Whose streets? Our streets! An introduction to anarchism - AYN leaflet

An introductory leaflet to anarchism, capitalism and direct action by the Anarchist Youth Network in 2002. The authors no longer think the leaflet is good, but it is reproduced here for reference.

Submitted by Steven. on January 3, 2007

What is Capitalism?
We live in a truly beautiful world. There is easily enough of everything to go around for everyone to live comfortably. However, while the rich live in luxury, most of us spend our whole lives slaving away just to get by. The ruling class owns everything, controls government and the world's wealth and resources. We, the working class, however, have fuck all. We own nothing and so can only do one of three things: Work, claim benefits or steal. Many of us get sent down in our attempts to make ends meet by any means necessary.

This is what capitalism is based on: we have to sell our ability to work (and hours of our life) for a wage. Our work produces things and provides services. BUT our wages are less than the value of the products and services we provide. The difference between the value of what we make and what we get paid is the profit which is being stolen from us. Someone answering phones does £400 of work a day but only gets paid £50. The rest is taken by the boss and called "profit" - which the boss reckons they should be entitled to just because they own the office the phones were answered in! So to make money, you must first have enough money to own something. By this system, the rich get richer and more powerful while we get poorer and of course, less powerful.

We think that the people doing the work - us - should get the lot!

Capitalism produces things for profit rather than need. For example in famine-ridden Africa, big corporations will grow cash crops like cotton while millions starve all around. If you can't pay for the bus, get the fuck off it. If you need an operation, you can wait six months on NHS (while it lasts!) but if you've got money, you can go private and get whatever you want, whenever you want. This happens all over the world. Those with money get what they want and those without get nothing. This is not a problem with capitalism that needs fixing, this IS capitalism! War, poverty, crime, famine and environmental destruction: these are all signs that capitalism is working perfectly. They are also signs that it is unsustainable and must be destroyed and replaced.

What do we want to replace it with?
We don't want to replace one set of ruling class scumbags with another like in the USSR. We want to destroy government and rich peoples' privileges. We want to get rid of the control that police, government and bosses have over our everyday lives. We want workers to control their own workplaces and see ordinary people run the world together without money, hierarchies or authority. This is what we call 'Anarchy'.

This all sounds very far fetched but actually, it's more realistic then you think. Think about who actually does the important work in society i.e. people who produce goods or services. We do! We know exactly how to run workplaces and farms and whatever else because it's us who do it everyday.

All the bosses do is get in the way and take a fat chunk of the profit. Now think about how much less work we would have to do if all the people who do pointless work i.e. accountants, stockbrokers, soldiers, coppers etc. did useful work. We would have more time to do what we really wanted to do and truly live out our dreams and desires. We would be happier and more willing to help others because we wouldn't be wasting most of our waking lives either commuting, working in boring, pointless jobs or preparing ourselves to be "good", "productive" workers in schools or universities.

Ask yourself: This week, how much time have I spent with the people I love? Now ask: How much time have I spent at work?

Everything we would create would be for our benefit and so we would be more willing to work hard. A perfect example of this is during the Spanish Revolution, when the factories in Anarchist (i.e. self-organised workers') controlled territories were far more efficient than the factories had been while under capitalist control (see pic below). And in Argentina today, workers in the Zanon ceramics factory kicked out their boss and began running it themselves: now they all work two days a month for the same pay!! (The picture at the top on the front of this leaflet is of a people's assembly in Buenos Aires.) The idea that we need a central 'leading' group or individual otherwise nothing would get done is ridiculous. The idea that we work harder when we've got someone breathing down our necks, taking the profit of our work and telling us what to do makes no sense when you look at it more deeply.

At a big corporate conference, one of the speakers asked why workers, after sweating blood for 8 hours a day, come home and work in the house or garden. The answer is simple. Because we want to. At work, we know we won't benefit from working harder and as soon as the boss turns the corner, of course we'll skive. Why should we work hard for someone who spends their time spying on us and ordering us about (not to mention that most of our work goes into their pockets)?

In the garden or the home, we do what we want, when we want, for our own benefit and so will work harder for ourselves than some money hungry boss who's controlling us.

Things like this, from everyday, present life, are examples of Anarchy in practice and, more importantly, in practice by ordinary people just getting along with everyday life. Things like this show that a world free from the authority of government, police and hierarchy is possible. Things like this show that Anarchy is possible.

How do we want to get there?

All this sounds good and it is hard to believe that anyone would oppose it. However, there are many. The ruling class will not give up their power and privilege just because they think that it is unfair that they've got power and privilege. Their power must be taken from them by force. However, although we out-number them by millions across the country (and by billions across the world) they have the police to beat us up, the prisons to lock us up, the military to shoot us, the schools and the corporate media to fool us and all other institutions used to keep us soft and obedient. This is why we need a revolution. Firstly, of ideas. We must stop thinking like slaves. We must stop believing in their system. Why should we obey their laws that protects their property and their privileges? We must start seeing each other as equals and seek to unite our class, which they have successfully divided with racism, sexism and all sorts of stupid prejudices throughout the centuries.

However, changing our ideas is not enough. Capitalism must be fought in the streets. Our streets. Police must be kicked off housing estates and their informers can follow them. Offices, factories and land must be taken over by those who work on them and the bosses can see how far they get without us! We've done it before and we can do it again. We just need to realise our collective class strength.

What should I do now?
Organise. Get together with like-minded people in your community and start a group to build solidarity in your neighbourhood and learn to live without cops, council or DSS bureaucrats, landlords or other assorted government and big business representatives who work together to keep us in our place. If your landlord tries to up your rent, organise with other tenants and refuse to pay. Unite with your co-workers to demand better pay and conditions and if your bosses refuse: take collective action such as slowdowns and strikes to force them to give in. If your union won't back you, take action anyway. Get together with other workers and sack your boss! Link up with other people in your school, college or University and force changes, stop expulsions and if one of your teachers is on a power trip, take action to make them stop.

Whatever you do, make sure you do something. The most important thing you can be is active. Capitalism will not just go away, it is going to take the direct action of ordinary working class people to destroy it and bring about a fairer, freer society.

Collective action of working people and their families in this country stopped Maggie Thatcher's Poll Tax in 1991. We can get anything if we work together.

So let's be realistic - let's demand the impossible!

Interested in finding out more?
Come to the annual Anarchist Bookfair! Once a year thousands of people come to central London for a day of discussion, meetings, drinking and learning. See www.anarchistbookfair.org for details of the next one.

Fed up with the one-sided mainstream media? Read Britain's fortnightly anarchist newspaper, Freedom, Anarchist News and Views. For a free sample, check out www.freedompress.org.uk or write to them at Freedom Press, 84b Whitechapel High St, London E1 7QX. For one year's subscription send a cheque for £14 (£10 for claimants) payable to Freedom Press. Freedom also stock a wide range of books, pamphlets and other merchandise available via mail order - see their website for more info. Also see www.indymedia.org.uk

Anarchist Youth Network: Britain & Ireland
[The "get involved with AYN blurb" is lost, but it had our contact details and a list of some local groups]