federation), whose aims whose aims were incompatible with those of the International which it sought , it said, to disorganise and dominate. Engels therefore proposed that the congress should expel Bakunin and all present members of the Alliance of Social Democracy (including the Jura Federation) from the International Working Men's Association. On the last day of the congress- after one third of the delegates had already gone home- this proposal was put before congress and by a vote of twenty seven for and seven against- with eight abstentions- Bakunin (along with his friend Guillaume) was expelled from the International.

Although there was little evidence that the Alliance had existed as a secret society after 1869, Bakunin was nevertheless condemned. What seemed to have swayed the committee of inquiry that had been set up to examine the allegations was that Marx produced-behind closed doors- a copy of the letter that Nechaev had written to Bakunin's publishers regarding the translation of Marx's Das Capital.

Bakunin was therefore unfairly dismissed from the International on two grounds:

1. That he had tried to establish and perhaps succeeded in establishing a society in Europe named "the Alliance" with rules , social and political matters entirely different from those of the International.

2. That Bakunin had made use of deceptive tricks in order to appropriate some portion of another person's fortune, which constitutes fraud. 7

It was clear that Marx was determined to remove Bakunin from the International even if he had to use the most underhand methods to do it.

But the bombshell at the 1872 Congress was the startling proposal, presented by Marx and the General Council, that the seat of the General Council of the International should be transferred to New York. It came as a complete surprise to most of the delegates, although they voted for the proposal nonetheless. What Marx's motives were for such a move has been debated, but it effectively killed the International. But at least, by removing it to New York, he had saved the International from the influence of Bakunin.

Immediately after the Hague Congress, the anarchist members of the International held their own congress in the Swiss town of St Imier. It comprised delegations from Spain, Italy and the Swiss Jura. It was a small gathering and the delegates unanimously rejected the decisions of the Hague Congress and the powers given to the new general council. They constituted themselves into a free union of federation of the International, bound together not by an autocratic council, but by solidarity and mutual friendship. For a while, two rival Internationals continued to exist, but by the end of the decade the First International Working Men's Association had essentially ceased to function. The International congress held in Geneva in September 1873 was perhaps the last viable meeting. The congress dissolved with the General Council and declared the International a free federation of autonomous sections each with a right to reorganise itself as it saw fit.


1. Thomas, P. 1980 Karl Marx and the Anarchists. London RKP, p319

2. Cole, G.D.H., 1954. History of Socialist Thought, Vol.II, Marxism and Anarchism 1850-1890. London, Macmillan, p.197

3. Cole, op.cit., p.193

4. Thomas, op. cit., p.320

5. Guillaume in Dolgoff, S., ed., trans., introd., 1973 Bakunin on Anarchy, New York; Knopf, p.45

6. Hostetter, R. 1958. The Italian Socialist Movement. Princeton, NJ: Van Nostrand, p.284

7. Guillaume in Dolgoff, op. cit., p.47

They Call It Suicide, We Call It Murder

On 5 March 1998 the Italian police arrested 3 anarchists on serious charges of “subversive association for the purpose of constituting an armed gang”. They were accused of various actions linked to the popular struggle against the construction of the high speed railway through the Val di Susa in Piemonte. Now only one of the 3 arrested anarchists remains alive.

Edoardo Massari, a 38 year old anarchist from Ivrea, died in the Vallette prison in Turin on 28 March 1998. The authorities said he hanged himself with a bed sheet.

Maria Soledad Rosas, a 22 year old Argentinean hanged herself on 11 July. At the time she was under house arrest.

Silvano Pelissero, the third prisoner, went on a hunger strike before being transferred from prison in Novara to house arrest on 22 July.

The anarchist and grass roots opposition movements have reacted to the deaths angrily and forcefully. There was a several thousand strong demonstration in Turin on 4 April and a street blockade following Maria’s death. On 18 July there was a picket of Novara prison demanding the release of Silvano.

The charges against the three anarchists were not based on hard evidence. A much-publicised “arsenal” supposedly found in their home has never been shown in public. Along with the charge of “subversive association” the charges included accusations of actions against the building works for the rail link, the town hall in Caprie and the building site for a new court in Turin. The high speed rail project is opposed by all in the area.

The arrests of the three on 5 March were accompanied by police raids on two self-managed social centres in Turin. These resulted in street protests in Turin and the press responded with a campaign against anarchists, squatters and the social centres.

All of this is in the context of a major assault both on autonomous social centres elsewhere in Italy and a series of attempts to frame up militant anarchists with charges of “subversive association”.

Following Edoardo’s death on 28 March demonstrators came to Turin from all over Italy for a demonstration on 4 April. Anarchists, autonomists and people from the social centres participated in a demonstration 5-8000 strong. As the march came to the prison and court house there were scuffles with the police and stones were thrown.

In reaction to Maria’s death over 100 protesters gathered in the centre of Turin on 12 July, and blocked the road with a barricade of furniture wood and mattresses. A barrage of Smoke bombs and flares transformed the scene while paint sprayed messages appeared on the walls. The anarchist radio station Radio Blackout, silent for the day before, broadcast the action declaring “this is the first reaction to the death of Soledad”.

Caught unawares by the action the police were slow to react and only after half an hour had the numbers to charge the demonstrators. At this point the barricade went up in flames and the demonstrators disappeared in the smoke with no arrests.

On 28 July, in a customary display of solidarity, anarchists in Athens, Greece, burnt out two cars at the Italian embassy. An hour later 8 more cars at showrooms of Fiat and Alfa Romeo were burnt out. A message to the Greek paper Eleftherotypia stated that the attacks were “a demonstration of international solidarity for the murdered anarchists Edoardo Massari and Maria Soledad Rosas in a context of persecution and terror that the Italian state has recently launched against anarchists. Our common struggle against the state and authority knows no frontiers....Freedom for the imprisoned Italian anarchists.”

In London 20 people had picketed the Italian Tourist Office on June 19 in solidarity with all anarchists suffering state repression in Italy.

An anarchist from Carrara wrote in the anarchist weekly Umanita Nova: “Edoardo proclaimed himself an anarchist, he was active in the struggle against the high speed railway: this movement was an obstacle to the restructuring process which has as its results the destruction of the environment of the area, the sackings of thousands of workers, the super-exploitation of the railway workers, to benefit a clique of businessmen and speculators.

To protect the right to exploitation the government forbade the right to strike to the railway workers. The scumbags of the state criminalise the most combative sections of the movement against the high speed train.

Edoardo is a victim of the reaction of the institutions to popular opposition, he is a testimony to the struggle for the defence of the region and to the right to oppose those in power.”

The Turin Anarchist Federation said, “We know that everyone will talk about suicide. We prefer to call things by their right name. Suicide in prison is murder, a murder for which responsibility surely cannot be avoided by those who, like the magistrate, decided that Edoardo Massari should stay in a cell by himself and therefore, in substance, in isolation. Our concept of anarchism was certainly different form that of Edoardo, nevertheless his memory and his extreme choice of freedom will be spurs in the daily struggle of the exploited and oppressed for a society without the state and without prisons. The new world that every anarchist carries in their heart cannot ever be suffocated by the walls of a prison cell.”

At the beginning of August politicians and prosecutors received a number of letter bombs. The first was to a prosecutor, Maurizio Laudi and was defused. A journalist who had given evidence against Massari in 1993 and had been beaten up at his funeral also received one and was hospitalised for six weeks: the only casualty. Three more were sent to politicians from the green party and the Communist Refoundation. The fascist Alleanza Nazionale are calling for the closure of 12 social centres as a response. As unemployed protests in Naples and elsewhere in the South intensify the state is faced with the prospect of a hot September.

Nikos Maziotiz: communique from an 'anarchist urban guerilla'

Strymonokos Bay in Halkidiki, Northern Greece is the site of a proposed gold mine. Local people opposing the mine mine have confronted blockades by riot police and a curfew.


Solidarity actions against the government and TVX Gold, the mining company, have taken place in Athens and Thessaloniki. On 6/12/97 a bomb was placed at the Industry Ministry. Raids and arrests of anarchists, along with a hysterical media campaign followed. One of those arrested was Nikos Maziotis, a well known anarchist militant. Following his arrest there were a huge number of solidarity actions in Athens, arson, demonstrations and clashes with the police. On 13th of February, Maziotis admitted in a letter to the press that he had put a bomb in the Ministry of Industry and Development, and explained why he did it. This is the first time in Greece that someone has claimed responsibility for the actions they are accused of.

"With the attempt against the ministry of Industry and Development on the 6th December 1997, my purpose was to send a message to the political, business and police circles of this country that their plans, either economic or repressive, are not going to pass without resistance. My purpose was also to send a message of solidarity to the just and dynamic struggle that the residents of Strymonikos Bay carry out, against the installation of gold mining in north-east Halkidiki by the Canadian multinational TVX GOLD.

So, I take complete responsibility for my actions. The "Anarchist Urban Guerrillas" is me. I, alone, made and placed the improvised mechanism in the ministry of Industry and Development on 6/12/97. What was found in the house in 13 Spartis St is exclusively mine. I don't consider myself as an armed guerrilla, but a social guerrilla. I struggle, according to my individual strength, for the subversion of the state and of the State and of the existing social regime, without either rejecting any form of action or considering one as superior to another.

During my political action, I have written and distributed leaflets, posters, I have participated in mass demonstrators and marches, in occupations and conflicts with the repressive forces of the state. In a specific moment of my struggle, I chose this way to send my political message, the message of social solidarity. My past certifies the multiplicity of my revolutionary activity. In 1991 I was convicted for refusal to serve the army, and was detained for eight months in military prison, there are still charges against me for desertion. I was convicted in August of '94 along with 51 other comrades of mine, for the occupation of the economic university, as an expression of solidarity with the anarchist prisoners on hunger strike Odysseas Kampouris and Giorgos Balafas. I was also convicted for my participation in one of the most serious social events of the political reform period, the revolt of the Polytechnic in November of '95, that was an expression of solidarity with the Koridallos jail revolt and also with the political prisoners of that period, anarchists K. Kalaremas, who was on hunger strike, S. Dapergolas, Od.Kampouris, Chr. Marinos, G. Balafas,with the 4 anarchists arrested in a demonstration in Salonica, and also with the objector of military service N. Karanikas.

I am an anarchist and I aspire the total destruction of the State and of the capitalistic regime and its replacement by anti-authoritarian Communes. The only charge I can accept, and it's my honour, is that of subversive activity. If freedom is a crime for my enemies, then yes I admit I am a criminal. So, I recognise as my class enemies those who belong in specific social classes and are responsible for the sufferings of this world, poverty, exploitation, oppression, drugs, prisons, wars, environmental destruction. These social categories are those of state officials, politicians, technocrats, mandarins of capital, bureaucrats, uniformed murderers of the Security Forces and the militarists. These social castes will never disappear from the stage of history and will never give up their power or privileges voluntarily or by persuasion. This is why the social and class war is inevitable. And I am nothing but a political prisoner, a prisoner of the social and class war that is simmering and many times it spreads as a blaze in society.

There has been a lot of talk in the media (which broadcast the organised lie) that I belong in the "second generation of terrorists" I consider these interpretations, rather misinterpretations, ridiculous. I have to say the following about these kind of comparisons. There are three kinds of political violence. Terrorism of the state, which is the most usual and most organised, as the state possesses the monopoly of violence; the "revolutionary terrorism" of organisations with Marxist-Leninist ideology, that through their hierarchical structure reproduce the structures of the state and are a state in miniature; and there is the liberating violence. Social revolutions and revolts are mostly driven forward by fighters who act inside an open mass movement, rather than from "Jacobin" clubs and isolated military organisations of Marx-Leninist ideology. So, I send back the characterisation of "terrorist" to my accusers. More than twenty years of bourgeois parliamentary false-democracy can prove that.

In July of 1976, during conflicts in the centre of Athens between construction workers and the police, a police armoured vehicle murdered a woman aged 66, Anastasia Tsivika.

In 1978, men of MEA (special police units) murdered doctor Tsironis in his home in N. Smyrni, when he declared that his house was a dominion autonomous from the Greek state.

On the 16th of November 1980, during the demonstration from the polytechnic to the American embassy, Iakovos Koumis and Stamatina Kanelopulou were beaten to death by the MAT (riot police).

On the 17th of November 1985, during clashes around the polytechnic, riot-policeman Melistas murdered 15 year old Michalis Kaltezas.

In 1986, in Kessariani, during clashes between strikers of the EDOK-ETER and the MAT, the worker Agelos Mavroudis was killed.

On the 9th of January 1991, the teacher N. Temponeras was murdered by right-wing thugs who wanted to stop the students' occupations of school in Patras.

On the 10th January, 1991, during clashes after the students' demonstration after the murder of N. Temponeras, tear-gas thrown by the MAT set fire to a shopping centre and four citizens died. On the 27th of the same month the death after torture of the Turkish political refugee Souleiman Aknar was announced. He was detained in the Public Security Building.

On the 10th January 1994, officer Lagogianis, who belongs to the police station of Moschato, with 5 shots executed Th. Giakas, during a simple identification.

In December of 1995 an Albanian prisoner was murdered during an attempt to escape from Stavrakiou Ioanninon prison.

In July of 1996, in Piraeus, on the ship Pegasus, inside cabin 53, anarchist Christoforos Marinos was executed.

The same year, in a police blockade outside the city of Livadia, policeman murdered Tasos Mouratis a Roma.

In December of 1997, an Albanian prisoner was murdered by policemen in his effort to escape Diavaton prison in Salonica.

The list of murders by the "democratic" state and the "democratic" police has no end. None of the murderers ever paid for their actions.

The blame was always on the victim who "committed suicide", or the police guns "accidentally shot", or the policeman was under the state of "legal self-defence". "Justice" has found the murderers either innocent or had simply dropped the charges.

So, who are the terrorists and dangerous ones for society and for the citizens ?

I belong to a political and social milieu that in many cases has proved the danger of its action for the state's and regime's security, as it has repeatedly been an example for the oppressed social parts, about the forms of fight and resistance against the generalised attack of the state. We can take a look at the social events of the last twenty years to prove how true that is. During the 80s, when the social-democratic administration of capitalism was dominant, along with a model of development fed by the state and grants from the EEC, the only social conflicts against the mood of social peace and submission, were those caused by anarchists, with the occupations of the period '84-'85 the march against Le Pen in '84, the occupation of Chemistry University in May of '85, and the occupations of Chemistry and Polytechnic universities because of the murder of Kaltezas. Some years after, in the 90s, occupations, as a dynamic form of struggle, resistance and self-organisation that was inspired by anarchists, became appropriated by other oppressed social parts, workers, students, farmers.

In 1989-90, when social democracy collapsed and the attack of neoliberalism began, workers in industries occupied many factories in Patras, Piraeus, Lavrio, Mantoudi in an attempt to stop the bankruptcy of the enterprises and their privatisation that led thousands of workers to unemployment. In 1990-91 the movement of university and mostly high-school occupations erupted, with the riots and the occupation of the polytechnic. In fact it is this movement that led to the collapse of the right-wing government in the next elections, as it forced it to show its inhuman and anti-social face, through the murder of teacher N.Temponeras and of the 4 citizens burned inside K. Marousi by the tear-gas thrown inside by the MAT.

In August of 1992 the wildcat strike of workers in EAS (public transportation) begin with clashes in Votanicos. Mass expressions of people's violence, like the occupations and arsons of prefectures (Chania-June '90, Iraklio-August '91), blockades and occupations of national roads by farmers in the period 1995-97, or by citizens of local societies against the environmental destruction of their place (Kalamas '87, Aravisos '89, Pouri 93-'94, Avlonas-Keratea '96, Strymonikos '96-'97) prove that when the oppressed people react to the hurricane of the state and the attack of neoliberalism, they, many times instinctively, appropriate forms of action with insurrectionist characteristics. Anarchists have a great part of responsibility in that, as they keep always alive the purpose of resistance and social subversion, even in lulls of the social war.

So anarchists, who never seek authority positions, can rightly feel proud that they have left their own fingerprints on this whole period of social and class struggles.

I send greetings to all my comrades.

Solidarity with K. Kalaremas, S. Dapergolas and G. Vlassopoulos. Solidarity with social and class struggles. Solidarity with all those in revolt."

Koridallos Prison 11/2/1998 Nikos Maziotis

Maziotis was sentenced to ten months for desertion and other charges connected with the military. He was taken back to Koridallos Prison, where he is detained, charged for the bombing attempt at the ministry and guns and explosives found in his house. The comrades who were gathered outside the military courthouse chanting slogans of solidarity with N. Maziotis and against the state and the army, attacked the riot police who didn't let them go inside the court.

Policemen were beaten up and injured and forced to run inside and close the gate, as stones fell on their heads, cars and inside the yard of the court house.

The Black Panthers

Issue 213 of Black Flag carried two articles, touching on arguments about anarchism and spontaneity, and anarchist involvement in community politics. If we want to move our politics forward, we can’t allow such debates to exist only as abstractions, or run back to arguments about 1917 or 1936 as safe ground from which to consider our sidelining since then. Real struggles NEVER conform to a prepared agenda, and learning how to develop our ideas as part of what goes on around us, and in relation to movements that don’t conform to our expectations and ideals in every aspect, has to be part of engaging with how we’ve ended up here.

We live in a society where increasing numbers of “working class” people are without work (around 4 million at the time of writing). A 1997 London School of Economics survey, “Literacy, Numeracy and Economic Performance” observed that 40% of all jobs, and around 80% of unskilled jobs require reading skills no better than those achieved by most primary school children. The welfare state as a universal safety net is being dismantled, leaving whole communities to collapse in on themselves, with informal economies of theft and drug dealing developing as means of survival. Too often, we approach the circumstances most people deal with today with a political method developed during a period of industrial growth, high levels of workplace organisation, educational self-organisation and working class self-identification. Bluntly, the methods we embrace are pretty much irrelevant to the lives large numbers of people lead now. Strike calls, leaflets, papers, talk of "Communes", "Soviets" etc. mean nothing if you've not worked in five years, are more concerned about being robbed, or how to feed your kids.

In October 1966 Huey Newton and Bobby Seale organised the Black Panther Party in Oakland, USA, in response to police violence, and inspired by Malcolm X's call to "freedom, by any means necessary." Newton and Seale met at Merritt College and worked at the North Oakland Poverty Centre. Disillusioned with middle class cultural nationalism they decided to try and respond to the lessons they’d learned from Malcolm X’s formation of the Organisation of Afro-American Unity. Huey Newton wrote that Malcolm “knew what the street brothers were like, and he knew what had to be done to reach them.”

In determining the aims and objectives of the new party they knocked on people’s doors in the Oakland ghettos and asked them what they wanted. “We’re going to draw up a basic platform,” Newton explained, “that the mothers who struggled hard to raise us, that the fathers who worked hard to feed us, that the young brothers in school who come out of school semi-illiterate, saying and reading broken words, and all of these can read...”

The Panthers’ Platform and Program (the 10 point program) was straightforward, and, for poor blacks in the US ghettos, inspirational:-

1. We want freedom. We want power to determine the destiny of our black community.

2. We want full employment for our people

3. We want an end to the robbery by the white man of our black community.

4. We want decent housing, fit for the shelter off human beings.

5. We want education for our people that exposes the true nature of this decadent American society. We want education that teaches us our true history and our role in the present day society.

6. We want all black men to be exempt from military service.

7. We want an immediate end to police brutality and murder of black people.

8. We want freedom for all black men held in Federal, State, County and City prisons and jails.

9. We want all black people when brought to trial to be tried in court by a jury of their peer group, or people from the black communities, as defined by the constitution of the United States.

10. We want bread, housing, education, clothing, justice and peace. And as our major political objective, a United Nations-supervised plebiscite to be held throughout the black colony in which ant black colonial subjects will be allowed to participate, for the purpose of determining the will of black people as to their national destiny.

The Panther program was about black control of the black community of every aspect of it’s politics and economy. the Panthers in the ’60s tried to pull off what Lorenzo Kom’Boa Ervin, in “Anarchism and the Black Revolution” described as turning “our communities into dual power communes, from which we can wage a protracted struggle with capitalism and it’s agents.” The Panthers were hit with all the force of the US state machine, they carried with them a Leninist political baggage that meant when their leadership were targeted by assassination, jailings, and counter-intelligence operations they did not have structures in place to manoeuvre; their aims though, should be the aims of all of us, in our own communities, their means of struggle should be ones we should learn from and adopt.

Before his death, Malcolm X stated: “We should be peaceful, law abiding, but the time has come to fight back in self-defence whenever and wherever the black man is being unjustly and unlawfully attacked.” It was the Black Panther Party’s emphasis on self-defence, leading to armed confrontations with the state, that made it headline news and an inspiration to a generation of militants. One US sociologist observed: “The cop’s trigger finger is the gavel of justice in blacktown.” The BPP met this head on, with armed patrols, ** and the BPP as an armed association for community protection against the police. Whenever black people were stripped by the police, armed Panthers would be on the scene, making sure their constitutional rights were not violated. Why the BPP counts, though, is not just for it’s stand against police brutality. A Wall Street Journal article noted in 1970: “...a sizeable number of blacks support the Panthers because they admire other, less well publicised activities of the Party such as it’s free-breakfast programme for ghetto youngsters, it’s free medical care program and it’s war on narcotics use among black youth.” “The news media never say how strong the Panthers are against narcotics,” says Mr. Conner (?) of the Yonkers anti poverty centre. “You take the kids, in Harlem, they sort of envy hustlers - guys who take numbers, push dope. But the Panthers are telling kids from grade school level: Don’t mess with dope. It works.” The labour historian Philip S. Foner describes the Panthers as “deeply involve din a wide variety of other work. The party was protesting rent eviction, informing welfare recipients of their legal rights, teaching classes in black history, and demanding and winning school traffic lights. The installation of a street light in South and Market Streets is an important event in the Party’s early history. Several black children had been killed coming home from school, and the community was enraged at the indifference of the authorities. Newton and Seale told Oakland’s power structure that if the light was not installed, the party would come down with guns and block traffic so the children could cross in safety. The traffic light was installed.”

Crucially, the BPP was part of the community t claimed to serve. Newton and Seale were working class black men who felt at ease with street kids. They didn’t share either the middle class assumptions of the cultural nationalists, or the liberalism of the white left. When the California Assembly at Sacramento moved to pass a gun control bill designed as an attack on the BPP, 30 armed Panthers went to the Capitol building to protest. Bobby Seale said afterwards: I’m going to show you how smart brother Huey was when he planned Sacramento. He said ‘Now the papers are going to call us thugs and hoodlums... But the brothers on the block, who the man’s calling thugs and hoodlums for 100 years, they’re going to say “Them’s some out of sight thugs and hoodlums up there! Who is these thugs and hoodlums?” Huey was smart enough to know that the black people were going to say: “Well, they’ve been calling us niggers, thugs and hoodlums for 400 years, that ain’t gon’ hurt me. I’m going to check out what these brothers is doin’”’

Newton made it clear that the BPP was “The People’s Party” and was “like an oxen to be ridden by the people and serve the needs of the people.” If black children were being harassed in schools, the Panthers organised mothers to patrol the halls while armed party members stood guard outside.

Community organisation and community control were the basis of everything the BPP tried to do. In 1969 alone, 28 of it’s members were killed by the police. the state’s strategy was to push the BPP into an armed confrontation it could not win. Members were jailed, harassed, set up and gunned down. FBI agents, under the COINTELPRO program, were sent in to destabilise the Panthers. In consequence, much of the BPP’s energies were sucked into defence campaigns, and chapters across the US were set against each other. Yet the Panthers’ community-based work remain models of how revolutionary organisations should work with non-revolutionary groups to meet the needs of the communities they are part of.

The breakfast for children programme involved the BPP working with community volunteers to distribute food to the black community. The food was distributed primarily through a network of black churches. “Hunger is one of the means of oppression and it must be halted.” The BPP set up liberation schools, teaching everything from basic literacy to black history. “We recognise that education is only relevant when it teaches the art of survival.”

An article in the ‘Daily World’ (16/5/70) reported on the BPP’s establishment of a People’s Medical Centre in Chicago, regularly treating 100 people every week:-

“We have 10 doctors, 12 nurses and two registered technicians who officially serve in the free Medical Centre. We also have a large number of interns who come and help regularly, from medical schools around the city. Part of the centre’s work includes training community people to perform services wherever possible. Foe example, we are training some of the young people to do laboratory analysis and blood tests, and teams of people from the community are organised to canvas the neighbourhood and bring the Centre to the people. Most of the people in Lawndale are so poor they never go to a doctor unless they are practically dying. Our teams take their blood pressure, medical histories and in general determine if there are people suffering from illness. If illness is discovered, whether chronic or just simple ailments, the person is urged to visit the centre, where an examination, treatment and prescription are all free.”

The BPP cracked under the force of jailings, assassinations and infiltration. Huey Newton, Bobby Seale, Eldridge Cleaver and David Hillyard were all jailed at various points and played off against each other by the state, so as to cripple their ability to lead the party. Their Leninism was a fetter on their chance of survival. As Lorenzo Kom’Boa Ervin had it: “because of the over-importance of central leadership, the national organisation was ultimately liquidated entirely... Of course, many errors were made because the BPP was a young organisation and was under intense attack by the state. I do not want to imply that these internal errors were the primary contradiction which destroyed the BPP, the police attacks did that, but if it were better and more democratically organised, it may have weathered the storm.”

The BPP were unlike most political organisations of their time, and no organisation has been as focused, nor embraced any of the best aspects of the Panthers’ method with any consistency. The Panthers’ starting point was: “What does our community need?” They were drawn from the class they claimed to represent, and saw themselves (for all Huey Newton’s proclamations of the BPP as “the vanguard”) as a means to facilitate the needs of their communities, by revolutionary means- by contesting the state’s right to control our food, clothing, shelter or justice. In their demise the BPP were also an illustration of how not to operate politically within a working class community. At the end, Newton, isolated, with the BPP split and feuding decided to push to make US blacks a political force in the way that Italians, Irish, etc. were. David Hillyard recalls coming out of jail to find BPP members being told to read “The Godfather” as a guide to strategy. At the end, Newton saw “community politics” as being about organising the black community to compete effectively against other ethnic groups for resources. Given the violence the BPP was subjected to, none of this should surprise us.

The BPP succeeded because they saw that it was necessary to have something practical to offer to those communities they worked in. They succeeded because they put working class communities actual needs above theory. At the time, some of the left denounced this as armed reformism. As a lesson for today, I’d rather see on anarchist group responsible for stopping one eviction, feeding one child than dribbling on about hunter-gatherer societies, primitivism, etc. It’s time to stop the bullshit. The BPP succeeded; they were judged on what they did by the audience so many of us say matter to us. How many of us now would be judged the same way?

In the UK the number of “working poor” has risen by 300% since 1979. In the same period the amount paid to DSS claimants through income support has been cut by £435 million. Free school meals have been restricted; in some areas there is no free school meal system at all. In the last 15 years a million people have lost their right to housing benefit; over 5.5 million have had their benefit cut. Between 1979 and 1995, council house rents have risen by 100%, with a consequent rise in evictions. Up to 1987, the Thatcher government had saved £12 billion through cuts in the welfare state. Under New Labour, the process has continued. as the journalist Nick Davies put it: “There is no crusade against poverty in Britain. No leading politician demands full employment for the country’s workforce. No prominent public figure insists that the wealth which was taken from the poor and given to the rich during the Conservative years should now be returned. There is only the immense jabber of the powerful who are surrounded by the victims of their affluence and yet continue to know nothing of the undiscovered country of the poor.” (Dark Heart, Chatto & Windus, 1998)

Whole estates have become battlegrounds over heroin and crack cocaine. If a politics based around working class self-determination is to have any meaning at all, it has to have meaning in the lives of those who have suffered most under the last two decades’ steady redistribution of wealth from the poor to the rich.

In the US, the Black Autonomy group has raised the call for a Black Survival programme, building a “Socio-political infrastructure to intervene in every area of black life: food and housing co-operatives, Black Liberation schools, people’s banks and community mutual aid funds, medical clinics and hospitals... Building consciousness and revolutionary culture means taking on realistic day-to-day issues, like hunger, the need for clothing and housing, joblessness, transportation and other issues. It means that the commune must fill in the vacuum where people are not being properly fed, clothed, provided with adequate medical treatment, or otherwise deprived of basic needs.”

In the next few years, New Labour will attempt to suck out the remaining resources allocated to our communities - we, in turn, need to battle to keep those resources, obtain community control of them, and organise to replace them when the battle is lost. This means anarchists, libertarian communists dirtying their hands in helping to occupy closed schools, playgroups etc., to either 1, keep them open or 2, restart them under local community control. It means looking at setting up food distribution schemes, trying to set up community centres to give housing and benefit advice, helping stop evictions, setting up prison visit transport - whatever is needed, wherever we can.

Black Autonomy’s call for a Survival Programme based around community control of food, education, health, housing is as relevant to the estates of the UK as the ghettos of the US. As they say: “We have to do it ourselves if we are ever to get on the road to freedom.” In doing so, we can learn more from the history of the BPP, their actions, their methods,, and the critique of their history from groups like Black Autonomy, than we can from the mindless student drivel of the likes of Green Anarchist or Hakim Bey.

“If we can understand Breakfast for Children, can we not also understand Lunch for Children and Dinner for Children, and Clothing for Children, and Education for Children, and Medical Care for Children? And if we can understand that, why can’t we understand not only a peoples’ Park but Peoples’ Housing and Peoples’ Transport and Peoples’ Industry and Peoples’ Banks? And why can’t we understand a Peoples’ Government? This is liberation in practice...” Eldridge Cleaver, 1969.

Captain Jack White

Organise, the Irish section of the IWA have reprinted "The Meaning of Anarchism" by Captain Jack White.

White was an Ulster Protestant whose father was a field marshall and landowner. He met Conolly and was "converted" to socialism. In 1913 White proposed the formation of a workers militia, which became the Irish Citizen Army but always rejected nationalism.

This pamphlet is an explanation of anarchism, in the context of the Spanish revolution where White went with Ryan's International brigade. In itself it is a clear explanation of the differences, and the common ground, between Anarchism and Socialism. Its most important for its preface and as a part of Irish anarchist history

[£1 from Organise PO Box 505, Belfast, BT12 6BQ, N Ireland]

Omagh Bombing

The August 15 bombing of Omagh City Centre ,claimed by the “Real IRA” ,which took 28 lives,cannot be justified on any terms.The bombing has been condemned by Republicans and socialists who support the peace process and by many of the groups who oppose it.In its aftermath both the Real IRA and the INLA declared ceasefires.

Not everything about the bombing makes sense.Omagh has a predominantly nationalist population.It makes little sense for a Republican group which has yet to claim any real political ground within the nationalist community to carry out such an action.Given that,prior to the Omagh bomb,the Orange Order was fragmenting under pressure of its involvement in creating the climate of bigotry which led to Loyalists burning to death three Catholic children,the bombing gave the forces of reaction a breathing space.Further,it allowed the British and Irish governments an excuse to rush through legislation which amounts to selective internment of any organisations which oppose the Stormont agreement.

It is certainly the case that British and Irish intelligence forces have penetrated the Real IRA.It is likely therefore that they would have known in advance of the likelihood of a bomb being placed in Omagh city centre.-Previous police operations against the organisation have indicated that the British and Irish states have been able to anticipate Real IRA actions .Conveniently,on 15th August,such intelligence was not in place.

Moreover,Britain’s argument that the Real IRA failed to give accurate warnings of the Omagh bomb is not borne out by evidence actually released-particularly details of a third telephone call which stated that the bomb was located 200-300 yards from Omagh courthouse.Armed with this information,the RUC herded people into Market Street,where the bomb was located,rather than evacuate everyone down to the Dublin Road,as had been their normal practice in such situations.

It has long been the contention of Republican militants that the British deliberately ignore bomb warnings,to gain political credibility from the maximisation of civilian casualties.Such a strategy would bring real rewards in the case of Omagh-principally the alienation of the nationalist community from anti Stormont forces.

In the aftermath of the bomb,the Irish government rushed through the Offences Against the State (Amendment)Act 1998,which provides for the effective criminalisation of any opposition to the status quo :-:-

*refusal to answer police questions will be regared as corroborative evidence

*the creation of a new criminal offence of directing an unlawful organisation-with a maximum penalty of life imprisonment

*a new offence of collecting,recording or possessing information which could be useful for anti-government purposes Necessarily,this charge could apply to political activists,trade unionists and journalists.

Extension of the period of detention in custody under the Act from 48 to 72 hours.

*An accused person on a membership charge must reveal all defence witness details to the prosecution in advance of trial-giving licence to the state to harrass and intimidate witnesses

The Brits rushed through their own amendment of the PTA-the Criminal Justice (Terrorism amd Conspiracy) Act which allows

* Conviction for membership of an illegal organisation on the “opinion” evidence of a senior police officer

*A new offence of conspiracy within the United Kingdom to commit offences outside the UK.

We ahould not allow our horror at the slaughter at Omagh to blind us to the need to oppose the actions of the British and Irish states in their harrassment of Republicans oppossed to the Stormont settlement.It is not necessary to share the analysis of the 32 County Sovereignty Committee to seek to defend its right to put its arguments and organise in pursuit of its politics.It is our duty also to ensure that Republican Sinn Fein-which has demonstrable electoral support in the 26 Counties-remains able to have its voice heard without censorship and criminalisation.Omagh is being used as a justification for smashing all opposition to Stormont.Twenty nine percent of the nationalist community in the 6 counties,and 5% in the 26 Counties do not support the Agreement.Is the new era in Irish politics to be one where nationalists who hold the “right” opinions are accorded meaningful citizenship,while those who do not have no rights at all?

Irrationalism: Steve Both Against "The Machine"

In Green Anarchist issue 51, Steve Booth, one of Green Anarchist's editors, published "The Irrationalists", his views on "resistance in the new millennium." According to Booth, we are entering "the Age of the Irrationalists", who "commit acts of intense violence against the system with no obvious motives, no pattern." We are told by Booth that "The Oklahoma bombers had the right idea. The pity was that they did not blast any more government offices."...The Tokyo sarin cult had the right idea. The pity was that in testing the gas a year prior to the attack they gave themselves away."

In issue 52, both GA and Booth himself, attempt a retreat from the position initially expressed. In a letter to the Scottish Anarchist Federation, who pulled a speaking tour by the London Gandalf Support Campaign in protest at the content of the article, GA accuse the SAF of "intolerance, credulity and conformism", presumably for treating Booth's rantings with the contempt they deserve. Apparently, Booth only wrote the article to "express his anger" at the Operation Washington raids, and GA concede that "maybe Steve goes too far affirming certain desperate acts, rather than just acknowledging them as inevitable reactions to an ever-more organised and repressive society". Booth also tries to escape the logic of the positions he'd earlier put forward, by arguing that "irrationalism" is a product of despair, and that we need to develop "the capacity of revolutionary action to enlarge our hope."

This won't do. Booth's original article blatantly endorses the actions of the Aum and the Oklahoma bombers. We are told "they had the right idea." To this we can only echo the comments of Larry O Hara, Dave Black and Michel Prigent that the Oklahoma bombing was "fascist mass murder" and that "we have as little sympathy (zero) for those carrying out a sarin attack on the Tokyo underground as we would anybody carrying out a similar attack on the Newcastle Metro or London Underground." In his initial article, Booth contends that "The question is asked "What about the innocent people?" How can anyone inside the Fuhrerbunker be innocent?...Why should Joe and Edna Couch Potato derive any benefit from what the Irrationalists do? They can either join in somewhere, or fuck off and die, it's up to them, it's up to you." For Booth, the enemy is not any longer capitalism, technology, or (whatever the fuck it means) "The Machine"- it is anyone who doesn't embrace his particular view of the world, or his particular Utopia as an alternative. Some alarm bells should now be ringing for those familiar with the history of " Green Anarchist". GA's original editor, Richard Hunt, now edits a fascist, misanthropic rag called "Alternative Green". Booth appears to be following a similar trajectory.

So, is it that everyone who gets involved in the GA collective develops a personality disorder or is there something at the heart of the "anarcho-primitivist " project that engenders the rot?

Whenever the "primitivists" are pushed to define their agenda in comprehensible terms, we are told that "there's no blue print, no proscriptive pattern." The closest we get to a point is the US journal Anarchy's statement that they aim for a future that is "radically co-operative and communitarian, ecological and feminist, spontaneous and wild." Fifth Estate churn out mystical babble about " an emerging synthesis of post-modern anarchy and the primitive (in the sense of original) Earth based ecstatic vision". In his "Primitivist Primer", GA's John Moore endorses this definition. Primitivism, so far as anything about it is clear, looks back to the primitive communism of hunter-gatherer societies as an alternative to the "multiplicity of power relations" of "civilisation." All of which is fine, as far as it goes. Even the US science writer Carl Sagan, in his book "Billions and Billions" states that hunter gatherer existence was more democratic and egalitarian than contemporary society, and writers as diverse as Engels, Levi Strauss and Maurice Godelier have articulated an anthropology of primitive communism. The problem for contemporary primitivists is not whether such societies were "better" than our own, but how their legacy can be incorporated in a politics of the here and now.

We live in a society that edges ever closer to the brink of ecological destruction. Capitalism sees Nature as one more commodity. As the US writer Michael Parenti puts it, the "capital accumulation process wreaks havoc upon the global ecological system....An ever expanding capitalism and a fragile, finite ecology are on a calamitous collision course. It is not true that the ruling politico-economic interests are in a state of denial about this. Far worse than denial, they are in a state of utter antagonism towards those who think the planet is more important than corporate profits." The problem for the primitivists is that their politics leave them unable to effectively resist.

Primitivism abandons any notion of a class-based analysis of the structures of "control, coercion, domination and exploitation" and replaces them with a rejection of "civilisation" and an idealisation of a period of history superseded by the development of agriculture, and the relations and means of production which have led us to our present state. The problem is - you can't wish such developments away, or wind the historical clock back. The primitivist project fails on two counts. The first is the question of agency. Every social transformation - from feudalism, to the bourgeois revolutions, has been based upon the material interests of a particular class, who act as conscious agents of transformation. The primitivists have not been able to identify any positive agent for the "destruction of civilisation" and so their politics becomes a counsel of despair. As GA concede, it is this despair which is at the root of Booth's "Irrationalist" tantrums. What they fail to concede is that such despair is fundamental to the hopelessness engendered by their politics in and of itself. With no rational agent for primitivist change, GA are left with the Utopian babble of "One day soon, very soon, the whole system will perish in flames, and where will your designer clothes and Mercedes 450SLs be then?" and the Aum and the Oklahoma fascists as vehicles for "the absolute physical destruction of the machine".

Moreover, even if a positive vehicle for the primitivist project could be found, should we then embrace it as a viable alternative to the immiseration of millions under the rule of capital? In his book, "Beyond Bookchin", David Watson, of 5th Estate, argues that aboriginal society represents a viable Utopia. He quotes favourably the anthropologist Marshall Sahlins; "We are inclined to think of hunters and gatherers as poor because they don't have anything, perhaps better to think of them for that reason as free." (Perhaps, then, Watson, in the relative comfort of the middle class anarchist scene in Detroit, envies the "freedom" enjoyed by the 1.5 million currently starving to death in the Sudan?) He tells us that aboriginal societies are in reality "affluent" because "everyone starves or no-one does." What a miserable vision the primitivists - even at their most reasoned - are trying to hawk - at a time when the wealth produced under capitalism is sufficient to eliminate want, at a time when radical ecologists are engaged in a battle for planned, environmentally sustainable production in the interests of and under the control of those currently at the bottom of the production process, all the primitivists have on offer is the communism of want!

It is our contention that the nature of the primitivist project is such that the "irrationalisms" of Steve Booth are, within the context of GA's project, perfectly rational; that the GA project results in, faced with the age old choice of socialism or barbarism, the election of barbarism as the chosen alternative.

Booth contends that "Only the ability of a given group to create facts really counts. 11 million people not paying poll tax. That was something. The Oklahoma bombing. Unless you can create facts, you are nothing." Booth is fond of sending out "propositions" to his opponents. We have a few for him (and it would be nice to get a straight answer, instead of the usual thought disordered rant). If the Oklahoma bombing "creates facts", does also the election of the FN in France or their equivalents in Austria and Germany? If the Aum got it right - if Joe and Edna Couch Potato don't count - if "the only question could then be - so where was your bomb and why did it not go off first" would Booth endorse, say, the fascist bombing of Bologna railway station, or a far right militia using poison gas on a black community in the US? If not, following your own logic, why not? Go on surprise us; give us a considered reply.


Dear BF,

Good you support the Gandalf Defendants but bad we have to write critical GA editorials to ever get you to show it. Good too that the principles at stake around the Gandalf case are more important to you than the unconditional approval of the cop-sucking Searchlight + Leeds/Bradford mafia. As Noel Molland has also written his apologies to the Neoist Alliance's Fabian "Fuckwit " Tompsett- who continues to denounce him as a supposed "anarcho-fascist" in his usual deranged manner- and as all GA's editors disassociated themselves from him in October 1997 for grassing to the court in an attempt to get me banged up for contempt, his opinions hardly count for much. His continuing to smear me in print- despite his own experiences of conspiracy legislation- and his clandestine correspondence with you prior to this just goes to show that once started tale-bearing is a hard habit to break.

Immature Noel seeks to trash me as his grassing undermines his status as a former animal rights prisoner, all he's in it for. By labelling me paranoid he hopes to discredit my defence even before I come to trial in November. Then, in part, it'll be argued that what's published in GA is justified as self-defence against State attacks on basic freedoms, and that the activities of spooks directed at society generally and GA particularly is evidence of this. Noel got involved in GA in 1994 after reading about the Tim Hepple affair and all his early RATs featured army intelligence provocateur, Final Conflict editor and patriotic vegan Stuart McCullough, so he knows the score. Doesn't that make him paranoid like me -and show up what a malicious lying little shit stirrer he is ? His claim the Gandalf prosecution "just about Robin Webb" depoliticises this issue and implies it's about nothing else whatsoever. That fails to explain why Robin is being prosecuted alongside GA rather than anyone else - and why Operation Washington CO Des Thomas admitted at committal that MI5 were involved because of us not Robin. For more info on this I refer your readers to The Law (#13, pp16-17, PO Box 3878, London, SW12 9ZE) and when published my response to Noel's Arkangel 19 piece and Larry O'Hara's forthcoming pamphlet on the Gandalf trial.

Our open letter to the Scottish Anarchist Federation (GA 52) makes my position on Steve Booths article quite clear. On the subject of cults, though, I call on Black Flag to publicly condemn the Neoist Alliance, whose arse-licking of fascists and poncey bourgeois publishers must disgust genuine anarchists far more than Aum Shirikio's bygone bad behaviour.

Yours for the destruction of civilisation.

Paul Rogers, Gandalf Defendant.

[No we still think that writing arty crap will never be as stupid as killing tube passengers. Perhaps that's what makes us liberals.]

Dear Liberals,

I doubt whether you'll print any of this letter, but I disagree with your description of me as misanthropic. As to Noel Molland, he doesn't need to apologise for anything said in GA because he repudiated GA in the box in Portsmouth Crown Court, and described Paul, the general editor of GA in very strong terms. What is said in GA is nothing to do with Noel.

More importantly- you have obviously not read and not considered what was said in my irrationalists article. You call for people to condemn it but you do not engage with the contents of it- your comment is a knee jerk reaction. I still await a refutation of my Irrationalist article by such as yourselves, Feebledom and all other abusive fluffies. Your comments are symptomatic of the total weakness of the so-called revolutionary movement. Armed struggle is OK for somewhere far away, like the Zapatistas, or long ago, as with the Spanish Civil War, but not for now, not for the moment, not for Basingstoke. You know full damn well that a revolution (ie armed struggle) against the system is necessary, but people like yourselves, Feebledom and other fluffy bullshitters and anarcho-merchandisers denigrate anyone who says this out loud.

When people mouth rhetoric like "By all means necessary", they are making a call to armed struggle, but when it comes down to it all their talk is just so much wind and piss.

Enough abuse from me: In the spirit of constructive debate here are 24 propositions for you to consider

Steve Booth, community resistance editor GA.

[accompanying this were 23 (one repeated) points along the lines of "the machine must colonise everywhere" and "generally, with few exceptions the masses are passive". I'm not typing these in. If anyone really cares we'll send you a copy. Fucked off liberal typist BF.]

BF COMMENT: For a refutation of Steve Booth's Irrationalists article, which is presumably still endorsed by GA, see IRRATIONALISM (this issue). The fact that Steve is a philosophy graduate is testimony to how crap our education system is.

As an anarchist militant within the Swedish SAC, I read with great interest Kieran Caseys piece in Black Flag # 214. In a rather unusually, for comrade Casey, pedagogic and sensible form he has given a brief description of his version of SAC's positions in the numerous questions concerning SAC's relations with the IWA. Comrade Casey's article, in combination with Peter Principles earlier piece, paint a generally accepted picture of the situation.

There are however, a few points made in comrade Caseys article that I would like to comment upon as well as a few points in regards to the SAC which comrade Casey has unfortunately forgotten to mention.

First up is his claim that no section of the IWA has a "higher degree of democratic culture and transparency than SAC, no matter what their size." I can only giggle at such organisational chauvinism! It must be obvious to any sensible person that a small affinity group, of which I suppose some IWA sections consist no more of, have a better democratic culture than an organisation of circa 9 000 members in which only circa 300 partake in member referendums on a regular basis (such as the SAC)!

Comrade Casey further claims that there are no "informal hierarchies" within the SAC. I must give comrade Casey some credit on this point in reference to his own four year term as the duly elected International Secretary, and thereafter employee, of the SAC. His term in office was sufficient enough to convince SAC's members that his responsibilities were better off being taken care of by a committee of interested members rather than by a paid official. The recent 26th Congress of the SAC dismantled comrade Caseys former post. But, the fact remains that the SAC does suffer from informal, as well as formal, hierarchies. To claim that any organisation in today's society, no matter what size, were free from such is simply plain folly.

In regards to the claim that all SAC employees and functionaries enjoy the same wages - that is a truth in modification. SAC currently owns three judicial corporations, connected to its union activities in various degrees, and the employees of those enjoy differing wages and benefits, ranging from housing to well paid salaries. Indeed, some of these employees are not even members of the SAC but of the social democratic Lands Organisation, LO!

Comrade Casey also refers to SAC as a revolutionary syndicalist organisation and I assume that he sets that term in juxtaposition to anarcho-syndicalism as well as "ordinary" syndicalism. Although I should not assume things, this is relevant in the fact that he does not define what revolutionary syndicalism is. SAC's brand of revolutionary syndicalism however, allows for political party functionaries and members, not only into its rank and file (which does not necessarily have to be a problem), but into central posts of trust. At least one member of the central working committee of the SAC is a member of the left party, former communists (Vänsterpartiet) and one member of SAC's highest instance between congresses, the central committee, is a member of the bourgeois agrarian party (Centerpartiet)!

I would like to end this on the positive note that, as comrade Casey has written, the "SAC does not propose itself to be the perfect workers organisation and that (SAC) continually seeks to improve (its) democratic structure so that it might serve as a tool in the shaping of a future libertarian socialist society." SAC has also continually become increasingly radical for every congress in the last sixteen years and the current influx of societally-disposed youths from the independent Syndicalist Youth Organisation, SUF, as well as different anarchist networks, are the spear-point in a continued radicalisation of the SAC. For all its shortcomings, SAC does deserve to fly that red and black flag high.

With anarcho-greetings,

Kurt Svensson member of Stockholms LS of SAC

Posted By

Apr 9 2018 12:00



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