Black Flag 222 (2002)

Black Flag 222 (2002)

Issue of the London-based anarchist magazine Black Flag from 2002.

Complete contents in PDF.

Some shorter texts below, taken from

Longer articles are linked from the foot of this page.


In his seminal "Modern Science and Anarchism," Kropotkin argued that anarchism as we know it today geminated in the First International. Its "main idea," he continued, was "a direct struggle of Labour against Capital in the economic field - i.e. the emancipation of Labour, not by middle-class legislation, but by the working men themselves."

These are the basics we need to get back to. Direct action is much more than just demonstrating (however vigorously), necessary though that is. It is about working class people fighting back where we are directly oppressed and exploited by capital and the state, in our communities and workplaces. It is about resisting the powerful by building our own power, the power of solidarity, self-organisation and self-management. It means fighting for reforms, both minor and major by our own efforts and own organisations. It means prefiguring the new society while fighting this one.

It is time to get "back to basics," remember where anarchism comes from (social struggle) and apply our ideas where they matter, in the mundane everyday issues that matter to people. Unless we do that, a great opportunity will be missed. Hence our front page.

We at Black Flag know that this is not easy. We know how atomised many communities and workplaces are. We know we have argued this before (and will do so again). We also know that many anarchists are doing exactly this. What we need to do now is to start working together in order to aid these tendencies, to concentrate on the basics we all share rather than the minor points which divide us (particularly if these points concern hypothetical future events or developments!). We need to start working out how we can apply the basic ideas and ideals our politics are based on - working class direct action, solidarity and self-management. As Argentina shows, they can change the world!

We have made a few changes in this issue of Black Flag. The news section is much smaller, reflecting the fact that we have been less regular in coming out recently. We have limited the news sections to that of interest to anarchists and/or not that well known. Instead, we have concentrated on more in depth articles which will provoke thought and action.

Lastly, there is the usual call for people to get involved. Any anarchist magazine is dependent on members of our movement contributing articles. If you expect others to do this for you, then you are missing the whole point of our politics. Back to basics is equally applicable within our movement as it is within the class struggle. Unless you get off your arse and contribute (news reports, articles, book reviews, pictures, etc.) then no anarchist journal can survive for long. If you want Black Flag to keep going then it is a case of showing solidarity (i.e. fund raising, selling it) and practising direct action (i.e. helping out).

We hope to produce Black Flag more frequently next year. Reflecting this, the deadline for the next issue is February the 14th.



  • SMI/PM Internationals March on $andton
  • The Street is mightier than Le Pen
  • General Strike Shuts Down Spain
  • Collective Nouns for Anarchists
  • Immigrant's Occupation in Seville
  • Strike Paralyses Toronto
  • Class Struggle in China
  • No Borders Strasbourg
  • Resistance in Italy
  • Machete power beats the state
  • Argentina: The Struggle Continues


  • Privatisation and Gentrification, Reaction and Resistance, in Hackney's 'Regeneration State'
  • Justice - A bourgeois Concept?
  • Changing the way we think of Direct Action
  • Alexander Berkman: A Blast from the past...
  • Vive l'anarchie: An interview with French Anarchists
  • The Algerian Insurrection
  • Anarcha-Feminism in Bolivia


  • Fight For Life
  • Saptal Ram Free at Last!
  • Mark Barnsley released from Whitemoor Prison


  • Steve Wright - Storming Heaven
  • Antony Beevor - The Spanish Civil War
  • Eric Schlosser - Fast Food Nation
  • Ann Hansen - Direct Action
  • Jonathan Aves - Workers Against Lenin


  • Anarcho Quiz
  • The end of confrontation: A step back

Collective nouns for anarchists...
From the latest batch of Nixon tapes, as reported by Paul Slansky in New Yorker. Nixon refers to the anti-war movement as:

"A wild orgasm of anarchists sweeping across the country like a prairie fire."



1. Which famous anarchist is featured in the Warren Beatty film "Reds"?

2. The Polish Syndicalists (ZSP) who fought in the Warsaw Rising of 1944 stubbornly refused to replace their black and red armbands with nationalist white and red ones. Despite total animosity from the nationalist leadership of the underground army they became the best-armed unit (and probably the best fed) in the Rising. How?

3. On whose life is the action film "Behold a Pale Horse" loosely based?

4. What year did the Spanish CNT join the reconstituted First International, the International Workers Association?

5. How did American imperialism towards Japan help Bakunin?

Anarcho-Quiz Answers

1. Emma Goldman

2. They'd got hold of a stock of vodka and traded it with Russians and Germans for arms. The building where they had their HQ was the only one in Warsaw not taken back by German soldiers.

3. The anarchist guerrilla Sabate.

4. 1923. The founding congress of the IWA was in 1922, but repression from the dictatorship prevented the CNT delegates from attending.

5. In February 1857 Bakunin had been exiled to Tomsk in Siberia. In 1853 Admiral Perry had sailed into Edo harbour with his 4 steamships, causing shockwaves in Japanese society that eventually opened it slightly to the west. Bakunin heard of the opening of Japanese ports to Russian ships and that American ships visited Yokohama often twice a week. Escape to the west was impossible, and until then, so had been escape to the east. In 1861 he travelled to Irkutsk and caught a ship to Japan.


South Africa: SMI/LPM/internationals march on $andton!

About 20,000 protestors (1) from the Social Movements Indaba, the Landless Peoples Movement and other sub-national and international social justice organisations of the poor marched under blazing skies on the World Summit on sustainable Development on August 31st.

Thousands of residents of the poor township of Alexandra turned out to cheer on the marchers with revolutionary songs from South Africa's anti-apartheid struggle - now directed against the ANC-Inkatha Freedom Party neoliberal regime.

Hot weather, transport problems and an attempt by ANC marshalls to divert 20 buses of SMI/LPM supporters to their own sham "non- governmental" march lead to a lower than expected turnout.

But spirits were high and the mood of international solidarity was fantastic, with protestors from Palestine to Tibet (both fighting occupation), from Bolivia (where last year, anti-privatisation protests beat back multinational Bechtel) to Pakistan, and just about anywhere else you care to mention.

As water poured off fake waterfalls at Sandton City, near the convention centre, thirsty marchers who were not allowed by police to even buy water from nearby shops were forced to drink from a mud-hole in the pavement where a water main had burst.

Despite the attempts of some international media crews to drum up a scare story when they encountered a few anarchists, some of whom were masked up to prevent identification by police, the protest – anarchists included - was entirely peaceful and included children, one in a wheelchair, and pregnant women.

But the message to the ruling elite when we got to Sandton was uncompromising: the SMI told the world's media that if the ANC did not stop riding rough-shod over the poor, they would remove them from power in the same way they removed the apartheid regime.

Global arch-terrorist George Bush junior came in for a solid verbal drubbing as did the Israeli neo-apartheid regime - and all the fat-cats of the WSSD, some of whom peeked at the protestors from behind the "ring of steel" (as the local media likes to call police cordons).

In the end, the boys in blue never got to swing their nightsticks, the army vehicles with their turret-mounted machine-guns were impotent displays of testosterone and the police warhorses merely fertilised the streets of what before we arrived was the most sterile suburb in the country.

The movement surges forward!
Michael (Bikisha Media)

(1) Which means we fielded 10 times the numbers that the so-called "non-governmental" ANC-backed march did! The United Social Movement is now a bigger presence on the streets of South Africa than the neoliberal ANC-SACP-Cosatu troika!

The street is mightier than Le Pen

Tens of thousands of French people took to the streets when the news spread that fascist candidate Le Pen had made it into the second round of the Presidential elections. The anti-Le Pen opposition quickly gathered force, became bigger, more violent and more organised.

More than 10,000 people vented their rage at the results in Paris demonstrations on Sunday and Monday night at the Place de la Bastille, Place de la Republique and Place de la Concorde - traditional rallying points since the French Revolution. Each time, police were forced to fire tear-gas grenades to disperse the crowds after a small hard core of militants clashed with them. Some protestors threw Molotov cocktails, while others broke windows and telephone cabins and damaged parked vehicles. Thirteen police officers were slightly injured and 14 youths were arrested.

In the rest of France, similar disturbances erupted without warning. On the Monday, a total of 100,000 people marched through Lyon, Lille, Marseille, Bordeaux and other towns and cities. In Tours, anti-globalisation militant Jose Bove marched at the head of a 12,000-strong crowd. More militant protests were swelling early on Tuesday in the towns of Le Havre, Rouen, and even in the southern Le Pen stronghold of Toulon.

Most were started by high school and university students, who streamed out of classes to parade past startled police. They soon gathered force as others stepped into line. A climax was reached on May 1, when millions of protesters took to the streets across France. In Paris, a flood of humanity showed how small Le Pen's support actually is. The election results simply confirmed this wave of popular revolt.

General Strike shuts down Spain

The Spanish general strike over "reforms" of the labour law was great success. Timed to coincide with the EU summit in Seville, the reformist unions claimed 84% backing. The government claimed support was "very slight," a claim belied by the facts!

Mass demonstrations occurred across Spain during the strike, involving millions of people. Many cities, including Vigo, Seville, Madrid and Barcelona saw over 100,000 marching.

The syndicalist unions took an active part. Not happy with just striking, they also tried to shut down workplaces which were still open. Such pickets were active in the whole country.

Madrid saw all the syndicalist unions working together in calling for a strike, picketing and demonstrating together. They denounced the practice of the reformist unions and argued that the General Strike should be "a starting point and not a cul-de-sac." They argued that workers need to "build another type" of unionism, "based on class demands and struggle, through the participation and decisions of workers through assemblies." This was the "only mechanism to face the aggressions of the European Union and capitalist Globalisation."

Some 15,000 demonstrated as part of the Syndical Coordinating Committee, which unites all the syndicalist unions (the CNT, CGT and Solidaridad Obrera). Slogans included "Syndical Unity? Yes, but to fight!", "Apply the Foreigners' Law to the Monarchy" and "The Solution? Revolution!"

The joint red-and-black demo is encouraging as it is the largest so far in Madrid and shows that the syndicalist organisations in Spain are learning to fight together.

Immigrants Occupation in Seville

The two hundred and seventy immigrants who were occupying the Universidad Pablo de Olavide in Seville were evicted by riot police on the eighth of August. They had been occupying the University demanding papers for over two months. One hundred and twenty eight of them were taken into custody and are now in a detention centre in Ceuta, segregated from other inmates. The others remain in Spain but are at risk from intensive police checks in the area.

Spanish immigration law was, until recently, comparatively open because of the need for cheap agricultural workers. However now Spain is part of the European -wide immigration crackdown. The occupation came about after immigrants from the Magreb, who had been employed in the strawberry harvest in Huelva, Andalucia, were replaced by Polish immigrants brought in on temporary work permits. The previous mainly Algerian and Morrocan workers had begun to organise and get higher wages so the employers were trying to substitute workers who were ignorant of local labour conditions and unlikely to attract support from other workers locally.

There have been lots of occupations throughout Spain in the last few years of churches, public squares, government buildings and universities by groups of immigrants demanding regularisation and many have been successful. This latest occupation, initially involving over four hundred people, mainly Algerians, coincided with the EU summit in Seville in June. In this case the state tried to divide the occupiers by offering papers to a limited number, and attacking as outside agitators the support groups who were raising money for food. (Four hundred people eat a lot.)

The situation in Huelva shows the danger of different groups of immigrants being played off against each other to compete for who can work for the lowest wages. The situation of the Polish workers is an example of a method of exploitation the EU wants to increase. As they only have work permits for a defined short term contract, they can be employed for a specific job and then must leave or become illegal. This is exactly what the state wants: cheap taxpaying labourers that will not be able to stay and use any public services, who can be called and returned on demand.

Strike Paralyses Toronto

The end of June saw the start of the largest strike by city workers in Canadian history, with a walkout by 23,500 municipal workers paralysing Toronto. After 10 days, piles of rotting rubbish lined the streets and public services were suspended.

City employees who handle rubbish and other outdoor services were joined nine days later by Toronto's indoor municipal workers. This meant that city-run museums, galleries and day-care centres were closed, building and parking permits were unavailable and restaurants did not undergo health inspections.

The workers said they were striking over job security, not money. They're afraid of losing their livelihoods if the city privatises public services. Toronto guarantees lifetime employment to any full- time, permanent, unionised city worker with at least 10 years on the job. City employees want that guarantee to begin after six years. "City politicians seem determined to go down the road of contracting out and privatisation of dozens of services in this city" said one union's national president.

After 16 days, the strikers returned to their jobs. This was after the Ontario legislature passed back-to-work legislation forcing workers to return to their jobs (using "public health" as the justification). It should be noted that it was the left-wing socialist New Democratic Party which ensured the end of the strike.

The city's Mayor predictably argued that he could not afford the deal workers want. "The real world doesn't get jobs for life," he said. "Where are we going to get the money?" At the same time, Canada held the G8 summit in Kananskis, Alberta, its biggest internal peace-time military operation ever. While being unable to find money for city employees, money was found for the G8's security costs (estimated to be $300,000 million and included anti-aircraft tanks plus 4,500 soldiers as well as police from across Canada).

Class struggle in China

March saw the class war in China heat-up.

Mid-March saw tens of thousands of sacked workers surrounding the main office at China's largest oilfield in protest against cuts in their lay-off benefits. Up to 50,000 protesters gathered every day at the Daqing oil field in north-eastern Heilongjiang province for nearly two weeks. The workers were protesting against cuts in severance pay and heating subsidies promised them when they were sacked three years ago, and an increase in unemployment insurance premiums.

The end of March saw large-scale labour unrest shaking two cities in northern China's industrial zone. Unpaid and laid off workers protested, massing 10,000-strong to face off with military police.

In Liaoyang, an industrial centre in the Liaoning province, columns of military police protected the city government office (on Democracy Road). The crisis erupted when 600 workers blocked the main highway to the provincial capital Shenyang. Reports stated that hundreds of armed police moved in at midnight to clear the highway and dozens of people were injured. Undeterred, more than 1,000 factory workers besieged the city hall, demanding unpaid wages and the release of four detained labour leaders.

In Daqing, an oil town in northern China's Heilongjiang province, up to 50,000 workers demonstrated. There have also been smaller demonstrations in the capital Beijing and in the south-western province of Sichuan.

Such demonstrations, which have been growing in the region since early March, are unusual in China, where the government keeps a tight rein on protests and uses threats and force to discourage any anti-government activism. However, the government has also acknowledged that workers are suffering from widespread closures of inefficient and outdated state firms. Farmers have joined in to protest not being paid by bankrupt factories that were built on their lands.


March 27th saw the Italian working class once again demonstrating that it will not allow itself to be walked all over by the Berlusconi's vicious attacks on their social conditions. Three million people demonstrated in Rome bringing it to a standstill - and this despite the state's clear message that it is prepared to return to the 'strategy of tension' of earlier years, if these protests continue. The target of this demo was the labour reforms that will make it easier for bosses to fire workers, then re-hire them at lowered wages.

General Strike in Italy

April 16th saw Italy grind to a halt as the first general strike in 20 years took place. More than two million people took to the streets in demonstrations all over Italy as twenty million workers went on strike across the country. The strike was called to protest against proposed new labour laws.

In many cases COBAS - grassroots trade unions - held independent demos, sometimes outnumbering the official ones. Anarchists and anti- capitalist groups supported these grass root union demonstrations.
Direct actions targeted temporary employment agencies. Several were occupied, while many others had their entrances 'sealed' with glue. The office of an Italian employment agency in Milan was 'raided' and covered with shit (the real thing). In Rome, main roads leading into the city were blocked by small groups.

Genoa's message, "you G8 we 6 billions" starts to become a reality!

No Borders in Strasbourg

The Strasbourg No Border camp during the last week of July was one of a series of protest camps organised on important international borders.

Strasbourg was chosen because of the Shengen Information System computer which is located there, which contains information on all the known immigrants and asylum seekers in Europe. The camp brought together three thousand participants from all over Europe, especially France and Germany. Some people had travelled from Latin America, and there was a big presence of immigrants mainly from North Africa. The purpose of the camp was to bring people together for discussion and action. Every day there were a series of discussions and a demonstration or action in the town.

On Wednesday the demonstration was attacked by the police with gas, charges and rubber bullets. They broke the leg of one protester and arrested thirty people, one of whom was later sent down for eight months. The next day the police declared all demonstrations in Strasbourg illegal, and criminalised any group of more than five people in the street and anyone with a flag or banner and any handing out of leaflets. After this announcement an atmosphere of fear and panic took over in the camp for a short while. An immenent police attack was feared which, given the large numbers of small children and sans papiers (undocumented people) in the camp, would have been disastrous.

The repression achieved its object to some extent as we had to devote a lot of time and energy on how to demonstrate without endangering the camp and how to leave the camp at the end ensuring everyone's safety. We had up till that point been touring the banlieus (estates) every day with a bus and music making links with the poor communities of Strasbourg. After the criminalisation we were asked not to come as the people feared police repression, so one of the most important aspects of the camp was stopped. However we continued to demonstrate in Strasbourg city centre every day with music, street theatre and banner drops.

Arrests happened continuously and so did solidarity demos; there were pickets of hundreds of people outside the court and police station. The support we received from the Strasbourgois on these was very welcome as people cheered us and abused the police as we were arrested or forcibly bussed back to the camp. On the last day there were two demonstrations, one in the centre of Strasbourg and one which tried to go to the Shengen computer. This march made it perhaps two hundred yards down the road before being blocked by lines of riot police, and so detoured into Germany, and went from there to the other demo by train via the jail. The crowd was again attacked by the police with gas but there was not the carnage we had been scared of.

The daily life of the camp - cooking, toilet digging, security - was organised around a series of barrios with communal kitchens and a daily meeting. At times the functioning of the camp was in danger of taking over from all other activity as the amount of work needed was immense. Political discussions, which had to be translated into five languages, often started at midnight as people arrived late from the demos and then had to eat, by which time most people were drunk.

However the experience of collective living and decision making, experimenting with structures and methods, was inspiring. It was very different from an action like Genoa where it felt to many people that all the crucial decisions had been made beforehand and we were passive consumers of an event. Self-organised immigrant groups like MIB (Immigrants Movement in the Banlieus) from France or Voice from Germany had been involved in the organising from the start and the human interaction in the camp was a great experience. Learning and shouting chants in different languages on the demos made international solidarity feel like something real instead of a leftie cliché (although the Black Flag contingent did walk around Germany for hours shouting 'short people are illegal' due to an unfortunate pronunciation error). If we are searching for a new tactic for international actions, this looks like the way to go.



Nine months of direct action and community solidarity by peasant farmers have stopped the government plan to build the new Mexico City airport on their land. This is an incredible victory for people power over big business and the state.

The struggle culminated in July with a virtual insurrection in Atenco and 3 other towns. Over 4 days thousands of peasants and supporters blockaded highways and used machetes and molotovs to defy over 10,000 police. The insurgents captured and held 19 government officials and police hostage, in a successful bid to free their own prisoners. The price of victory was high however - police violence killed local man Enrique Espinoza Juarez, who died from injuries sustained on 11th July.

On 7th August president Fox issued a decree cancelling the previous government decrees expropriating the peasants' land. A week later, machetes aloft, the peasants marched victoriously through Mexico City. Chanting 'Atenco lives, the struggle continues", they demanded that all charges and arrest warrants be dropped against those facing legal action from the struggle, and declared that they would fight on against the Plan Puebla Panama and in solidarity with all just causes of the people in Mexico.


Ever since October 2001 the peasant farmers and inhabitants of the area around San Salvador Atenco and Texcoco have been resisting the government’s efforts to compulsorily purchase 10,000 acres of their land for the new airport. All attempts by the state to even start preliminary work for the airport have been stopped by community direct action. The machetes of the peasants - carried proudly aloft on all their demos and actions - have become a symbol of resistance. Solidarity has been developed with striking students and workers, Zapatista supporters and many other groups.

The struggle erupted on 11 July 2002. At least 1000 riot police attacked a 100-strong peasants' march. 30 peasants were injured and 19 disappeared, possibly arrested.

Clashes escalated as the community mobilised itself. Hundreds, then thousands, took to the streets and blockaded the roads. The towns of San Salvador Atenco, Acuexcomac, Magdalena Panoaya and Tocuila were in revolt, with around 3,500 locals on the streets.

300 peasants stormed the sub office of the Attorney General in Texcoco and took 7 employees hostage, including the Assistant Attorney General. Soon the peasants held 19 officials, including at least 3 police. They demanded their own prisoners be set free in exchange for the officials being released.

By the afternoon of 11th July 10,000 police, including military police, were surrounding the area as the peasants fortified their defences. 3 police cars were burnt and 3 Coca Cola tractor trailers seized to be used along with police vehicles in the barricades. As night fell the locals were digging trenches around the occupied areas.

Over the next 4 days the revolt continued as resisters blockaded highways in the area, and were joined by supporters from around Mexico.

On 14 July the government released the 11 jailed peasants, and the following day the government officials and police were released unharmed. The government conceded that plans for the airport may have to be modified or even cancelled.


The government defeat was complete when an announcement by President Fox on 1st August was confirmed on 7th August by the official cancellation of the decrees to expropriate the peasants' land.

The peasants' victory march through Mexico City on 14th August showed their determination to continue the fight. We will maintain a constant struggle for the absolute liberty of the peasants facing charges and we demand an end to the legal threats against the members of the Front of Peoples in Defence of the Land, they declared. They demanded compensation for the family of Enrique Espinoza Juarez, murdered by the police.

The peasants see their battle as part of a bigger picture. They declared their opposition to the Plan Puebla Panama, and the drive towards a Free Trade Agreement for all the Americas. The Plan Puebla Panama, backed by the Mexican, US and Central American governments, aims to "develop" the area from Puebla in south central Mexico down to Panama, forcing peasants off the land into sweatshops, plundering natural resources and exploiting the indigenous and other poor local people.

The inspiring message from the courageous peasant people who have defeated the might of the Mexican state is "Let us be clear that the Front of Peoples in Defence of the Land will act in solidarity with all just causes which defend the dignity of the people of Mexico. There is no doubt that our struggle will be unbreakable in the face of all aggression against our rights."

Argentina: The struggle continues

The process of working class self-organisation continues.

Links are being made across the country and across organisations. For example, more than eight hundred delegates attended the First National Conference of Plants and Factories Occupied and In Struggle on Saturday, August 24 organised by the Bloque Piquetero Nacional (National Picketeers' Bloc) and the Movimiento Independiente de Jubilados y Desocupados (Independent Movement of Pensioners and
Unemployed). The delegates came from factories, trade unions, shop steward committees and popular assemblies and met in the plant of the Grissinópoli company, occupied by its workers.

The Conference approved a resolution on the expropriation of the machinery, buildings and capital of the companies and their handing over to their workers. Self-management is already being practised in a wide range of workplaces (including supermarkets, mines, clinics, transport, metal works, printshops), all across the country. Some have occupied their workplaces and ran them for more than 10 months. A national march in support of the occupied factories was agreed for
September 10, as was the active participation in the roadblocks of the Picketeers. It was also agreed that delegates from the occupied factories attend the next National Assembly of employed and unemployed workers.

As we argued in the last issue of Black Flag, the need to co-ordinate struggles and solidarity was an essential next step. This has started. As one group of workers put it, "We share the motto: if they attack one, they attack all of us." Equally as important, the Argentine workers are showing a healthy distrust of hierarchy. Delegates are returning to their factories to discuss in assemblies the proposals for the Second National Meeting. Self-management is replacing government.

As predicted, the call for occupying workplaces and placing them under workers' self-management has been raised and put into practice.

Elsewhere, the neighbourhood assemblies have been developing collective solutions to the crisis in housing in the form of "assemblies okupas." The assemblies have taken the initiative, reclaiming unused but habitable spaces. By guaranteeing the right to the ceiling, it replaces property rights with use rights, putting it at the service of the community. The occupations are run collectively. When the police ask the squatters who is in charge, the assembly invariably answers "we are all people in charge."

The popular assemblies are also collectively resisting attempts at evictions, be it housing or factories.

Slowly but surely, the people of Argentina are creating an alternative to the State and capi[tal? Article cuts short here – Ed]

A Blast from the past...

With American Imperialism running rampant and war with Iraq looking only a matter of time, we have taken the opportunity to reprint these articles by Alexander Berkman from The Blast.

Originally published in 1917, these articles indicate why anarchists oppose capitalist wars and how little the rhetoric and activity of the state at war has changed. As such, their message is as relevant and as important as when they were written: No war but the class war!

A leading light in the anarchist movement for decades, Berkman was imprisoned along with Emma Goldman for their anti-war activity.

To The Youth Of America
By Alexander Berkman

Tyranny must be opposed at the start.

Autocracy, once secured in the saddle, is difficult to dislodge.

If you believe that America is entering the war "to make democracy safe," then be a man and volunteer.

But if you know anything at all, then you should know that the cry of democracy is a lie and a snare for the unthinking. You should know that a republic is not synonymous with democracy, and that America has never been a real democracy, but that it is the vilest plutocracy on the face of the globe.

If you can see, hear, feel, and think, you should know that King
Dollar rules the United States, and that the workers are robbed and exploited in this country to the heart's content of the masters.

If you are not deaf, dumb, and blind, then you know that the American bourgeois democracy and capitalistic civilisation are the worst enemies of labour and progress, and that instead of protecting them, you should help to fight to destroy them.

If you know this, you must also know that the workers of America have no enemy in the toilers of other countries. Indeed, the workers of Germany suffer as much from their exploiters and rulers as do the masses of America.

You should know that the interests of Labour are identical in all countries. Their cause is international.

Then why should they slaughter each other?

The workers of Germany have been misled by their rulers into donning the uniform and turning murders.

So have the workers of France, of Italy, and England been misled.

But why should you, men of America, allow yourselves to be misled into murder or into being murdered?
If your blood must be shed, let it be in defence of your own interests, in the war of the workers against their despoilers, in the cause of real liberty and independence.

By Alexander Berkman

ALLIES - The fairies of Democracy.
BARBARIANS - The other fellows.
CONGRESS - The valet of Woodrow the First.
CENSORSHIP - The rape of Free Speech.
CONSCRIPTION - Free men fighting against their will.
DEMOCRACY - The voice of the Gallery Gods.
FREE SPEECH - Say what you please, but keep your mouth shut.
HUNS - Loyal patriots from Central Europe.
HUMANITY - Treason to government.
JUSTICE - Successful target shooting.
KAISER - A President's ambition.
LIBERTY BOND - A bone from a bonehead.
LIBERTY LOAN - The bread line of the Unborn.
LOYAL CITIZEN - Deaf, dumb, and blind.
MILITARISM - Christianity in action.
PATRIOTISM - Hating your neighbour.
REGISTRATION - Funeral march of Liberty.
SEDITION - The proof of Tyranny.
SLACKER - Jesus Christ.
TRENCHES - Digging your own grave.
UN-AMERICAN - Independent opinion.
UNIFORM - Government strait-jacket.
VICTORY - Ten million dead.
WAR - The propaganda of Democracy.

Which is the braver? The man who falls in line with the great majority or he that faces the wrath of millions for conscience sake?

Do not confound us with the pacifists. We believe in fighting.

Aye, we have been fighting all our lives - fighting injustice, oppression, and tyranny. Almost single handed at that.

We are not pacifists. But we want to know what we are fighting for, and we refuse to fight for the enemies and the exploiters of humanity.

Alexander Berkman



PRISONERS in Uruguay - including anarchist activists - desperately need international solidarity.

Following a major prison mutiny the authorities are exacting revenge, torturing and beating inmates. 3 prisoners are dead, reportedly killed by guards.

The mutiny broke out on 1 March in Montevideo. Inmates rebelled against brutality and appalling conditions, taking over and largely destroying the inaptly named 'Liberty' jail.

The prisoners held 10 guards hostage, to ensure that the police did not attack and kill them all. The guards were later released unharmed.

Inmates' relatives demonstrated outside the jail, publicising the prisoners' demands concerning overcrowding, maltreatment of prisoners by the guards, a lack of medical services, etc. While the prison was encircled by army tanks and military helicopters clattered overhead, the prisoners courageously held out.

They negotiated to end the siege: the authorities agreeing that there would be no reprisals against any prisoners and that all would be transferred to other jails.

Some prisoners were transferred. But the hundreds kept in the Libertad prison have been subjected to torture and beatings.

Three prisoners have died. The authorities' claims that they committed suicide or were killed by other prisoners are not believed by inmates' relatives who suspect murder by the guards.

The authorities are searching for scapegoats for the rebellion, thus there is particular concern for 2 young anarchist prisoners, the brothers Gerardo and Miguel Jimenez, currently in Tablada prison.

Family members on the outside have been on hunger strike, as they fear for the brothers' lives. Gerardo and Miguel, of Swedish nationality, have been unjustly imprisoned for the last 3 years, for political reasons.

Friends and family of the prisoners in Uruguay stress just how important international solidarity is.

To find out more
Anarchist Black Cross, Buenos Aires

Info taken from April/May and May/June issues of Obrera Prisionera, paper of Anarchist Black Cross of Iberian Peninsula: CNA, apdo.5 de Getafe, 28901 Madrid, Spain

Satpal Ram free at last

At 7.00pm on Tuesday 18th June 2002, Satpal Ram walked through the prison gate of HMP Blantyre House, for the last time.

Satpal's conviction has not been quashed and though he is now out on licence, Satpal will continue to fight the conviction, that has kept him in prison since 1987.

Threatened with legal action that continued imprisonment of Satpal was unlawful the Treasury Solicitor for the Home Office threw in the towel last Thursday and said they would release Satpal. All that was needed to free Satpal was two signatures. Lord Woolf, the Lord Chief Justice, put his signature to the paper on Friday. A counter signature from a Home Office Minister, usually the prison minister, was then needed to complete the release papers but at this stage the Home Secretary, David Blunkett, made a personal intervention and was more than reluctant to sign Satpal's release. He should have counter signed the release on Friday but didn't, which meant Satpal had to spend another weekend in prison.

On Monday 17th and on the day of his release, numerous phone calls to Blunkett's office brought no joy, it was becoming clear that despite the advice of his own legal experts, Blunkett was stonewalling the release. Satpal's legal team were advised by the Treasury Solicitor that they stood by their original decision to release Satpal. It was clear that Blunkett who was holding up the release against their advice.

Now Satpal's solicitors, felt there was no option but to go back to court. At 6.00pm on Tuesday evening, Satpal's legal team were on their way to the High Court to apply for an order to release Satpal when David Blunkett conceded defeat and counter signed Satpal's release papers.

Mark Barnsley Released from Whitemoor Prison

Justice for Mark Barnsley Campaign, are overjoyed to announce that miscarriage of justice prisoner Mark Barnsley was finally released from Whitemoor prison on the morning of Monday 24th June 2002.

Mark walked out of maximum securty HMP Whitemoor to loud cheers and applause from waiting supporters. Friends, eager to welcome Mark out of prison had travelled from around the country and included an official delegation from the NUM, complete with their National Union banner.

After spending over 8 years in just about every Maximum security hell-hole the prison system has to offer, Mark is in good spirits and obviously glad to be finally out. Mark and his campaign would like to take tihs opportunity to thank everyone who has supported him during his wrongful imprisonment.

Whilst Mark tries to rebuild his life and adjust to living in the outside world again the Justice for Mark Barnsley campaign will continue to help him get the justice which is long overdue. Mark has been released after serving two thirds of his 12 year prison sentence but he has yet to clear his name and have his wrongful conviction overturned. Prior to his release Mark refused to sign his licence on the principle that he is an innocent man and freedom is his right.

Before Mark was even released, the Police in South Yorkshire tried to intimidate local supporters. In a very obvious attempt to make things even harder for Mark, the place where he was intending to live upon his release was visited by the local Police Intelligence Unit (Special Branch). This sadly resulted in Mark losing his new home before he was even out of prison. Thanks to friends and supporters rallying round though, a local alternative was quickly arranged so that Mark's release could go ahead and he at least has a decent place to stay. This action by the Police is obviously of concern to us and we will continue to closely monitor the situation.

If you have Mark on your mailing lists (magazines and other publications) please change his details to those below. Also if you'd like to contact Mark you can now write to him at:

Mark Barnsley
C/O JfMB, PO BOX 381


Storming Heaven

Storming Heaven by Steve Wright is about the theory and the organisations of the Italian Autonomist movement, especially the evolution of operaismo (workerism) and the group Potere Operaio (Workers' Power). The Autonomist movement came out of the specific conditions of Italy in the seventies, where the recent experience of armed resistance to the Nazi occupation and after, plus very harsh living conditions for working class people during Italy's late industrialisation, meant that social struggle was more intense than anywhere else in Europe (apart from maybe Franco's Spain). The different outbreaks of insurgency were more connected than in other countries and so the squatting movement and the factory occupations for example were mutually supportive in many places. The different revolutionary groups were also more integrated into the workers' movement and less ghettoised and so the theory that they developed is some of the most interesting of those times.

The Italian uprisings of the seventies need to be better known and understood, and this book makes an important contribution, especially as it draws on a lot of original material which has never been translated. This book isn't an introduction to the events of the seventies and to get the most out of it you would need some background.

It would be nice to recommend a good introductory book at this moment but as far as I know there isn't one. A pamphlet to look out for is
Living with an Earthquake but it isn't easy to get. The book doesn't idealise any of the participants and makes fair criticism of all the groups involved but at the same time it is not a detached or dry academic exercise. It comes from a perspective of understanding the Autonomist movement, with all its mistakes, to learn for the next time.


Freedom Fighters: Anarchist Intellectuals, Workers and Soldiers in Portugal's History
Joao Freire
Black Rose Books

This book is a disappointment. It fails as a portrayal of the history of Portuguese anarchism. Rather, it is a snapshot of that movement during its peak (the 1900s to 1930s) and a somewhat unconvincing "sociological analysis" of it, backed up with copious data. Which is a shame, as a book on Portuguese anarchism is sorely needed.

However, saying that, the book does present an often fascinating picture of an anarchist movement which rooted itself in working class life and struggle. Unlike Spain, social-democracy dominated the early labour movement. The anarchists successfully undermined this and by the 1920s the main union federation was anarcho-syndicalist in nature with around 90,000 members enrolled it in. This movement had a healthy interest in theory as well as action, with unions regularly discussing not only day to day issues but also revolutionary goals such as the socialisation of industry. Needless to say, similar discussions took place in the substantial number of anarchist groups and federations that existed. What strikes the reader is that the Portuguese movement got its strength by applying its ideas in practice.

The unions and their struggles were organised in libertarian fashion by mass assemblies and bottom-up federations. The anarchist groups, like the unions, federated from below upwards, organically growing wider and wider as time went on. Both the unions and the anarchist groups spent time creating centres, libraries, schools and other forms of mutual aid.

Sadly, the book is badly translated. While most of the text can be understood, sometimes the more turgid "sociological analysis" can be unreadable. Some editing would not have gone amiss, and not only to correct the poor translation. Moreover, it desperately needs an introductory essay to place the main text in context. For example, while numerous insurrections and strikes are mentioned they are not discussed in detail. This means that critical events such as the 1934 insurrection against the fascist regime are mentioned in passing, with no attempt to discuss what happened. For a book claiming to be a history, such an oversight is astounding.

This lack of historic context makes the author's conclusions seem even more superficial than they already are. As the book ignores the repression of the resistance to fascism, it ends up blaming the decline of anarchist influence on anarchism's inability to "learn from experience." Incredibly, the possibility that the repression after the defeated insurrection of 1934 together with 40 years of fascism may have played a role in this decline is not discussed.

What strikes the reader is that an anarchism that is not rooted in working class life and struggle is doomed to wither and, worse, become theoretically bankrupt. At the peak of its influence, Portuguese anarchism was capable of organising an extensive network of organisations, social projects and class conflicts. By 1987, "anarchists" in Portugal could write that "the 'perfect society' does not exist, fortunately, since it would probably be one of total oppression for the individuals. Therefore we do not believe in any type of 'anarchist society.'" How a once mighty movement had fallen!

This book is for those with the patience to handle the bad translation, who are not seeking a history of Portuguese anarchism but rather want a book which discusses it within its social context. Sadly, anarchism in Portugal still awaits a book to do its struggles justice.


The Spanish Civil War
Antony Beevor

Originally published in 1982, this work has obviously been republished to take advantage of the success of Antony Beevor's later work Stalingrad. It is a good thing that it was. Beevor has produced an exceedingly good, if short, work on the Spanish Civil War.

Unsurprisingly, his account is primarily a military history, but do not let that put you off - he clearly understands the role of the revolution in Spain and how it impacted on the course and nature of the war (and in the conflicts in the Republican side).

Beevor attempts to analyse the Spanish Civil War from three angles: class interest, centralism versus regionalism and authoritarian rule versus libertarian instinct. Unsurprisingly, this means he discusses the anarchist movement (indeed, he places it at the heart of the story). His accounts of anarchism and the social revolution during the war are excellent. For example, he defines anarchism as a "structure of co-operative communities, associating freely" and which "corresponded to deep-rooted traditions of mutual-aid, and the federalist organisation appealed to anti-centralist feelings." He makes clear that the anarchists were the main part of the labour movement as well as their key role in defeating the fascist uprising. He discusses the collectivisations that occurred in a positive light and notes the disastrous effect on the morale of the anti-fascist side when they were undermined and forcibly disbanded. It is nice to see a historian state the obvious as regards the Aragon collectives: "the very fact that every village was a mixture of collectivists and individualists shows that peasants had not been forced into communal farming at the point of a gun." He even mentions and discusses the Mujeres Libres and quotes Malatesta when discussing the anarchist critic of reformism in syndicalism!

From an anarchist perspective, his account of the failings of the Popular Army makes interesting reading. Beevor argues that it was unimaginative in its tactics, with its commanders blindly following instructions even when circumstances on the ground made them inadequate. The army allowed its commanders "little initiative," a dangerous condition when the lines of communication were disrupted by fighting (as was the habit of the commanders lying to their superiors in and after battles to save face). Used to centralised, top-down structures, the communists re-created these in the Popular Army and the results were the exact opposite of the efficiency and success promised.

Ultimately, the Communist and Republican principle of "unified command" and a regular, orthodox (bourgeois) army became a "bureaucratic tourniquet" which was defeated in almost every battle in the war. Indeed, Beevor accounts how its battle plans were usually drawn up simply to gain prestige for the Communist Party.

In this, his account is a useful antidote to those who argue that the militarisation of the militias was a necessary step in winning the war. As history clearly shows, the Popular Army was a disaster. As for the International Brigades, while acknowledging their members courage, he also paints a horrific picture of Communist Party control (which included the shooting of about 500 Brigaders, nearly a tenth of the total killed in the war) and mentions a few rebellions in their ranks.

While the militias were hardly perfect, it is clear from his account that the Popular Army was not a good replacement. Beevor stresses that much of the problem with the militias, as George Orwell also argued, was due to their lack of experience rather than their libertarian nature. Beevor even argues that electing leaders was "not so much a difficulty as a source of strength" as it "inspired mutual confidence." The question was how to federate the militia columns, not to abolish them. This solution, however, was dependent on whether the revolution would be successful.

Beevor gives a fair account of the dilemma facing the CNT after they had put down the coup in Barcelona. The dangers of isolation internally ("Madrid had the gold") and externally (unofficial sanctions by governments and companies) and the fate of their comrades in other parts of Republican Spain obviously played a key role. However, he quotes Garcia Oliver's comments that the alternative was either an "anarchist dictatorship, or democracy which signifies collaboration" without any analysis. Made in 1937, these comments are both historically and logically defective. On July 20th 1936, the CNT leadership decided to not mention libertarian communism until Franco had been defeated, yet his argument, if valid, was as much applicable to a post-Franco Spain as it was on that day. Ultimately, Garcia Oliver argued that representative democracy is more "democratic" than self- managed communes (hardly a valid position, given the authoritarian and repressive nature of any capitalist democracy and the Spanish Republic itself in the 1930s). His argument simply reflected the CNT-FAI leadership's attempts to justify their collaboration with the state rather than a coherent and accurate argument.

Of course Beevor's work has its weaknesses. His account of the decisive CNT plenum on July 20th, as noted, is one. Similarly, his account of the uprising and suppression at Casas Viejas is wrong, relying as it does on accounts disproved by Jerome R. Mintz in his The Anarchists of Casas Viejas. Similarly, his account of the conflict between the radical anarchists and the treintistas is somewhat confused chronologically, but at least he does not paint the usual picture of the FAI seizing control of the CNT by conspiratorial methods. He does suggest that the FAI advocated sudden and fragmented uprisings while, in fact, most of the early uprisings were spontaneous and the later ones co-ordinated by the CNT itself (his account of Casas Viejas fits into this false picture of FAI activities). Ultimately, it would have been nice for the work to be referenced more completely, allowing the reader to investigate for themselves aspects of the Spanish Civil War and Revolution that Beevor discusses in too short a space!

However, be that as it may, Beevor's account is to be recommended. His account of the first days of the revolution, when workers armed themselves when the government refused, is excellent. His summary of the collectivisations is positive. The role of the allied governments and foreign capitalists in stabbing the Republican government in the back is clearly shown. He even discusses the post-war resistance against Franco and the part played by Spaniards in the French resistance.

All in all, an informative and interesting read.


Fast Food Nation
Eric Schlosser
Allen Lane
The Penguin Press

This is an excellent book, crammed full of useful (and disgusting) "McNuggets" of information on the whole process of producing "fast food." From the industrialisation of farming, to the monopolisation of food processing, to the standardisation of food consumption throughout whole sections of North America, Schlosser's book exposes the horrors of modern corporate capitalism. He documents the impact of the rise of fast food on almost all aspects of North America, from farming to health, from working practices to landscape, and beyond.

Like the "fast food" economy he dissects, Schlosser's work is far ranging, covering such notable scum bags as Walt Disney (whose father, ironically, was a socialist) and Ray Kroc (the man responsible for making McDonalds what it is now). Schlosser, to his credit, fills his book with interviews with workers involved in every stage of the "fast food" process, including independent farmers and those opposed to corporations advertising in schools and providing teaching materials. He brings a refreshingly human look at an industry that denies in practice individuality and humanity.

The vision of a "fast food" world is truly horrific. It is a world where even the smell and taste of food is mass produced. Standardised food for a standardised society. As he memorably notes, "Millions of... people at that very moment were standing at the same counter, ordering the same food from the same menu, food that tasted everywhere the same." The true banality of capitalism is exposed in all its multitude of ramifications in Schlosser's book. The Orwellian world of modern corporate capitalism is seen in all its "glory." A world in which the industry group formed to combat Occupational Safety and Health Administration regulation is called "Alliance for Workplace Safety" and where the processed food's taste has to have the correct "mouthfeel."

It is a world where corporations feed at the public trough and then praise the free market, where firms grow huge and exercise monopolistic power while talking about competition, where executives talk about "the very essence of freedom" and yet their corporation's "first commandant is that only production counts... The employee's duty is to follow orders. Period." For all its talk of liberty, the essence of capitalism is wage slavery, and its most odorous aspects are well documented here.

Fast Food Nation discusses the corporations' perspective on independent farms, opposing any attempt to form co-operatives or associations to improve their bargaining position in the market. As one executive put it, "Our relationship with our growers is a one-on-one contractual relationship" and they "want to see that it remains that way." As with the industrial workforce, the talk of "teamwork" just hides the reality of corporate power - the liberty of doing what you are told, under conditions specified by the powerful. Under such pressure, America's independent farmers are being replaced by industrial farms.

Schlosser places the birth of the "fast food" industry within the
1950s love affair with "progress." Technology would solve all our problems, even the ones it generates itself. The irrationalities here can easily be seen. For example, faced with the serious health problems generated by the industrialisation of meat processing, the meatpacking industry advocated yet more technology to "solve" the problems caused by the existing technology. Rather than focusing on the primary causes of meat contamination, they proposed irradiating food. Of course the firms involved want to replace the word "irradiation" with the phrase "cold pasteurisation"!

Much of what happens today is justified in terms of "progress." Progress is, we are assured, "neutral." As if! Capitalism is a class society, marked by exploitation, oppression and social hierarchies. As such, change within it will reflect the various class conflicts, social hierarchies, power relationships and so on which exist within it as well as the rationales of the economic system (e.g. the drive for profits). Therefore progress can hardly be neutral. This is particularly true of the economy. The development of the industrial structure of a capitalist economy will be based on the fundamental need to maximise the profits and power of the capitalists. It does not follow that because a society which places profits above people has found a specific way of organising production "efficiently", a socialist society will do the same. Anarchists have long been aware that capitalist methods are precisely that and that they may not suit a society which replaces the profit system with human and ecological need as the criteria for decision making. Reading Fast Food Nation brings home this anarchist perspective and provides some modern and well researched documentation to support it. We must never forget that capitalism twists progress in its own imagination.

Fast Food Nation also brings home how alienated the West is from its food. Food production has become increasingly industrialised and concentrated into fewer and fewer big firms. It also raises some important questions for revolutionaries. Clearly, the Leninist idea that socialism simply involves nationalising big business is a fallacy.

If a future society is seem in terms of nationalising McDonalds and appropriating the "efficient" mass production generated within capitalism, not only will it not work, it will not inspire anyone to fight for it.

The logical conclusion of the Leninist vision in terms of food production would be highly centralised and extremely fragile to outside shocks. The disruption of "normalcy" experienced in most revolutions would quickly mean the disruption of such an industrialised food production and distribution system. This reinforces Kropotkin's arguments in Conquest of Bread on the importance of decentralising production during a revolution. Not only would this ensure the feeding of a rebellion, it would also be the first step in creating a method of producing food which was in harmony with nature and encouraged diversity in both production and in the final meal (as the French say, "Non a McMerde").

The book has its weaknesses. Like most of the so-called "anti- capitalist" authors how being published by capitalist firms to profit from the current wave of global mass protest, Schlosser nor his proposed solutions are in any way anti-capitalist. While presenting a searing indictment of US capitalism, his vision of the future is simply US capitalism infused with a European social-democratic sensibility. Needless to say, he is not opposed to wage labour. Indeed, he holds up family owned businesses which treat their workers paternalistically as an alternative to corporate capitalism. There is not even a mention of co-operatives which would, at least, be a step forward. Schlosser's vision of a nice capitalist is identical to that of Tolstoy's kind donkey owner who will do everything for the donkey except get off its back.

Similarly, his suggested European-style America is totally compatible with capitalism. While correctly acknowledging (in fact basing his suggestions on) the corporate control over the political structure, he raises the spectre of consumer power as the means of achieving his goals. As he puts it, corporations will "sell free-range, organic, grass-fed hamburgers if you demand it. They will sell whatever sells at a profit." Which, of course, is true. It is equally true that we are not forced to buy fast food, which is why companies spend so much in convincing us to buy their products. Even ignoring the influence of advertising, it is unlikely that using the market will make capitalism nicer. Sadly, the market rewards the anti-social activities that Schlosser chronicles in his book. As he himself notes, "The low price of a fast food hamburger does not reflect its real cost... The profits of the fast food chains have been made possible by the losses imposed on the rest of society." The idea that by using the market we can "reform" capitalism is flawed simply because even "good" companies have to make a profit (i.e. will exploit workers' labour) and so will be tempted to cut costs, inflict them on third parties in the form of pollution, and so on. Ultimately, the price mechanism does not provide enough information for the customer to make an informed decision about the impact of their purchase and, by reducing prices, actively rewards the behaviour Schlosser condemns.

Rather than see change as resulting from collective struggle, Schlosser sees it in terms of individual decisions within the market place. As such, it does not break from the logic of capitalism and so is doomed to failure. After all, what is now "organic" production was just the normal means of doing it. The pressures of the market, the price mechanism he suggests as the tool for change, ensured the industrialisation of farming he so clearly condemns. Ultimately, we must never forget that the unfeeling corporate capitalism Schlosser exposes so well, sprung from the family owned, small-scale industry he holds up as an alternative. Indeed, one of his examples of paternalist capitalism broke apart in the 1970s under the pressure of class struggle and competitive pressures from less "ethical" capitalists.

This, in itself, shows the weakness of his means of change. Capitalism has a dynamic nature that propels it in certain directions, namely towards big business. Only when faced with a greater danger (namely a mass popular movement which could go further than the politicians suggest), will capitalists submit to state regulation. And as the 1960s and 70s show, this submission will not last long.

This is not to suggest that individual decisions on what to consume are irrelevant, far from it. Nor are consumer boycotts a waste of time. If organised into mass movements and linked to workplace struggle they can be very effective. This is the main failure in Fast Food Nation. It fails to appreciate the importance of working class struggle and organisation (forming unions is mentioned in passing, for example).

As the book makes clear, much of the drive behind the way the fast food industry has developed has been fuelled by fear of labour. Like the food they produce, the "fast food" corporations want workers that are standardised, uniform, easy to define and replace. No training is the goal in this industry and de-skilling the means. Applying Taylorist ideology developed in mass production, the skills of workers are transferred as far as possible into the hands of management and into machinery. In this way anyone can replaced, making workplace organising and action more difficult. Schlosser presents extensive evidence of machinery designed to reduce the power of labour, industries moved to crush unions and, of course, the anti-union perspectives of the "fast food" giants. Needless to say, this fear of labour is well-founded as profits are unpaid labour extracted by management's power over workers, whose acts of resistance can bring the whole thing crashing down.

It is here we must look for a real solution to the problems generated by capitalism, not in "green" consumerism. Equally, we must also be aware that the new world we are struggling for must not just aim to take over, without modification, the existing industrial structure. While the expropriation of capital is a necessary step in the social revolution, it is not the end. As Fast Food Nation shows, an alienated society has created an alienated means of feeding itself. Such a system will have to be transformed from top to bottom by those who live and work in it into one fit for human beings to live in.


Workers Against Lenin:
Labour Protest and the Bolshevik Dictatorship
Jonathan Aves
Tauris Academic Studies
I.B. Tauris Publishers

Published in 1996 by an academic publishers, Aves book is essential reading for anyone interested in the outcome of the Russian Revolution.

For decades Trotskyists have been arguing that the Russian working class had been decimated during the Civil War period and was incapable of collective decision making and organisation, so necessitating Bolshevik Party dictatorship over them. Workers Against Lenin provides extensive evidence to refute those claims.

In his work Aves provides an extremely well researched and readable account of labour protests during the period of 1920 to 1922. Rather than the Trotskyist claim of a 'non existent' working class, workers under Lenin were more than capable of collective action and organisation. Perhaps it is because this struggle was directed against the Bolsheviks that explains this blind spot? In this they simply follow Lenin: "As discontent amongst workers became more and more difficult to ignore, Lenin... began to argue that... workers had become 'declassed.'"

The most famous expression of collective workers struggle during this period was, of course, the general strike in Petrograd which set off the Kronstadt revolt. Due to Kronstadt, this strike wave is often downplayed or even ignored but, in fact, general strikes or very widespread unrest took place nation-wide. Faced with this mass wave of protest, the Bolsheviks used a combination of concessions (on the economic demands raised, not the political ones like free soviet elections, freedom of speech and organisation for workers) and repression. They also called it the "yolynka" (which means "go slow") rather than a strike movement to hide its real nature and size.

This was hardly an isolated event. Strike action, Aves notes, "remained endemic in the first nine months of 1920" as well. In Petrograd province, 85,642 people were involved in strikes, which is a high figure indeed as, according to one set of figures, there were only 109,100 workers there at the time! Rather than this being an isolated and atomised working class, what comes through clearly from Aves' work is that the workers, usually drawing on pre-1918 experiences and modes of struggle, could and did take collective action and decisions in the face of state repression.

As the Bolsheviks clamped down on all independent working class activity and organisation, it is hardly surprising that the workers became marginal to the revolution. Moreover, it was during this period that the Bolsheviks raised the dictatorship of the party to both a practical and ideological truism. Given workers opposition to the Bolsheviks, this was the only way they could remain in power. This implies that a key factor in rise of Stalinism was political – the simple fact that the workers would not vote Bolshevik in free soviet and union elections and so they were not allowed to. As one Soviet historian put it in his account of the "yolynka," "taking the account of the mood of the workers, the demand for free elections to the soviets meant the implementation in practice of the infamous slogan of soviets without communists."

This review cannot hope to cover all the important information contained in this book. Aves' discussion on the intensification of war communism and Trotsky's "militarisation of labour" is excellent, placing it in the period of peace at the beginning of 1920 and noting its ideological basis. Also of interest is his account of the "mini-Kronstadt" in the Ukrainian town of Ekaterinoslavl in June 1921, where workers raised resolutions very similar to those raised at Kronstadt, including the demand for "free soviets" popularised by the Makhnovists.

Simply put, it’s hard to claim that the Russian working class had "ceased to exist in any meaningful sense" in such circumstances. As such, Workers Against Lenin helps to undermine the various forms of the Bolshevik myth and, as such, is a key resource for studying the Russian Revolution. Being an academic book, it is expensive and will need to be ordered from a bookshop or a library. However, the wealth of information contained in it, the social context in which it places protest and developments in Bolshevik policies and ideas, make it a must-read for all people who want a revolution to be more than changing who the boss is.


Direct Action, memoirs of an urban guerrilla
Ann Hansen
Between the Lines / AK Press

This quite a stressful book to read, despite the fact that we know how the story ends. Living 'underground' means a constant stream of crimes - from shoplifting for food, stealing cars for transport as well as the 'actions' themselves - any of which could have meant disaster.

The focus is exclusively on the active period when Direct Action where making things go bang in Canada: part of an electricity megaproject, a cruise missile component factory and (as the Wimmins Fire Brigade) a series of outlets for violent pornography. The people involved definitely didn't want to carry out purely symbolic actions: as Hansen herself has said "the bomb we used at Litton building [where cruise missile components were built] was too big..."

'Damn, Ann Hansen can write!' says one of the reviewers, and it's true; however, as well as a straight first person account you also get a 'reconstruction' of what the 'forces of law and order' were up to - which is just as fascinating. Part of the quality of this book is its personal nature - the dynamics of the individuals are scrutinised as clearly as the political context of the times. This makes you wonder at times how these events would look through the eyes of the other people involved, but that's inevitable with a book which steers clear of empty phrases - either celebratory or repentant - which it could have been written in. This book gives some 'pitfalls to avoid' kind of hints: getting arrested for shoplifting, not taking notice when you're obviously under surveillance etc. but more than that it raises some interesting tactical questions. A non-symbolic approach to blowing things up marks you out as serious - and also inevitably increases the scale and urgency of the state response. How can 'the underground' and 'the movement' safely talk to each other? That connection – different methods, similar ends - is something that is vital in current discussion of tactics.

The big question which many will ask (and not only the dyed-in-the- wool non-resisters) is 'was it worth it?' Does defeat equal failure? Few political activities produced immediate and lasting results on their own; guerrilla activities are no exception - they are merely another part of the struggle, and the more closely connected they are to that struggle, the more effective they'll be. In an interview about the book, Hansen has said she would like to see a discussion of "going beyond legal protest" and that she wants to "inspire more militancy, not less". Overall the book gives a good guide to the potential and dangers of underground activity: a worthy companion to Baumann's 'How it all began'.


The end of confrontation: A step back

The campaign "Against the Europe of the Capital" was a network of activist groups, indymedia, and actions against the European summits in Spain during the Spanish presidency of the EU from January to June 2002. The most important summits were Barcelona, Madrid and Sevilla.

However the campaign appears to have been a step back for the anti-capitalist movement after Prague and Genoa. Reformism, a lack of direct action, failure to use blockades and a lot of police were some reasons for this retreat.

Defeat in Spain

Barcelona saw a record 500,000 demonstrators, Madrid and Seville were not bad, with around 150,000 people. But these demonstrations consisted in the main of a short walk, a civic protest, a far cry from anything approaching direct action, blockades or even a tantrum.

It was easy for the mainstream media to portray a picture of responsible citizens asking for a bigger piece of cake, and to hide the real confrontations that happened (in Barcelona). After Barcelona, the official media's satisfaction with the anti-summit protests was evident and when the media are pleased, this should ring alarm bells for us.

A few months later, in Seville, even a sub-delegate of the government said that the demonstration was successful. The state got what they wanted from the media - coverage of the official summits, and a few pages set aside for their friends in the social forums - the existence of any dissident movement was ignored.

In the battlefield, fear triumphed. Media manipulation against the black bloc resulted in some demonstrators, mostly the organisers of the social forums, forming a second police force with their own security bodies. In Seville, some demonstrators said that they were scared of the hooded black shadows moving in the demonstrations, but what about the blue gorilla aiming rubber bullets at our heads?

The repression against the dissident activists was brutal, before and during the summits. In Seville, the numbers of secret police, the infiltrations, the hounding of the social centres, the physical and psychological aggression, the provocateurs, and the constant police control made things very hard work for the activists.

What happened to confrontation?

There was little or no confrontation in the anti-summit actions. The anti-black bloc hysteria made it impossible for the rioters in Barcelona be close to the other demonstrations. The black bloc action, so called "Mars Attack: Los ricos tambien lloran", had pretty big support, but they made the tactical error of advertising the action and the police had no problem splitting the bloc up and making arrests. On the another hand, in Madrid and Seville, direct action had very little support, the tiny number of activists and the big number of police made it impossible to do anything interesting.

The lack of interest in direct action during these events is no mystery. The social forums' leadership consists mostly of reformist organisations, who misrepresent the movement in the mainstream media, and attract the masses because there is little other choice in Spain.

Confrontation is not on the agenda of groups that collaborate openly with the system (from the big unions to Oxfam, Attac or the institutional left parties). In fact their traditional vision of political action is a peaceful demonstration, walk around and a photoshoot in front of an institutional building.

On the another hand there aren't any organisations or movements in Spain trying to form new theories or protest strategies as there were during previous anti-summit demonstrations in other countries. The small anti-capitalist groups (anarchist and Leninist) and the anarcho-syndicalist or anti-capitalist unions (SOC, CGT or CNT) have their own and old ways of fighting, and most of them are not really interested in the movement.

Finally, there was a lack of interest from groups outside of Spain to help organise blockades etc. It felt as if, after Barcelona, anti-capitalist groups lost interest in fighting the summits. In Madrid the dissident block had to split because they weren't strong enough to carry out their action, in Seville the anarchist co-ordination was isolated, marginalised and completely surrounded by the police.


Maybe the time for big anti-summit demos is over. Capital spoke very clearly in Genoa, they're not going to let us continue. This is probably a good time to look for new ways of fighting, using our experience of the past couple of years. The anti-summit demos are turning into advertising campaigns for political parties, NGOs and political sects. It’s probably not worth fighting the reformists for a strategy that is already finished. It is time to look for new ways and alternatives.


BlackFlag222.pdf15.06 MB

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Aug 21 2018 12:47



Black Flag magazine

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Feb 8 2021 16:16

The PDF I have added isn't brilliant (bit blurry in places and has inkstains and underlining) but will do for now until another one can be had.