Author: razoconnor

Musician, writer and activist, based in Bristol, England

Capitalism and the Racist Violence at Morocco’s Borders – A Personal Reflection by a Former Insurrectionist

Deep in my heart I want to help find a solution to the problem of the suffering of Black African migrants in Morocco: the violence in the forests, the deaths at sea, the systematic racial discrimination. I do not believe that a typical ‘Anarchist-type’ migrant solidarity strategy of a small affinity group or network of activists starting a ‘direct action campaign’ combined with support for migrants’ own self-managed solutions to their humanitarian problems will ever be enough to change the situation.

It is clear that a much larger and more politically significant solidarity movement would be needed to achieve structural change in the right direction, which must involve lots of publicity of the situation. But I do not believe that simply pointing out that these human rights abuses are going on is enough to build such a movement because ultimately not enough people in Europe are ever going to care about the struggles of African migrants to become politically mobilised, simply out of altruistic sentiment.

I have believed from the beginning of my involvement with this cause that we need to be able to show how the border regime in Morocco is part of a global structure of oppression. The struggle of the African migrants in Morocco must be linked to the struggle of the European and transnational working classes generally, so that European and other workers see the liberation of African migrants as bound up with their own.

To understand how to make these links clear we need to stare the horrific reality of the mechanics of this global system directly in the face, without being too blinded by moral outrage to actually learn how to help the situation. This is the trap I fell into when I studied my undergraduate degree, and ended up dropping out of bourgeois society altogether for a few years as I was so disgusted with what I had found out about it’s basis in the exploitation of Labour and the deliberate underdevelopment of the poorest countries in the world.

Before my degree I had wanted to be a Development Aid worker of some kind, which is why I studied an undergraduate degree in International Relations and Development Studies at the University of Sussex. However, I was strongly converted to Marxist and Anarchist ways of thinking during my time at University and participated actively in anti-capitalist grassroots activist groups for several years.

I began to realise – thanks to my professors at Sussex University and the many knowledgeable activists I met through my political activities – that poverty in the world, oppression and environmental problems were extremely unlikely to be adequately dealt with by NGOs and government agencies promoting development under the current paradigm of thinking about development in official circles.

The neoliberal paradigm fails to recognise the inherent contradictions of capitalism and blindly assumes that free trade policies will lead to development more than actual organised state intervention to deal with the root causes of poverty. This must involve the ruling classes of Western Imperialist countries, along with their allies in ‘comprador’ bourgeoisies of ‘peripheral’ countries, paying formal compensation for the historical brutality of primitive accumulation through dispossession, forced labour and extreme repressive violence to enforced racial barriers.

Free trade policies actually stop underdeveloped countries from developing: all successful development strategies by governments, even the ‘Core’ European and American ones, occurred under protectionist and state interventionist regimes. The countries that are already developed, and which depend on sucking wealth out of poorer countries, force those poorer countries not to follow successful development strategies, through World Bank loans, IMF structural adjustment programs and World Trade organisation rules against tariffs.

Then richer countries form protectionist blocs like the EU anyway, getting around the WTO rules, and keeping the poorer countries from developing that way as well. The only chance many working class families in peripheral countries have of improving their material standards of living is to send some of their children to risk their lives, health and liberty crossing deserts, seas and border fences in the hope of reaching a core or semi peripheral country where the wage rate, even for undocumented workers, is higher than in the formal economy of their home countries.

Even this last ditch attempt and wealth redistribution is rejected by the ruling classes of core countries, with the active complicity of those in the semi-peripheral, in the form of police violence against undocumented migrants and people who just look like they might be undocumented migrants due to racial stereotyping and profiling on the part of police officers and border guards, who are free to commit murder and excessive violence with impunity.

I formed the opinion that I did not want to work for any government development agency, the World Bank, or any large NGO that had ties to transnational corporations. This was not to say that I believed all on-the-ground projects run by these organisations were not genuinely saving lives and providing much needed services for the global poor. But I became convinced early in my studies of Development issues of the validity of Amartya Sen’s theory outlined in his book “Development as Freedom” and so only considered those projects valid which had a focus on empowering the poor, not merely giving them handouts.

I knew that there were many grassroots and small scale NGOs, some of which would occasionally receive grants from governments, corporate sponsorship or the World Bank, and which were doing things to genuinely empower poor people, but I did not know how to go about getting a job at such an organisation. For me to want to work for any kind of development agency it would have to essentially be prepared to have an occasionally conflictual relationship with the powers that be and not be beholden to them by financial ties. I knew that to find such a job would take a long time and a lot of effort, and I had become so disillusioned that I no longer felt able to even try.

What I learnt about the capitalist world system made me simply want to run away from it, by travelling, living in squats, busking on the streets, shoplifting, eating food from bins, and getting into debt with no plan of paying it back. I spent so much time avoiding work that it was more effort and hardship than actually just getting a job, but I felt somehow I was making a moral stand by refusing to participate in the system I hated.

This moral stand was in contradiction to another moral principle I wanted to follow which was to spend my life actually doing something to make the world a better place, and I increasingly found that having no money did not help me with this. I started to feel that really I was just sponging off the labour of other people, even just by living off their waste and small change, and when I tried to involve myself in progressive causes I often found that the chaos of my personal life prevented my from really being much use.

I could try and be nice and share things with my fellow squatters and random people I met, but could not do anything to help those less fortunate than myself, even though I tried, for example by living in Calais, France for a month trying to be part of an extreme migrant solidarity group while also having hardly any money, and it was too intense to be sustainable. Other people I knew who tried to combine the money-free lifestyle with extreme direct action and solidarity activism ruined their mental health considerably, as did I to some extent. We learned the hard way that we could not fight to change the system from the outside.

This was a horrible and existentially challenging realisation to me as it had been a desire to pursue a life based on working for global justice that had lead me to learn the awful truths about capitalism that led me to want to drop out from it in the first place. In my wilder nihilistic moments, I fantasied that we could perhaps square the circle of not being able to change the system from the outside if we could simply destroy the system from the outside, and indeed many books and magazines I read in my early twenties advocated this.  It is clear to me now that this was nothing more than a dark fantasy that only lead to tragedy or farce when people did act on these instincts, in the case of the Anarchist Insurrectionists, whom I once sympathised with.

It was in the darkest depths of this period in my life when I first went to Morocco. When I arrived there I had been living outdoors for over seven months. I left the long term squat I had been living in in Brighton on the 22nd of December 2011, having lived there for four months which had been longer than I had lived in any squat before. Most of the squats in Brighton I lived in during the 2 years before that had only lasted a few weeks at the most, some only a matter of hours before police or other hired thugs kicked us out.

Finally having a few months of stability perhaps made me realised I had been living that crazy life of constant evictions for too long, all in the hope of finding a long term rent free house in Brighton, and just at the moment I finally had it, I decided to throw it away and leap into even more chaos.

I left the UK altogether and went to live in a treehouse in a protest site in France called La Zad in Notre Dame des Landes outside of Nantes. I lived there through the depths of winter, collecting and chopping firewood every day, living off food from local supermarket bins which were bountiful, and some money that my family had given me for Christmas.

I should stress during all these stories that may sound like I was going through hardship that it was entirely my own choice to live that way. I am the eldest son of an upper-middle class family from North London with parents that have always been prepared to bail me out of trouble I have gotten myself into by giving me money from time to time. I always felt guilty about accepting this money as it reminded me that no matter how much I could try to avoid being part of the system, I was always going to me in a privileged position within it. So I tried to pretend my parents help wasn’t always there for me and that I could just survive on my own without them, or a job, or anything except my guitar and my wits, and every time my stupid choices and failure to plan ahead meant that I found myself in need of help, I would call them.

But I did not ask them for any money in between Christmas 2011 and when I went to Morocco in June 2012, simply out of this arrogant refusal to accept reality. When my Christmas money ran out in the Zad, I hit the road to attempt to hitchhike to Portugal with nothing by my guitar, accompanied by another crazy hippy I barely knew who only had a couple of root vegetables with him and a typewriter which he would use to write stream-of-consciousness poetry at any opportunity.

We were both going to Portugal mainly because of girls we were sleeping with, who I don’t think particularly cared at the time if we followed them there or not. We optimistically thought we would be able to hitchhike through most of France and all of Spain in just 2 days, and make it to a protest camp against a hydroelectric dam somewhere in Portugal. After that the plan was to go to Porto to meet the sort-of girlfriend of the guy with the typewriter, before going on to Freekuency Festival, where I was to meet the girl I was sleeping with at the time, who is now my Fiancé but at the time showed no signs of being interested in a serious or even monogamous relationship with me.

We had a terrible time the first few days trying to get through France – failing to find good hitching spots, then trying to jump trains and having to get kicked off in random towns where we would spend the night before trying to either jump another train or find a hitching spot again, all without any food except for what we could steal, find in bins, or make money busking to buy, as my travelling companion was also a good singer and could play guitar, able to freestyle amusing psychedelic lyrics easily.

We spent a couple of nights in the French Basque country after being taken in by a nice guy who picked us up outside Bordeaux, who also arranged for us to stay with his Friends on the French Spanish border, where we easily got a lift to Madrid with a Polish lorry driver who picked us up thinking we might have weed, which we didn’t.

After we reached Madrid our problems started again. We jumped an intercity train in the direction of Portugal and got kicked off at the first stop, a town called Avila, where we spent the night in an abandoned building full of pigeon shit before standing for ages in the hot sun the next day before finally getting a lift for Salamanca. There, we chose a terrible place to try and hitch from outside the city at a tiny petrol station near a motorway and ended up having to walk back into the city, where we slept on some grass in a park and woke up covered in dew and extremely hungry. We had been reduced to eating the root vegetables Joe had carried with him all the way from the ZAD the night before, and then spent the last of our money on some bread and beans from a shop.

We were stuffed with beans when we found our way to the city’s Anarchist social centre – almost every city in Spain has one – and found that they were having a big vegan dinner at that moment, so we could have saved our money and eaten for free there. The people who ran the place lived over the street and let us stay with them for a week while we tried to busk up enough money to get a bus ticket to Portugal, before eventually one of them drove us to a good hitching spot and an old English hippy couple picked us up and took us all the way to the Portuguese border, where we could jump a train to Porto.

The whole journey had taken about 2 weeks, when we had hoped it would take 2 days, and we had completely missed the protest camp against the hydroelectric dam, but I had been holding out hope the whole time during all the hardship on the road that once we got to Porto we would be able to relax as the type-writer guy’s girlfriend would put us up in her flat or wherever she lived. But when we arrived there it transpired that she didn’t have a fixed address herself and was just sofa surfing, so we were in a strange position trying to talk our way into staying with people she barely knew, and sometimes ending up sleeping rough.

By this time I was going pretty nuts from all the stress, and at one point when I was busking alone, having lost the others, I lost my temper at an old blind beggar who had nuzzled in on my busking spot and was getting people to give change to him instead of me, and a whole crowd of angry Portuguese people formed around me, taking his side.

When it was finally time to go to Freekuency festival I was happy to be reunited with my friends, including my “soft-of girlfriend”, though at first she didn’t seem too happy to see my dishevelled appearance after the crazy few weeks I’d had. Back at the Zad a few weeks earlier she,  a mutual friend of ours and myself had all made a “pinkie-swear” that we would travel together from the festival down to Tangiers Morocco, to see what the situation with migrants at the border of Spain and Morocco was like. We wanted to volunteer to in some way if there was a chance to, before returning to England to tell other activists in the No Borders movement about the situation there, to encourage them to also travel down.

All of this did eventually come about, and the No Borders Morocco website we created on that trip is still active with a team of international activists that update it occasionally with news about police repression on the border. So our ill-conceived, poorly planned and extremely poorly executed plan did have its saving grace in that the basic idea was sound: if you go and find out about something horrible happening somewhere and then come back and tell people who already care about stuff like that about it, they will probably care and want to help in some way if they can.

But it took a huge toll on me to play my part in achieving the success of this plan. As I have explained, I was already in a pretty bad shape in terms of my mental health at the very beginning of the project: when we drunkenly came up with the plan and made the “pinkie swear” in the Zad, I was already traumatised from 2 years of trying to both live outside the system and participate in actions I considered consistent with the idea of attacking it from the outside, and drifting more and more towards nihilistic and fantastical notions of insurrection as way of escaping from the reality of the contradictions of my lifestyle and values.

I then ruined my mental health even more through the insane journey across Spain, trying to act like Jack Kerouac but without the advantage of speaking the same language as the people you were trying to get rides off. The rest of my memories of Portugal are mainly happy: the festival, then some time hanging around the anarchist scene in Lisbon trying to squat buildings, going busking, and having people to stay with when we did inevitably get kicked out of buildings we squatted by police in the morning, before hitching down to the Algarve to busk to English tourists and hang out on beaches.

The moment we crossed the Spanish border, though, everything got worse. We spent the night in a tent outside a creepy old Barn in Ayamonte, a shitty border town as most border towns are, full of bugs and paranoid about strange noises in the night. Somehow after that we made it to Seville where we spent a few days sleeping rough in random bits of scrubland and trying to go busking but mainly just getting exhausted by the heat.

From Seville we should have logically gone South towards Tangiers, but our spirits were so low that we didn’t feel ready to jump into a crazy humanitarian crisis that we knew nothing about right then, so instead we jumped a train to Granada, hundreds of miles in the wrong direction, but a place I had been to before and knew would be a welcome haven for people like us.

Many travelling hippies do turn up in Granada, find a nice squat or cave to live in, and have a beautiful time hanging out living almost for free in a beautiful city with great views of mountains and the ancient Alhambra castle, and we did experience some of the joys of that life, busking and getting plenty of free food and alcohol as waste products of the Andalusian lifestyle. But we lived in a complete shit-hole: a burnt out old building that used to be the changing rooms and offices of a swimming pool that had long since closed. We lived with a random collection of Spaniards, Catalans and Italians who mainly just took speed, smoked hash, got drunk and sometimes let Hard-Tech sound-systems come into the place to have huge raves that sometimes went on for days. But we had no running water and only electricity at night when the streetlights we stole our power from came on.

For drinking, cooking and cleaning water, for about ten humans and the same number of dogs, we had to go every day with two shopping trolleys of old plastic bottles to a public drinking fountain to fill them up and them push the heavy trolleys back home. As we were all usually too drunk and stoned to plan anything properly, we would usually run out of water in the hottest part of the day and have to do all this while dehydrated and hungover. In short, we were idiots, and often in a bad mood, especially as it there was not a lot of money to be made busking, and the three of us had an extremely limited routine.

Given that the reason we had come to Granada was to relax, improve our mental health and prepare ourselves for the trip to Morocco, none of this was ideal. But we did manage to go to the public library several times to research information about the Morocco-Spain border issues and even started to print off academic articles and make timelines on the walls of the squat to help understand the history of the situation better. After two months of this slow research work, hampered by our alcoholism and poor life choices, we decided the time had come and headed for Tangiers.

The reader by now will not be surprised to learn that the journey from Granada to Tangiers itself did not go in the least bit smoothly. It took us almost all day to find a lift south to the coast and there we had to spend the night sleeping in a tent somewhere random before trying for hours to hitch the next day to Malaga. At Malaga we again slept rough before busking up enough money to get a bus to the Port of Algeciras where we once again slept rough and then tried to convince lorry drivers to take us onto the ferry to Morocco for free.

Amazingly, we actually did find two Portuguese lorry drivers who were travelling together in separate lorries and each had space for one person, so our friend and I each took one of them, as my girlfriend has already found a lift. Shortly though, we saw her walking around looking for us as the Lorry driver she had gotten in with had tried to sexually assault her, so I let her take my place in the Lorry. Eventually after hours in the hot sun I paid for a foot passenger ticket onto the next Ferry, after trying to find my own lift for a while before getting chased away from the lorries by security guards.

I was able to pay for the ticket, and also for accommodation once we arrived in Morocco, because I had asked my parents for money for the trip to Morocco, justifying it to myself as being acceptable because they were donated to a radical cause, so I was taking money out of their middle class hands and using it for something I theorised as being part of the class struggle. I was too fucked up in the head at that point to simply accept it as a gift from some loving parents to their foolish but well-meaning son.

So we arrived in Morocco, finally, after all of these ordeals, with no real idea of what we wanted to achieve there, and very little money or emotional resilience to deal with the situation. We spent two weeks in Tangiers, staying in the cheapest hotels we could find in the centre of the old part of town, the Medina. During that time we did eventually meet two Senegalese migrants working for two different small organisations helping other West African migrants, as well as a Moroccan who was on the board of directors for one of them.

Speaking to these people made us realise that the situation was even worse than we had been led to believe by what we had read in the Library in Granada, and that though there were some good NGOs which we felt we could be allies with, they were very small and there was indeed a need for more activists from richer countries to come and set up other organisations, while supporting the ones that were there.

This meant that we were able to feel that despite all our faults and disorganisation, we had achieved something worthwhile and we finally got back to the UK after another series of disasters hitchhiking all the way back through Spain and France, via a brief stop off to a friend in Germany due to a hitching error taking us a thousand miles off course.

Once back in England we wrote a small pamphlet called ‘Beating Borders’ that was half full of the information we knew about the situation, and half full of the story of our ridiculous journey to find it out. Few people actually read this pamphlet, but some did, and it did start people in our circle of friends and extended networks of activists back in the UK talking about Morocco, which was all we were trying to do.

The basic idea I had was that if we just put the issue on the map by having a small website and having a name of an organisation to make it seem like there was already something for people to get involved in, an organisation would naturally grow up around this. Really, I should have spent a lot of time travelling around the UK and Europe, giving out our pamphlet and doing public talks to encourage people to think about going down there, and organising meetings to figure out practical ways we could help, and then organise them. But I was not in the right headspace to do any of this at that time as I was consumed with a desire to get back to Morocco and start off a permanent activist presence there.

I thought that if there was a group of activists there, and that it was known in wider activist circles that they were there, then more activists would eventually show up until a kind of revolving-door situation developed in which activists could come and go, with the experienced ones training up the newer ones before then leaving them to take over, so that no one had to burn out all their energy.

With hindsight I should have spent more time in the UK planning this out and convincing people to commit to coming there at a particular time to relieve me before going out there myself. But instead I just went out there alone and hoped that people would join me later. Again, this was not as crazy as it might seem and some of my best friends did in fact join me out there after I had been there only a month, but there was no-one planning on coming after them to replace us all once we started to burn out.

When I went there on my own, I didn’t even know that these friends of mine would come a month later, but I did believe at that time that my girlfriend was going to move to Tangiers with me and stay with me there for at least six months or so. I thought that during that six month period we could achieve a lot and provide a space for new activists to stay, and that maybe at the end enough newcomers would have gotten involved that we could leave them to it.

So when I went there on my own I looked for a flat that I though would be good enough for the two of us to live in while providing enough space for guests to stay as well. She actually gave me money to use as a deposit on the place, and so I was very surprised when she finally arrived and told me that she was not planning on staying for six months after all, but only for a couple of weeks.

She had decided that she felt too uncomfortable to live in Morocco due the level of street harassment she received from men, but she had been too anxious to let me know that she had changed her mind until the last moment. This caused me to have a mild breakdown as I had based my whole life plan for the next six months, and the whole strategy for starting the solidarity network we wanted to start, on the idea of us being equally committed to being there together for the first six months.

When my two friends arrived later, they were not thinking in the same terms as me and were not as emotionally invested. I wanted them to be a replacement for my girlfriend and commit to dedicate all their energy to helping me build an activist network, but they had come more with the intention of helping out for a little while and then travelling around Morocco and Spain, having a good time, which was fair enough really.

But I had let my whole sense of self become wrapped up in the project that I started to resent them for it and I ended up having a huge argument with one of my friends, prompted by him objecting to my attitude. He had worked with me on one of the first serious pieces of news reporting we did for the website, interviewing the sole survivor of a migrant boat which had sunk, which had made both of us feel quite depressed and out of our depth. After the low level stress around us led to our big argument, he ended up leaving Morocco and going to Spain, while my other friends were down travelling in the south of Morocco, soon to leave for Spain themselves, and my girlfriend had already been gone for two months.

The only friend I had left in Tangier was himself a refugee from the Gambia, named Ibrahim, whom I had been writing songs with about the situation, publishing them on  under the name “Interzone Music”. After everyone else had left I was an emotional mess, and Ibrahim was there as a real emotional support to me, even though he himself had much worse things going on in his life. I felt like a total failure, coming there thinking I was somehow able to help these refugees and finding that they were the ones helping me instead.

Around this time I met a German young woman who was there working an internship for an organisation that was concerned with refugee issues, and she was going around interviewing female West African migrants. She was paying a lot more than I was for her rent as the organisation she was volunteering with had chosen it for her, so I offered her to move in and replace my friends who were gone, thinking this could at last be the beginning of the project in earnest.

I ruined everything on the first night she moved in by trying to have sex with her, and getting rejected, which created a terrible atmosphere in the house between us for the next month and a half before eventually I had another breakdown and started shouting at her before storming out and moving into Ibrahim’s house.

He lived in a much poorer area on the other side of the city, in a building full of other West Africans surrounded by Moroccan neighbours who seemed to hate them for being Black and foreign. A family of Nigerian Christians lived downstairs and their apartment was actually set on fire by local Moroccans because they were noisily celebrating on Sundays.

A group of intimidating young Moroccan men constantly hung around on the street outside their house, and there was no plumbing inside, so the West Africans in the house all had to go past this group of Moroccan men every time they needed to get water from the communal well in the street. On the very first night I moved into the building, after the fight with the German girl, a Senegalese guy went out to get water around 6pm after we had all been up all night talking and getting stoned, apart from some of the migrants who were strict Muslims and didn’t smoke hash.

When the Senegalese guy went out to get water on that first night I was there, the gang of young Moroccan thugs who were hanging out on the street outside, obviously drunk, rushed into the building while the door was still open and starting stabbing the guy who’d gone for water and also my friend Ibrahim. I went with both of them to the police station, while they were both visibly bleeding, and the police did not care, simply asking them for their documents as if they were threatening to arrest them for being Black.

The police said they needed documents from a doctor before they would do anything, so we had to go to the hospital and wait for hours before they got seen, and then wait for more hours just to get the piece of paper to prove they had been seen. All the time we were doing this, sleep deprived and traumatised after the night before, the gang of Moroccan youths were still back at the house terrorising the rest of the West Africans, throwing stones in all the windows, and yet the police and neighbours did nothing.

After we got the paper from the hospital, we went to a different police station and waiting for hours again while the police did nothing, until I eventually lost my temper and started ranting at them in very bad French, after which they eventually came with us to the house. After that the Moroccan youths stopped attacking the house, but they were never punished by the police, just given a talking to.

I had lived in Tangiers for 6 months by this point, but had been so concerned with interpersonal problems between myself and my European housemates that I had not really witnessed the true horror of the situation the West Africans were in. I had spoken to several of them and heard many terrible stories, and seen the impoverished condition they lived in and the casual racism they experienced on the streets every day, but it was only when I actually moved into the house with Ibrahim that I really started to understand on an emotional level.

Nothing similar happened at any point after that during my time there, although I did fall very ill for a few days immediately after and had to deal with having extreme diarrhoea in a place with only a squat-toilet and no running water, but after I recovered from that we settled into a steady routine where every day I would pay for breakfast for my roommates, before working on the music and eating dinner all together very late at night.

There were six of us sharing a tiny room which would could only just about all fit in to lie down to sleep. We spent almost 24 hours a day in that room in extremely close contact. The youngest guy would always run the errands, there being a strict age hierarchy that I was not used to, coming from the anarcho-squatter scene which always pretended there were no hierarchies within it.

The whole six months I had been living in the Medina I hadn’t gone busking, assuming no one would give money to a white man, but when I lived with the migrants I found I was wrong. I would take Ibrahim and sometimes others with me and we shared out the money equally. I carried on writing songs with Ibrahim and recording them in the cramped room full of other people. I lived like that for a month, and Ibrahim was the only one who spoke English. The others were Senegalese so I could speak simple French to them and understand some of what they said back to me, but when they spoke to each other it was all in Wolof, which they speak in both Senegal and Gambia.

Living with them like that meant that Ibrahim showed me new sides to his personality I had not seen when he had been visiting me in my nice place in the centre of town, and he also spoke more candidly to me about things he had been reluctant to speak about before. He told me that he had never imagined white people would live with them like that, sharing a cramped room, eating food with them, as he had only seen white people in Hollywood movies, or rich tourists staying in fancy hotels. So I built up trust by living with them and they let me know about how things really worked.

There are camps in the forests outside Melilla where migrants live for months at a time while they attempt to jump the border fences in huge numbers of several hundred, which happens quite frequently, but I had not realised this until moving into the flat, because they have a strict security culture about these camps. But finding out that the migrants were engaged in regular violent confrontations at the actual physical border fences allowed me to talk about the situation there in terms that would appeal militant activists back in the UK, as it showed clearly that they were actively engaged in a struggle with the same state authorities that we ourselves were in struggle against.

So I went home and wrote a new small pamphlet from an Insurrectionary Anarchist perspective and started doing talks at anarchist social centres in the UK, and also at the No Borders camp in Rotterdam in 2013. I spent the first few months I was back in the UK in a daze trying to do whatever I could to make sure that people in the anarchist scene knew about it, and even used my mother’s journalist contacts to ensure that the issue got national news coverage on Newsnight. All the while I was doing this I was not really thinking about my personal life situation and what I was going to do to support myself or where I was going to live, and eventually I felt I had done enough and applied for government benefits to get a place to live, with the help of my parents.

A group of activists who I was friends (and friends of friends) with went out to Tangiers that winter, moving into Ibrahim’s house thanks to the fact I had already made friends with him, while I stayed in my new house in Bristol slowly beginning a long journey of recovery. Because they lived with the migrants from the very beginning, the group that went out there that winter experienced a lot more traumatic events than I had. There was a huge increase in police raids at migrants’ houses, followed by a large street riot that was almost like a race war between Blacks and Moroccans, then a period when the police backed off enabling the migrants to attempt more fence crossings, with tragic results.

Not being aware that any of this was going on and assuming from their lack of contact that they were simply doing nothing, I did not make my comrade’s lives easier by writing arrogant angry emails to them criticising what I saw as their lack of sensible organisation. Due to my poor mental health, I was extremely agitated all the time and desperate for news from Morocco, so when I didn’t get it I lashed out at the very people I should have been supporting.  Eventually they were joined by some better prepared German activists, who completely transformed the No Borders Morocco project into something much more organised, and most of my friends eventually stopped being involved, as did I.

I can say without false modesty that I laid a lot of the groundwork for the whole project and that I worked incredibly hard to do so, experiencing a lot of psychological hardship in the process, which I did not feel that many of the activists who got involved later were really able to understand. I partly felt proud of myself for having not given up on it during any of the several moments when I should have, but I also felt ashamed of myself in many ways for my own failings during the project and all the people I had argued with or hurt along the way.

I entered into a serious depression and developed a drinking problem which caused me to spend all my housing benefit money on alcohol and weed instead of my rent, which in turn caused me to move out and go back to squatting. By this time squatting in residential buildings had been criminalised in the UK but there was a long-term squat I was welcome to move into in Cardiff in an old pub, with no electricity, lots of mould and very little natural light.

It had once been a successful anarchist social centre, before the electricity had been cut off, and people still lived there occasionally organising anarchist events. I started organising benefit gigs to raise money to send to the activists in Morocco and began to feel better about myself as I felt I was helping the project again instead of just causing problems and pissing people off.

A friend of mine, who had been out there the year before, moved into the squat in Cardiff with me and I supported him emotionally to go out there again to try and record interviews and music with migrants for a new website I wanted to start, called Interzone Voices. The two of us have continued to work together on that project ever since, keeping separate from No Borders Morocco.

The Interzone Voices project has now culminated in my friend producing an entire film, which I helped him with a little mainly simply through emotional support and contributing a few ideas, as well as raising some money through organising concerts, though he raised most of it himself by organising his own catering events.

Apart from this I have not done very much to help the cause of solidarity with migrants in Morocco for the past few years, as I have been trying to sort my life out in order to be able to better help the situation in the future. I gave up drinking for two and a half years, got back together with my girlfriend, moved in with her to a flat in Bristol and worked a series of poorly paying jobs to pay the rent before finally getting a student loan to do my Masters in Global Political Economy at the University of the West of England, which I started a few weeks ago.

Once I have written my final dissertation for my Masters about the situation in Morocco and how it fits into the wider political economy of the world capitalist system, I hope I can use it to further encourage solidarity activism with migrants in Morocco. Hopefully developing a more thorough analysis of the situation will help inspire ideas for how we can try to work towards campaigning for meaningful changes, rather than simply providing very small amounts of humanitarian aid and acting as a watchdog to the situation, which are the main roles that No Borders Morocco has been able to play so far, as far as I can see.

I now no longer hold Anarchist Insurrectionist views. This means that I do not believe that it is possible to simply attack the border regime through direct action until it breaks, which would be an Insurrectionary Anarchist strategy, and was the kind of image I had in my mind during the time I lived in Morocco and had extremely poor mental health.

Now that I am able to think more clearly, I have realised that I identify more as an ‘Anarcho-Marxist’, which is an extreme form of Democratic Socialist, and have joined the Labour Party under Jeremy Corbyn as a result. This is not because I believe Jeremy Corbyn is an Anarcho-Marxist or that he would not probably sell out the working class in some way if he were ever to take power, due to the inevitable constraints of the demands of the world-system on nation-states, but this is not good enough of a reason for me as a compassionate person not to support the more short-term program of concrete improvements in working class living standards which he represents.

Unlike in my Insurrectionary phase I now believe that all democratic socialists should work together to achieve material gains for the global working class, even if these gains fall short of total revolution and mean making alliances with people of very different ideological backgrounds. Ultimately it is only through political reforms that the situation in Morocco will be improved, and achieving these political reforms cannot be done purely through working ‘outside the system’ and using direct action techniques. Rather, a diversity of tactics must be used, which may and almost certainly will involve direct action techniques, possibility even militant and destructive ones, but these will depend for their success ultimately on other tactics to ensure there are policy-makers willing to make the right decisions in response to such direct action.

This means we must support efforts to make sure that people sympathetic with radical demands actually achieve positions of power within the system, so that if a large enough popular movement for reform does rise up, there will be people within the government advocating that concessions be made to such a movement. Without such voices of reason being present in the offices of state power, authoritarian nationalist politicians will simply repress any popular movement no matter how big it is or how just it’s demands are.

It must be understood that politicians main aim is power, and that capitalists main aim is to accumulate capital. We may despise these people for their greed and megalomania, but we cannot fail to recognise that it is they who have the most power to stop the violence against migrants in Morocco. Therefore, as reprehensible as it may seem to us, we must somehow construct arguments to convince them that they will make more money and gain more power by stopping the violence, before somehow convincing them to actually listen to those arguments.

I know that these seem like two pretty big ‘somehows’. But they seem less big to me that that which says “somehow we will destroy, or radically change the border regime from a position of extreme poverty on the fringes of society, without establishing strong allies with any political influence”.

The refugee crisis is not going away. Despite the economic crisis in Europe, it is still a ‘core’ capitalist region that will inevitably attract workers from ‘peripheral’ countries for so long as the world system remains so divided and unevenly developed.

Meanwhile the political context in Morocco is changing. Many more African migrants have now been given official documents and the right to remain in Morocco legally, improving their life chances. Morocco has also re-joined the African Union, which means that other African states will be able to exert more of an influence over its policy, though how much so remains to be seen.

Moroccan police still abuse the basic human rights of Black African migrants on a regular basis, arresting people on mass and driving them out to be dumped in the desert, as has been going on for years, and there is still regular violence at the border fences and the migrant camps nearby them.  This can partly be explained by the fact that Morocco’s shaky economy still depends on European export markets for the vast majority of its GDP, and so has a lot of incentives to cooperate with the EU in all aspects of foreign policy, including migration policy.

Whether ‘development’ is defined as ‘Freedom’ or simply ‘Economic growth’ Morocco clearly remains an underdeveloped country with a huge amount of unemployed and extremely poor people who have a direct material interest in a change in the overall structure of the economy. More Moroccans need jobs, and more production in Morocco should be done to meet the needs of the people rather than simply for profit. In short, Moroccan workers, like workers everywhere, have an interest in shifting their economic mode of production towards a more socialistic one, to whatever extent is practically possible given the realities of class struggle.

The Political-Economic dependence of Morocco on Europe not only causes the extreme violence of against the small Black African migrant population, it is clearly not working for the population as a whole, and in that sense it can be argued that Moroccans and African migrants have a common interest in fighting for a new system. Figuring out what that new system would realistically be, and how to organise a movement to achieve it.

Whatever the new system would be, it would be far from an Anarchist utopia, much more likely just a nation-state which has a different strategy for temporarily preventing the inherent contradictions of capitalism from causing its total collapse. Forming such strategies is the main business of governments in the capitalist world system, and it may be that one can be found that both materially improves the conditions of life for both Moroccan citizens and stops the systematic repression of African migrants, but is also acceptable to enough sections of the Moroccan elite to be politically achievable.

There will be new crises of capitalism coming soon, and at such moments political and economic systems always change. When there are organised factions with ideas about how to change the system, they often are able to use crises to get their way – and the people who are most organised to exploit these crises are usually capitalists who will make things much worse for working people and further strengthen repressive border regimes. But history also shows us that when Democratic Socialists are properly organised and have built up enough social support through political education of the masses, they two can use moments of crisis to the advantage of the oppressed.

We are now in a moment of calm before the next storm. A new global financial crisis is certain to happen within the next ten years, possibly much sooner. The last one was only solved through the Chinese government flooding the world economy with money through giant public works projects that were ecologically disastrous, but the Chinese government now is becoming dangerously indebted, and will not be able to repeat the same magic trick next time.

Those of us who want to see the lives of migrants in Morocco improve should be using this time to prepare the ground for the next crisis, to make sure that the situation at the border comes out of it in a way more to our liking than currently, even if it will not be completely solved forever. That is the difference between Marxist attitude and the Insurrectionist one: both want Anarchy and Utopia as and end goal, but true Marxists actually study the real world and figure out how to use that knowledge to achieve forward progress towards the eventual goal, whereas Insurrectionists simply live in a fantasy world in which they imagine utopia will emerge from the ashes of destruction, which is an inherently nihilistic attitude, not compatible with humanist or compassionate ethics.

Back in the real world, there is a lot of intellectual and political work to be done by compassionate people who value all human lives equally to come up with realistic ways forward for the struggles of the oppressed, including those of Black African migrants in Morocco.

Let’s get on with it.








Greenpeace, or Red War?

Sitting in a shack in an eco-village in Mexico in early 2010, arguing with a German guy and a girl from California who grew up on a weed farm, I realised something sinister about Hippies. Some of them at least, I wouldn’t want to make outrageous generalisations (as fun as that is) for I myself am something of a Hippy, and always have been. I have long hair, partly with dreadlocks, partly shaved, I have been a life long vegetarian,  I am found of psychedelic drugs, and much of the music of the late sixties/early seventies.

But I am also, crucially, not in favour of the deaths of billions of the poorest people in the world. I just don’t think it would be that… you know, groovy, or whatever. Some of these Hippy types, though, with the long hair, colourful clothes and permanent fake grin on their faces, they actually do long for most of the human population to be wiped out.

That’s what this German guy was saying anyway. I was trying in vain to convince these people of why it was worthwhile and in fact vitally necessary to build a radical mass movement of the global working class to achieve the kinds of revolutionary changes necessary to save humanity from the effects of climate change.

The German guy said that he had already tried that and that it didn’t work. Now he had a smug and patronising expression, as if I were a naive child clinging on to foolish and outdated notions he’d long since given up on.

Some might find it hard to believe that this one man, in his early thirties, could have successfully rallied up a mass movement of 99% of humanity and led them nearly to victory before suffering some terrible defeat, and yet still be so unknown that even I cannot remember his name. But of course, this is not what he meant.

In fact, as he went on to explain, what he meant was that he had once worked for Greenpeace as a street fundraiser, and found that many people had simply walked past him. This he had taken as proof that the ‘masses’ were hopelessly unenlightened, a lost cause, and that true environmentalists’ role should be to retreat to the eco-villages on the fringes of society and simply wait for Gaia, the earth goddess, to do her work of killing off everyone else.

This was supposed to happen on the winter solstice of 2012, but of course it didn’t. I happened to be in the Atlas mountains of Morocco on that date with a bunch of other Hippies who believed in The Prophesy, and didn’t witness any apocalyptic events, just Hippies getting stoned, singing, doing yoga and trying to shag each other.

Fast forward to September 2016 and I am entering the Greenpeace UK headquarters in Islington, London, to begin my training as a Door to Door Fundraiser. Would I suffer the same fate as the German guy and become a cynical, patronising old bastard with no faith in humanity?

For years I had been banging on about the need for us radical activist types to get out of our own little subcultural bubbles and start ‘engaging with the working class’, but I had done very little to actually practice what I preached, being myself a middle-class Hippy, hopelessly removed from the everyday struggles of most working class people.

This was my big chance to finally get some experience under my belt of going outside of my comfort zone, talking to people who read the Daily Mail and other hate-filled rags spewing divisive lies for the benefit of millionaires, and actually try to win them over to progressive politics.

It’s true that I would only be talking about environmental issues, rather than those such as migration, social services and workers’ rights, which would have been much tougher to argue with hardened Tories and UKIPers about, but still, I was looking forward to the challenge.

One of the reasons I had never done much of the type of activism which leads you to knock on random strangers doors and to discuss serious political issues with them, was quite frankly because I was too afraid to. I am now no longer so afraid, which is something at least, and I even felt I had some successes in changing a few people’s minds.

I managed to get about 35 people to join Greenpeace, over the course of about 10 weeks. Keen mathematicians will note that this is an average rate of 3 per week, whereas the target was 6 a week, which is why much of this article is written in the past tense.

Unlike my last job, which I describe in the article ‘Betraying my Principles for Money’  this was not a job in which I felt my ethics were constantly at odds with what I was doing, but instead the ethical dilemmas I faced were far more complex. There was one the one hand a tension between being a good environmental activist and being a good Greenpeace employee, on the other a tension between being a good Greenpeace employee and a good class warrior, and on a freakish ‘third hand’ a tension between being a good Greenpeace employee and being an honest, compassionate person.

Charity fundraising is a highly precarious form of work, in which workers are often treated like complete shit. You can usually be fired without any notice (which is in fact what happened to me), and are often expected to work far more hours than you actually get paid for. As a socialist, of the anarchist tendency no less, and a member of the Industrial Workers of the World, I felt duty bound to do what I could to fight against these injustices from within.

To this end, I tried to get to know my fellow workers as best as I could, to develop as friendly relations as possible with them, ask what they thought about these types of problems, and encourage them to join the IWW with me. I thought perhaps the union might give us advice on how to start some kind of campaign for changes from below, and I would have kept on working on this if I’d ended up lasting longer.

Normally when I am working a job in which I feel the bosses are exploiting me and denying me my legal rights I react by working as slowly as I can get away with. On a charity fundraising job though, you have to meet targets, which you will not do without actually trying.

As someone who is genuinely concerned with the issues, I liked the fact that my job involved talking to people about them, and I had some really fascinating interactions with people. Some were people who didn’t know much at all, which meant I had to explain various things as simply as possible, which I feel I am fairly good at so long as people are in the mood to actually learn something.

Others were people who thought they knew a lot but had actually had their heads filled with nonsense by newspapers owned by shareholders in the very corporations responsible for destroying the environment. These were harder to talk to, as they often were quite hostile, having been misled into thinking that Greenpeace activists were all idiots hell-bent on destroying their way of life for no good reason.

A really surprising amount of people seemed to have confused Greenpeace for some sort of Terrorist group, thinking that Greenpeace had sunk ships, whereas in fact it had been one of Greenpeace’s own ships, the Rainbow Worrier, which had been sunk by the French secret service in 1985 in Auckland, causing the death of a Portuguese activist. Many others had simply mistaken Greenpeace for other groups such as Earth First! and the Earth/Animal Liberation Front.

It felt like I was betraying my comrades in these organisations to play along with the ‘Good protester/Bad protester’ divide and smugly reassure these people that Greenpeace was 100% committed to non-violence, when in fact I have often actively advocated insurrectionist tactics, but that’s what I did.

The third category of people I met were those who already knew about the issues and agreed with the aims of radical environmentalists, but who had simply lost faith in the idea doing anything about it. These were the people I wanted to speak to the most, because it meant speaking about the psychological barriers stopping them from taking action, which is now my favourite topic.

Why do so many people who already have left-wing and environmental views fail to go out and argue against the lies of the corporate media? There are millions of progressive people in the UK alone, but they are not organised into a movement that is capable of going out and convincing the rest of the population, despite the fact they have all the arguments and evidence on their side. This is a topic I have already written about and will probably continue to write about forever.

But the point is, I wasn’t able to carry on these conversations as long as I would like to. At the risk of sounding overconfident, I feel I could have convinced a lot of people to become more engaged that they already were, and to have set a lot of people straight on things they had been lied to about. But that wasn’t really what I was being paid to do, just something I wanted to do because of my silly unpopular obsession with the future survival of humanity.

What I was being paid to do was to convince people to join Greenpeace, and to do it then and there, on their doorstep. If people were obviously not going to do that, I was not supposed to waste time talking to them, but instead to move on to try and find others who would. This is the tension between being a good fundraiser and a good environmentalist.

Did I really believe that raising money for Greenpeace was more important than talking to people about the issues directly? No. That would be insane, but it’s what you have to tell yourself if you want to stay sane doing a job like that. You have to convince yourself that actually you were helping protect the environment more by raising money for this particular organisation than by talking to people in your own city, even though you knew how much the organisation wasted money on stupid bullshit.

I don’t want to slag off Greenpeace too much here, because they have achieved a lot, and are still actively campaigning on many issues which I really hope they are successful with. But the fact is that someone paying the standard amount of ten pounds per month would have to be signed up for a year just to cover the administration costs of signing them up.

On top of that Greenpeace pays it’s higher level staff far above the living wage, which to me is simply unacceptable for any organisation that claims to be progressive and to care about social justice. So many people are out their risking arrest and even death in order to protect the environment without getting paid for it at all, so the head of Greenpeace UK really doesn’t need to be earning 76 grand a year.

Frankly, I don’t believe in hierarchical society or class division at all, and think everyone should get paid the same, or better yet, just receive the basic necessities of life for free, and if we want to achieve that we need to live according to those principles right now, not reproduce hierarchical class relations in our own organisations.

Then there are all the tasty vegan treats, unnecessary travel expenses and shiny gadgets which the Greenpeace organisation spends money on. For me as someone used to the world of protest camps and squats full of broke unpaid activists eating food from bins, it was a joke.

This is related to the tension between being a good fundraiser and being an honest, compassionate person. I think that people who are successful at being fundraisers are doing something objectively quite good and morally correct in the sense that they are indirectly helping various organisations do good work (minus all the administration fees and stupid salaries of executives). However they are also clearly good at manipulating people into doing things they wouldn’t otherwise do.

You don’t convince someone with logic, that’s what I was doing wrong. You don’t try to actually get them to see the world in a different way, even if the way they see the world right now is terrible and likely to cause them and others suffering. Good fundraisers just somehow make people feel happy, and lure them into doing something using their natural charisma. If you are an attractive young woman, you can flirt your way to success. If you are an authoritative older man, you can tap into people’s unconscious fear of authority. You can do all kinds of shit. But I can’t.

Maybe some younger girls did sign up because they thought I was hot, and maybe some younger guys did too. Maybe some older women thought I was a loveable young scamp and some older men thought I reminded them of themselves. Who the fuck knows. They might have actually listened to what I was saying and thought it made sense. But whatever it was, I wasn’t good at bringing it out.

If people don’t want to sign up, but you feel like they are teetering on the edge, you are supposed to keep on trying different tactics until you get them to do it. Even if they don’t want to talk to you at all at the beginning, you have to somehow just ignore them and keep on talking till you win them over. This requires a lot of mentally blocking out whatever they are saying to you, and basically, not sympathising with their situation, just pretending to for the purposes of manipulating them into something they don’t want to do.

I am not trying to say that I was bad at my job because I am too nice, because a lot of the time I actually probably wasn’t nice enough. I tend to get annoyed at people for being stupid, apathetic and arrogant, which rules out most of the people you are likely to meet, and I am not very good at disguising my annoyance. But the thing is, I don’t really like to bother people too much, because I myself don’t like to be bothered.

When I heard people say they didn’t want to sign up right then and there but might do it another time, or that they didn’t feel they could afford it, a voice in my head said ‘fair enough’. This is not how you are going to win this game. You have to really believe that people all should sign up and that they are just giving you silly excuses which you will eventually be able to break down.

Basically, it means having a very poor view of humanity and a very arrogant attitude regarding your own organisation and abilities. When I heard other fundraisers talking like that, it always made me slightly disgusted, which brings me to the third tension: between being a good Greenpeace employee and a good class warrior.

It’s pretty hard to unite with your fellow workers in struggle against the bosses if they seem to either actively hate you or not consider you worthy of even a feigned interest. I am not talking here of the majority of my fellow workers, just the two who were ‘team leaders’ I had to work with.

To me the invention of the category of ‘team leader’ is such an obvious attempt to divide the workers by appealing to crass egotism on their part that I am shocked anyone would fall for it. But then again, I’m pretty shocked by most things. I have a type of brain which constantly attempts to order the universe I observe into rational patterns which the Universe seams to delight in proving false, which is both a blessing and a curse.

I had worked with team leaders in the past who seemed to get that their job was mainly just to keep their workers happy. When you deal with angry members of the public all the time and constantly feel emotionally drained as a result, you are much less likely to simply give up in despair if you have colleagues around you who you feel care about you and actively try to keep your spirits up.

Everyone I met in the interview and training was so bubbly, caring and positive, in true annoying hippy fashion, that I had assumed that this aspect of the job was something I could take for granted. The very first time I spoke to my team leader, however, this illusion was shattered.

Now, I am not going to launch into a big rant about this person, because I don’t have any reason to. I am a pretty anti-social person myself, and sometimes I am too caught up in my own head to pay proper attention to the feelings of those around me. I certainly can empathise with someone else being shit at social skills. It’s just that if that person’s job is to be good at keeping me motivated, I probably wont be very motivated.

Very often I would find myself spending most of the day trudging around streets completely by myself, gradually losing the will to live, and then when it would come time for a break or to meet at the end of the day to go home, would not be cheered up at all to find my team leader invariably in a foul mood and not seeming to be interested in how I was feeling, or indeed, anything about me other than how many people I’d signed up.

When I was struggling, it didn’t seem that my team leader felt it was their responsibility to help me, other than to the extent they’d been ordered to by the higher-ups. Rather, I seemed to be an object of contempt for not being as good at my job as they were, though they never said this out loud. It was all in the eyes.

Nonetheless I ploughed on with my attempts to build some kind of relationship of solidarity with them, listening to their various grievances against the management and patiently suggesting ways we could resolve them. Eventually they even joined the IWW and I set up a meeting with a trained representative from our branch to explore what our options might be.

On that same week, however, for three days in a row my team leader fell sick and without notice just left me and the other two employees, both of whom had only just started, to work completely on our own, and as the most senior person there, despite only having worked less than three months, I tried my best to encourage them and explain what they should do that day.

Then when the team leader came back, the first thing they did was berate me down the phone for not following their instructions to the very finest detail, which was the last straw to me, and caused me to do what I had been trying not to: tell the higher-ups the truth.

This is the tension between being loyal to your fellow workers vs being a good employee. I was fired the next working day, supposedly for my low scores. The team leader sent me a sarcastic text the next day accusing me of having lost them their job as well, which of course made me feel guilty but I later found out wasn’t exactly true: the managers had tried to find a solution but the team leader had just stormed out angrily at quit, being apparently unable to take criticism.

This made me not feel guilty any more, as I had not directly gotten them sacked, and had, after all, tried my best to be on their side against the management first of all. But it was not the only way in which working for Greenpeace created a tension for me regarding my views on class struggle.

For one thing, Greenpeace is not an anti-capitalist organisation, but one that works with transnational corporations on a case by case basis to try and convince them to destroy the environment a little bit less each time. This does not make Greenpeace part of the ‘Class Enemy’ in my view, though it might in some people’s eyes. I feel that the small victories that Greenpeace regularly has in influencing the policies of governments and corporations are worthwhile ones, which cause less animals, plants and humans to die than would otherwise. Saving lives is clearly more important than ideological orthodoxy, unless you have no empathy whatsoever and are some kind of Marxist robot.

These campaigns, however, do not on the whole help to empower the global working class in ways consistent with ecological ethics. It is clear that there is an urgent need for decentralisation of agricultural, electrical and industrial production if they are to become both ecologically sustainable and democratically controlled by working class people.

When electricity generators, land, greenhouses, factories and workshops are mainly producing for the needs of the local population, there is not only less need for polluting and destructive forms of transport, but also there is greater potential for the local population to be able to exercise power over them.

A shift to a global economy based on decentralised units producing mainly for local populations and only secondarily for those further afield, and then as locally as possible, is consistent both with Anarchist-Socialist and ecological ethics.

This shift can not happen over night, but requires decades of campaigning at all levels of society, but most importantly among the lowest ranks. Unless the poorest people of the world actively want such a society, to the extent that they will be prepared to protest, take direct action, and potentially risk arrest, violence or death, for decades, such a society will never come about because it simply cannot be imposed from above.

Therefore, it is my opinion that environmentalists must focus on political education and agitation among the global poor, to unite struggles for basic survival with those of ecological sustainability. It is a huge task and one which no-where near enough effort is being made by even the most radical environmentalist organisations, such as Greenpeace, Earth First! and ELF/ALF.

Trades unions, community groups, landless peasants movements, and other organisations of the global working class should be equally committed to this shift towards a decentralised, democratically controlled and ecologically sustainable mode of production. It requires challenging vested interests, including the multinational corporations and banks, but also the land-owning classes throughout the world. It requires class struggle.

Class struggle means saying to the exploiting classes “you don’t have a right to exploit us any more”, and to the land owning classes “this is not your land any more”. Monoculture farming would not be possible without the monopoly of violence by the state. Companies are able to use the land in destructive ways because the State lets them. The State has the power to let them or not because it has the means to inflict violence on anyone who disagrees with it.

When people try to take land away from landowners, they often get shot in the head. Sometimes mass movements are able to use non-violent direct action to achieve things. Non-violent direct action has achieved a lot of progressive change over the years. It has also led to lots of people getting shot in the head.

Sometimes when people take up arms and take the land, to collectivise it and bring it under control of the local people who will then use it in ecologically sustainable ways, it works. The Zapatistas for example, have been going for over 20 years.

Sometimes armed movements get repressed and everyone gets shot it the head. There is no catch-all solution to not getting shot in the head.

I advocate a diversity of tactics; use non-violence when it is likely to work, use violence when it is more likely to. Either way, you risk dying. But you also risk dying if you do nothing at let capitalists destroy the earth and exploit you to death.

The ‘Reds’ and the ‘Greens’ are still not united enough for either to be successful. If I want to help play my own little part in bringing them together, its not going to be as a Greenpeace activist























‘Non- Left-Wing Anarchism – An Infantile Pain In The Arse’

(Originally written for Anarchist Momentum blog on July 8 2016)

Many so-called ‘Anarchists’ have been deriding those of us who decided to campaign for the Remain side in the EU referendum, and especially those of us who have decided to get involved in Momentum (the organisation within the Labour party that supports Jeremy Corbyn and the Left-wing ideas he represents) – without actually suggesting any alternative course of action for the Left or the Anarchist movement. A holier-than-thou attitude has been levelled at us for the past few months and in this article I want to attack this attitude head-on, by looking into the historical and philosophical roots of anarchism itself.

The basic point I want to make is that Anarchism is a completely irrelevant set of ideas unless those ideas are actually being used in political struggles of the working class. If Anarchists are not working as part of broad working class movements which involve other people of different perspectives, we will not achieve anything.

Anarchists who do not participate in such movements but instead stick to their own organisations or informal ‘scenes’, are not fighting for Anarchism, even if they think they are. Anarchism is not supposed to be a sub-culture of people attempting to ‘drop out’ of the capitalist system and refusing to engage with ‘politics’. It is supposed to be a set of ideas on tactics for the revolutionary movement of the working class to destroy capitalism and create socialism. Refusing to engage with ‘politics’ means refusing to engage with working class struggle.

The sub-title of this article is a tongue in-cheek reference to Lenin’s 1920 pamphlet ‘Left-Wing Communism: an Infantile Disorder’ in which he basically attacked all the left-wing movements around the world that refused to obey him. Many anarchists were among those of course, and some of us have proudly called ourselves ‘Left-Communists’ as a result. So what is the difference between Marxist-Leninism and Left (or anarchist) Communism? This is important to establish first, before we go on to discuss the difference between Left-wing anarchism and other types of anarchism.

Anarchism and The Communist Manifesto

For an answer we must go back even further in history to the first philosopher to call himself an Anarchist – Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, who also called himself a Socialist and advocated that the working class organise separate political parties to run in elections to fight for their own interests. Proudhon lived during times of mass working-class struggle in France, where he lived, in the 1830s and in the 1848 revolutions which swept Europe, and was himself a skilled worker, born into poverty but who had taught himself to read and write. The famous phrase ‘Property Is Theft’ comes from his book ‘What is Property?’

Proudhon was a sexist, and in many other ways his views would not reflect those of modern-day anarchists or Left-wing people, but he did make important contributions to political theory, including the theory of Class-struggle itself. For him socialism meant the working-class struggling in its own interest, and eventually replacing capitalism and the State with a completely different system which he called ‘Mutualism’. Mutualist ideas became very popular among the working class throughout the 19th century and led to the formation of many workers’ cooperatives, credit unions, building societies and other examples of non-capitalist ways of organising the economy to give more freedom and equality to workers.

Proudhon was a big influence on the two leaders of the factions that eventually split the socialist movement into the Marxist and Anarchist camps that continue to this day – Karl Marx, and Mikhael Bakunin. Marx actually had a lot of philosophical problems with Proudhon and wrote a response to his book ‘The Philosophy of Poverty’, called ‘The Poverty of Philosophy’. Classic Marxist humour, and why to this day Marxists have such a reputation for being such a fun-loving, carefree bunch of jokers.

It’s important to remember that at this time there were no Anarchists and no Marxists- everyone just called themselves Socialists. So when in 1848 at the height of the international workers revolutions, Marx with his wealthy factory-owning mate Engels wrote ‘The Communist Manifesto’, anarchists would not have automatically turned their noses and refused to read it because it wasn’t punk enough, but might have actually read it, or had someone read it to them as working-class people were still mostly illiterate at this time.

There are a few quotes from the Manifesto that I want to introduce here, because they are important in showing just how little Marx and Bakunin actually disagreed on important points (indeed some have even claimed that Marx should be considered an Anarchist himself). These quotes are from the section called ‘Communists and Proletarians’:

The Communists do not form a separate party opposed to the other working-class parties.

They have no interests separate and apart from those of the proletariat as a whole.

They do not set up any sectarian principles of their own, by which to shape and mould the proletarian movement.

The Communists are distinguished from the other working-class parties by this only: 1. In the national struggles of the proletarians of the different countries, they point out and bring to the front the common interests of the entire proletariat, independently of all nationality. 2. In the various stages of development which the struggle of the working class against the bourgeoisie has to pass through, they always and everywhere represent the interests of the movement as a whole.’

These statements might seem surprising to those familiar with the history of how groups of people calling themselves ‘the Communist Party’ have actually behaved during the twentieth century. Nonetheless, Marx and Engels clearly say that Communists should not try to control anyone, merely point out that working class people everywhere, regardless of nationalities have the same interests.

For example if you’re an activist campaigning against austerity and you argue with someone who might be banging on about foriegners taking all the jobs by saying that we should all support each other, that makes you part of ‘The Communist party’ in the sense written in the manifesto, even if you are not part of any actual organisation at all. This makes most anarchists ‘communists’ by this definition, as we are internationalists.

The manifesto goes on to say:

‘the first step in the revolution by the working class is to raise the proletariat to the position of ruling class to win the battle of democracy.

The proletariat will use its political supremacy to wrest, by degree, all capital from the bourgeoisie, to centralise all instruments of production in the hands of the State, i.e., of the proletariat organised as the ruling class; and to increase the total productive forces as rapidly as possible.

This is the famous idea of the ‘dictatorship of the proletariat’, an phrase that has an equally bad reputation as ‘The Communist party’. But notice, that Marx and Engels have already explicitly said that Communists shouldnt take over the working class, so they clearly are not advocating the Communist party take over the State and institute a one-party dictatorship, as many ‘Communist parties’ have actually done in real life.

In fact the Manifesto seems to be using the word ‘State’ to mean something compltely different from what we normally mean by it in every day language, and from what anarchists mean by it when we say we don’t believe in the State. This is classic Marxism once again – being bloody confusing and redefining words willy nilly for no apparent reason, almost as if they don’t actually want any ordinary workers to understand what they’re on about!

What the Manifesto is saying here is that the working class people should be organised into some kind of big organisation and that this organisation should nick all the money from the bosses and bankers as well as take over all ‘instruments of production’ which would mean the farms, factories and everything else used to produce things we need.

This organisation is what they are calling ‘The State’, and they are saying it must use violence to achieve it’s goals, but this will be an organisation of the vast majority of people – the 99% as we would say today – using violence to take control of everything from the 1%- or ‘bourgeoisie’. By calling it a ‘State’ Marx and Engels seem to be just using their bloody anoying sense of humour whereby they just try and turn the meanings of words on their heads – a habit Marx must have picked up at University when he was studing Hegel.

People familiar with the history of Anarchism in the trades union movement, especially the CNT in Spain or the IWW in the English-speaking world, will probably realise that what Marx called the ‘State’ is actually exactly the same as what the IWW called the ‘One Big Union’, and what the CNT actually achieved in Barcelona and other places in 1936-7 is remarkably similar to what the Manifesto says should happen under the ‘dictatoship of the proletariat’, even though they didn’t call it that.

The CNT union in Spain took up arms to fight the capitalist class, who were backing the Fascist army of General Franco, and it had so many workers and peasants organised that the union was able to take over many work-places, farms, factories, train-lines etc – doing what the Manifesto said they should do ‘centralise all instruments of production in the hands of the State’ if of course you define the ‘State’ as the organisation of the working class, in this case, the CNT.

Finally the Manifesto says:

‘When, in the course of development, class distinctions have disappeared, and all production has been concentrated in the hands of a vast association of the whole nation, the public power will lose its political character. Political power, properly so called, is merely the organised power of one class for oppressing another. If the proletariat during its contest with the bourgeoisie is compelled, by the force of circumstances, to organise itself as a class, if, by means of a revolution, it makes itself the ruling class, and, as such, sweeps away by force the old conditions of production, then it will, along with these conditions, have swept away the conditions for the existence of class antagonisms and of classes generally, and will thereby have abolished its own supremacy as a class.‘

Again, they are mucking around with words a bit too much here and causing unnecessary confusion – which is serious as it has led to the death of millions of people in Russia, China and elsewhere. They are defining ‘political power’ as the violence carried out by one class against another. Right now the 1%, because it controls the State, is using violence against the 99%, in the form of the police, prisons, bailiffs, security guards, armed forces, secret services etc etc, to keep the system going. This is something that anyone can see, although many working class people still don’t see things in this way and perhaps think that the existence of this kind of State violence exists for the reasons that the 1% say it does – for ‘Justice’ or ‘the Rule of Law’ or whatever it is they say.

Because Marx and Engels were influenced by Hegel, who liked to play little logic games called ‘dialectics’, where you juxtapose ideas with their opposites in order to bring up contradictions that need to be resolved by inventing new ideas, they feel it is necessary to invent an idea called the ‘workers State’, or ‘99% State’ to talk about the idea of the 99% getting organised enough to fight back against the power of the 1% State and take over the means of production.

For most of us, who can’t be bothered to play these kinds of games with words, it would have been better if they just hadn’t used the word ‘State’ at all, but just said ‘the organisation of the working class’ and had just said ‘violence’ instead of ‘political power’. Its clear that the Manifesto is aimed at a world where there is no State at all, because it says in the passage above that once the violence of fighting the capitalists for control of the means of production is over, there is no need for any violence or ‘political power’ ever again.

So if anarchists and the original Marxists agreed on all of this, just using different words to describe it, why did they split at all? Why didn’t the whole socialist movement become the united force of the whole working class, destroy all the capitalist governments and bring about a totally different society where everyone controls the means of production together, sharing the work that needs to be done, and the products of that work fairly, according the principle ‘from each according to their abilities, to each according to their means?’ Why did capitalism and State oppression continue for another 170 years, even to this day?

The Split Between Anarchists and Marxists in the 1st International

Lets go back to the history lesson. In 1861 Marx helped to organise the first meeting of the International Working Men’s Association (note the sexism) which is sometimes called the ‘First International’. This organisation invited representatives from militant working-class organisations from all over Europe and was the first time that working-class people had had any kind of international organisation. In theory it should have been the beginning of the global organisation to unite the working class and bring about the revolution, so what went wrong?

The Marxist version of the story is that an Anarchist called Mikael Bakunin kept trying to use manipulative and undemocratic ways of doing things until the Marxists were so pissed of that they felt they couldn’t carry on, so they dissolved the organisation and starting their own Marxist organisation, known as the 2nd International.

The Anarchist version of the story is that Marx and his friends tried to change the structure of the organisation so that it would be a hierarchical one with a central committee of people who all agreed with everything Marx said. Bakunin thought that the organisation of the working class should not have a hierarchical structure because if it did then after it took over all the means of production from the capitalists, there would simply be a new ruling class made up of the Marxist leadership of the organisation. Bakunin tried to stop Marx from doing this, and would have succeeded if Marx and his friends hadn’t used manipulative and undemocratic means to force the anarchists out by dissolving the International. The Anarchists then started their own International as well.

If you really care about who was in the right and who was being sneaky, you can go and read all about it for yourself. I am prepared to believe that both sides probably were being a bit sneaky, but that ultimately Bakunin was proven right about the danger of hierarchical organisation by what happened in Russia and other places later on.

Bakunin also disagreed with Marx in other ways which history has proven him right on. For Marx, the ‘working class’ meant the industrial workers in the big cities, and he didn’t talk much about the peasantry in the countryside, self-employed small business owners or the people without jobs such as beggars or criminals. Bakunin on the other hand thought you needed them all to be united as Socialist revolution would benefit them all. History has proven him right especially in the sense that most big socialistic revolutions in the twentieth century were more based on the organisation of the peasantry than of industrial workers.

The main difference between the organisations that have their origins in Marx’s 2nd International and Bakunin’s Anarchist International is that the Marxist organisations have mainly taken the form of political parties where as the anarchist ones have mainly been trades unions and other organisations that do not act like political parties, such as the various ‘Anarchist Federations’ or ‘Libertarian Communist’ organisations that have existed throughout history.

Broadly speaking it was mostly Northern European countries, especially Marx’s native land Germany were Marxism really took off, and mainly Mediterranean countries where Anarchism did better. In Germany, millions of workers eventually became members of the Marx-inspired Social Democratic Party (SPD) that did eventually achieve a revolution in Germany in 1918, ending the First World War. The SPD did not just run candidates for elections to the German parliament, it also organised youth clubs, music groups and many other cultural activities that helped build up a strong sense of working class solidarity and socialist culture that you can still see many traces of in Germany today.

But the SPD revolution of 1918 did not lead to Socialist revolution. The SPD-led government signed a Peace treaty with Britain, France and the US called the treaty of Versailles which committed the State to giving away lots of territory and paying a ridiculous amount of money to its former enemies, causing a lot of the popular resentment which the Nazis were later able to capitalise on to take power and destroy the workers movement altogether, much to the satisfaction of capitalists all over the world, who only decided Hitler was a bad guy many years later.

So what went wrong? According to ideas in the Communist Manifesto, the SPD should have told the Allies to shove the Treaty of Versailles, and carried on with fighting the capitalists until all the land, factories and other means of production so that they would now belong to the working class. Instead the leaders of the party sold out the working class, which can perhaps be seen as a vindication of the Anarchists distrust of hierarchical organisations.

If there are no leaders, there’s no one who can sell anyone else out! I learnt this very early on when I first got involved in activism and the cops asked us who was in charge. We just told them no-one was, so they were just confused, couldn’t take anyone off for a private chat, and we carried on doing what we were doing. The same thing has happened many times in my experience of non-hierarchical organisations.

Anarchism vs Marxist-Leninism

Many workers in the SPD who were still committed to the ideas of Marx and the 2nd International split off and formed the Independent SPD, but others joined the newly formed Communist Party, which was part of the 3rdInternational that had recently been formed in Russia by the Bolshevik faction of the Russian Social Democratic party led by Lenin.

The Bolsheviks had formed their faction after lots of arguments with the other Marxists in the SPD, who were called the Mensheviks. The word ‘Bolshevik’ means majority and ‘Menshevik’ means minority, because they had originally split in a vote where Lenin’s ideas had won the vote, but actually for most of the time until the Russian revolution actually started the Bolsheviks were in the minority of the Russian SPD, which was a tiny organisation in Russia anyway.

The Russian revolution of 1917 was very different from the German one the next year. It did not come about because the majority of workers were organised into a 2nd International-style Marxist party. Instead, the peasants and unemployed in the cities had played big roles, alongside the industrial workers, who were a tiny minority of the population in a country with very little industry.

One of the biggest organisations were the Social revolutionaries, who were calling for the peasants to have control over the land. Anarchist ideas were also popular among many revolutionaries in Russia, and many of the most famous Anarchist philosophers were Russians (or at least from what was the Russian Empire at the time): Bakunin, Kropotkin, Emma Goldman, Nestor Makhno, and others.

On International Women’s day in March 1917 (February according to the old calender that Russians used at the time), masses of working class women took to the streets demanding food, as the First World War had caused widespread hunger and hardship for years, as well as the deaths of millions on the front lines. The women stayed in the streets for four days and were gradually joined by many male workers as well. The soldiers who were ordered to shoot the protesters refused to, because they were sick of the war as well, and the Emperor (Czar) realised he was beaten and decided to give up power.

All over Russia workers and peasants started taking over the ‘means of production’, especially the land, and started organising their own local systems of government called ‘Soviets’, or ‘councils’, based on direct democracy. It seemed like a socialist revolution was happening without the masses even needing to be organised into a hierarchical political party. Instead the ‘soviets’ seemed to be the organisation of the working class that was going to fight the capitalists, take over all the rest of the means of production, and bring about socialism and the end of the State (or to be the ‘workers state’ in the sense used by the Communist Manifesto).

The majority of the Marxists (the Mensheviks) were too stuck in their old 2ndInternational ways to be able to figure out what to do about this, but Lenin saw a chance to use this new situation to his advantage. His Bolshevik faction united with some anarchists and succesfully attacked the headquarters of the new government that capitalists had formed in St Petersbourg in November 1917 (or October in the old Calender, which is why its called the October Revolution or Red October).

Part of the reason that the Mencheviks had not known what to do, is because they were confused by Marx’s philosophical nonsense about the ‘dialectics of history’ and theory that history moves through different ‘stages’. Marx thought capitalism was actually pretty cool in some ways, because he thought that it had led to lots of technological progress which otherwise wouldn’t have happened. He saw that the technology that capitalists had invented because of competition with each other had meant that more things could now be produced easier than before.

If workers took over this technology and used it in a socialist way, then the new socialist society would be able to produce lots of stuff without workers having to work that hard, which would be great. For some reason he didnt think it would be that great if peasants just took over the land in places where capitalist industrial revolutions hadnt happened yet and figured out how to develop the new technology for themselves later on in their own time.

Instead, many Marxists seemed to think that peasants living in old-school feudal systems should wait for capitalists to have their revolution first, creating big factories with new technology and make them all into wage workers in industry for a while first. Only after this were they allowed to have their own revolution.

Its a mad bastard of an idea, and one that obviously no peasant would really be that convinced by. Unsurprisingly Marx had never been a peasant or an industrial worker himself, or even had any friends who were. However, the idea that Lenin replaced this with was even madder.

Lenin not only didn’t have any peasant friends, he actually had peasants working for his family, which was part of the aristocracy, and like other aristocrats he viewed peasants with contempt, which was one of the reasons he liked Marx’s theory of stages of history.

Lenin completely changed the idea of the ‘workers state’ to one completely different from how an Anarchist would interpret it in the Communist Manifesto. He said that in countries like Russia were feudualism was still more common that industrial capitalism, then the workers State should do the job of creating capitalist-style industrial development, using State force to bring about the ‘Capitalist stage’ in history, and then moving straight on to the ‘Socialist stage’.

It makes so little sense I find it hard to even explain. If the communsit manifesto talked about the workers ‘State’ being basically an organisation like the CNT or IWW, an organisation of all the working class that took over the means of production and wealth of the capitalist class, and once those battles were over just ceased to exist, then the State that Lenin was imagining was clearly something very different.

Of course Lenin agreed with Marx that this organisation needed to be hierarchical. But not only this, it needed to have a huge amount of power and top-down authoritarian control in order to bring about a capitalist style system – even more power than the States which had brought about capitalism in other countries had actually had in the first place. It also needed to stop the peasants having their revolution where they took control of the land for themselves, until the ‘right time’.

So, even though by organising themselves into Soviets, the working class (in the broader sense that Bakunin used, to include the peasantry as well) had already formed the organisation that was bringing about Socialism, Lenin felt the need to get his party to take over all the Soviets, ban all other political, and make the ‘Political Bureau’ of the Bolshevik party (now called the Russian Communist Party) into the unelected government of the whole Soviet Union. The ‘soviets’ were turned from being local councils based on direct democracy where workers and peasants would organise their own affairs, into just being the bottom level of a massive hierarchical system of government which Lenin himself was at the top of.

Peasants, industrial workers and anyone else who opposed them, including Anarchists, were shot to death or put in prison. Peasant villages were forced to give up their food at gun point to the goverrnment, which was led mainly by former Artistocrats and middle class Marxist intellectuals, as well as criminal thugs like Stalin, who simply did well in a structure based on violent domination.

Drunk with power, Lenin decided that any Marxist, or indeed any Socialist, anywhere in the world, who disagreed with him, was an idiot, which is why he wrote ‘Left-Wing Communism – an Infantile Disorder’. He set up a new Third International, called the Communist International, and told all the old Second International parties they should join it. ‘Left Wing Communism’ was partly an attack on those who refused, and partly an attack on those who did join but who he thought complained too much.

So now there were dozens of organisations called ‘Communist Parties’ which were completely different from how the Communist Manifesto said a hypothetical ‘Communist Party’ should behave. The 3rd International Communist Parties believed in trying to take over the working class and in creating a brutal dictatoship, copying what had happened in Russia, using baffling Marxist philophical jargon to explain to workers how it was in their interests to support them.

The 3rd International parties became basically just organs of the Russian State, especially after Stalin took over the Party after a power struggle between him and Trotsky once Lenin died. Trotsky formed his own rival ‘4thInternational’, which all the Trotskyist parties have their origins in.

Of course, in those days there was no internet, so workers around the world didn’t know what was really going on. The capitalist newspapers were of course saying horrible things about Lenin and the Bolsheviks, but many workers new that the capitalist papers were full of lies. So many believed the Marxist-Leninist propanganda which said that Lenin had come up with a brilliant new theory for how to achieve socialist revolution, and that socialist revolution was really happening in Russia.

Thousands of people who until then had been more influenced by anarchism than Marxism all joined the new Communist Party, because they believed this propaganda. A few anarchists like Emma Goldman, Alexander Berkman and Kropotkin himself, as well as anarchist peasant refugees like Nesto Makhno, did know what was really happening because they’d seen it with their own eyes, and tried to warn workers not to buy into Lenin’s lies, but the Communist International’s newspaper, the Daily Worker, was read by a lot more workers.

Anarchist alternatives to Marxist and Leninist tactics

Before the Russian revolution, anarchist ideas were a lot more popular within the socialist movement than Marxist ones in most countries. Anarchist ideas spread rapidly throughout Europe, Latin America, North America, Australia and parts of Asia, especially Japan, Korea, China and India. Often it was spread by migrant workers who had become introduced to the ideas in one country before moving to another and spreading them, such as Malatesta who started off in Italy before moving to Argentina, as well as other European countries.

As I mentioned above, most of the biggest organisations influenced by Anarchist ideas have been trades unions such as the IWW, or CNT, though it is interesting to note that the unions themselves did not require people to declare their loyaty to anarchist theory before joining. In the CNT, for example, there was an explicitly anarchist organisation called the FAI, or Anarchist Federation, which was much smaller, and you didn’t have to join FAI to join the CNT.

This is an important point: anarchists realised that they would be more successful in building mass movements if they made them open to people who didn’t necessarily agree with anarchist ideas straight away. The important thing was to organise the working class for socialist revolution, not to win converts to a theory. When you look at the the history of Marxism by comparison, this is quite striking, as Marxists have tended to place a lot more importance on having lots of theorectical arguments, splitting off from each other when they have disagreements.

It is easy to understand why more workers would be interested in joining a union that was militantly fighting for workers interests and which didn’t ask them to read loads of books before they joined, that they would be in joining a political party where everyone was always using really long words and phrases that no-one else ever used in any other context.

But the strategy of building these kinds of unions – known as the Anarcho-Syndicalist strategy – was not the only strategy that anarchists tried. Bakunin thought that revolutionary socialists should always support popular rebellions by working class people, including peasants. When the working classes of Paris rose up in 1871 and organised themselves into a new organisation based on direct democracy called the Paris Commune, fighting the capitalists and their soldiers to do so, Bakunin went there to join in, and he also wanted socialists to support the independence struggles of the Slavic peoples of Eastern Europe agaisnt the Russian Empire.

For Bakunin, then, spontenaity was important. Building up organisations of the working class was one thing, but so was building up a culture of resistance and the confidence of the people in their ability to fight for freedom. You couldn’t just ignore people who were fighting for freedom because they were doing so in a way that didn’t fit in with your theory, you always had to be on the side of the oppressed whenever they fought back. Once you were there, side by side on the barricades or whatever, then they might be interested in hearing about your ideas of international working class solidarity and socialist revolution. Marx disagreed, and did not go to Paris for to help the Commune, nor did he support the struggles of the Slavic peoples, giving abstract philosophical reasons for staying at home in London with his middle-class intellectual friends.

Towards the end of the 19th century there was a decline in the Socialist movement all over Europe, and many younger Anarchists were frustrated at the lack of militant action to get involved with. This led many of them to adopt a strategy of terrorism, inspired by the Russian Nihilist movement of a few decades before. The Nihilists did not have a positive image of what should replace the Fuedual Russian Empire, they just wanted to see it destroyed. Nihilists carried out acts of terrorism including assasinating the Csar. Lenin’s older brother had actually been a Nihilist, which was why his chances of feeding his lust for power by simply working within the system like a normal aristocrat had been ruined at a young age.

Anarchists did have a positive idea of the society they were fighting for, but it required the working class to be organised and to be militantly fighting. Some of them thought that as the Nihilists had been successful in making people realise the Czar was not all-powerful by the fact he could be killed, maybe anarchists could get the rest of the workers to rise up by assassinating capitalists and governments that supported them.

There were many bombings and assassinations in the late 1800s and early 1900s carried out by anarchists, none of which led to socialist revolution. What they did lead to was anarchists getting a bad name in the press ever since, and the association of the word ‘anarchy’ with chaos and violence in many people’s minds. The stereotype of anarchists as people with big beards dressed in black and chucking bombs was based on the fact that many of these kinds of people did actually exist at the time, though even then they were a minority of the anarchist movement.

After this period, in the early twenieth century, this strategy of anarchism terrorism became less popular, as it clearly didn’t work, and thats when the anarchist-inspired trades unions really started to grow. Bakunin had warned that normal trades unions were counter-revolutionary as they were hierarchical, so the leaders could always sell out the workers, and also because they were usually only interested in the issues of particular workers in particular industries, not the whole working class. Bakunin saw normal trades unions as counter revolutionary, because workers in a particular industry would only care about getting on good terms with their boss, not about overthrowing the whole system for the benefit of the whole class.

Anarcho-syndicalists therefore decided to organise unions which would take in workers of all different industries, that would fight for the interests of workers in each industry while at the same time emphasising the need for all workers to be in solidarity with each other, regardless of nationality or industry, and for one day to overthrow capitalism altogether. In doing so they were truly living up to the idea of what the Communist Party should be, as defined in the Manifesto.

But anarcho-syndicalism was not the only successful anarchist strategy. In Mexico a group of Anarchist Communists infiltrated the largest political party, the Liberal Party, and took it over, turning it’s party newspaper into a mouth-piece for Anarchist-Communist propaganda.

The leader of the Party at this time was Ricardo Flores Magon, who was of indignous decent but was born into a middle-class family and became a lawyer representing mostly poor indigenous and mestizo (mixed heritage) peasant farmers in court, which radicalised him. He was in communication with members of the IWW in the United States, including Emma Goldman, and read the works of Kropotkin and other Anarchist Communist writers.

By inflitrating a non-revolutionary party and turning it into a revolutionary one, Flores Magon achieved something quite original in Socialist history, with amazingly successful results. There was an anarcho-syndicalist movement in the big cities of Mexico, which unfortunately had similarly dismissive ideas about the peasantry to many Marxists. Flores Magon used the party newspaper to promote the idea of workers and peasants seizing the land at the same time, promoting unity among all the working class (in the sense Bankunin used it).

At the time there were two different revolutionary peasant movements going on – one in the north led by Pancho Villa, and another in the south led by Emiliano Zapata, who famously declared that ‘Whoever works on the land should own it’ and whose slogan was ‘Land and Freedom’. A combination of these movements with the movement of the working class in the cities, brought down the government of the dictator Porfiro Diaz, and a new government calling itself socialist took power.

Flores Magon, and Zapata, did not accept this new government as being genuinely socialist, and kept fighting it and propagandising against it, saying that workers and peasants must never accept the promises of politicians and must directly seize the means of production themselves, rather than letting the State sieze them, even if the politicians controlling the State promise they’ll reform them.

Lenin also thought Socialists should participate in mainstream party-politics as a platform to spread propaganda, but the kind of attitude of the sort of Party Lenin wanted to that which Flores Magon led, couldnt be more different. Lenin wanted a party that would participate in elections in a capitalist state to spread propaganda that the state must be abolished and replaced with a new one based on the rule of his own Party. Flores Magon was simply getting involved in party politics in order to tell the working class not to trust politicians with any power at all and that they should take direct control of the means of production themselves, and never give up control of it to anyone.

The Mexican revolution actually happened before the Russian one, and it is a shame that Flores Magons ideas of how socialists should behave when participating in mainstream politics have not been as widely popularised as Lenin’s have.

Similar things have been done by other anarchists in other places and at other times. In France there was once a Libertarian Communist party which stood for elections, that emerged out of the Platformist tradition of anarchist communism. This tradition was started by Nestor Makhno, who had been a revolutionary peasant leader in the Ukraine and had fought battles against both Lenin’s Bolsheviks and the Capitalist armies that tried to take over Ukraine again.

Makhno’s army had been well organised and disciplined, but had never tried to impsoe any system of government onto the territories which it liberated from various State controls. Instead they simply told the peasants in each place that they were now free to govern themselves however they saw fit and went off to liberate more territory, similar to how Zapata’s army worked in southern Mexico at around the same time.

When Makhno had finally been defeated by the Bolsheviks, he fled to western Europe, where he was disgusted at how disorganised and lacking in discipline the anarchist movement was. He and his friend wrote a text called the ‘Organisational Platform of the Libertarian Communists’ which advocated that anarchists organise themselves into effective structures with clear messages that everyone agreed on, so that they could play a better role in workers struggles and argue for socialist revolution more effectively. Many organisations which have played a major role in spreading anarchist-communist ideas around the world have been inspired by this tendency.

So why do so many anarchists refuse to engage with mainstream politics?

The 1930s were a time of great crisis for the Socialist movement. The Communist Party of Spain, led by Stalin in Russia, betrayed the Anarchists and other Marxists, leading to Fascist victory in the Civil war and the death of many anarchists. The Second world war killed many more. In the 1930s there was an anarchist revolution in Manchuria, China, which was crushed in the war as well. It was not until the 1960s that anarchists emerged again as an influnce in working class politics.

The working classs movement of the 1960s was different from any other. Many Socialists had been shocked at how Fascism and Stalinism had managed to get the support of so many workers, so revolutionary theory started to incorporate more of an analysis of pyschology and culture, with the Frankfurt school of Marxism and such revolutionary counter culture movements as the Situationist International in France, the Provos in Holland, and the Yippies in the United States. Many of the same people were involved in artistic movements as well as radical politics, and there was also a rise in ‘alternative lifestyles’, at which the most extreme end was the hippy drop-out culture of moving to communes and trying to live as if the socialist revolution had already happened.

In the UK in particular, in the late seventies there was a huge social crisis and many working class youth became disenchanted with the Labour party, and party politics in general. The punk movement emerged as a cultural phenomenon, following on from the youth movement of the 1960s, but involving a more nihistic rejection of politics. Anarchism became associated with this movement and many punks began calling themselves anarchists, even if they had no interest in socialist revolution or engaging with mainstream society in any way, let alone mainstream politics. Of course, many socialists, anarcho-communists and trades unionists were also involved in the punk movement, but nonetheless, it is obvious that punk did a lot to de-politicise anarchism and make many people see the word as synonymous with drop-out culture, including many in that drop-out culture itself.

There has always been a philosophical tendency called ‘individualist’ anarchism, originally advocated by Max Stirner in the early 1800s, and more recently there has been a development of a school of thought sometimes called ‘anarcho-primivism’ also based on a rejection of modern technological society, glorifying a hunter-gatherer mode of existence and therefore rejecting the struggle of the working class to gain control of the means of production as irrelevant, or even morally wrong, as they associate technology and the division of labour with oppression. By definition, anarcho-individualism, and anarcho-primitivism are not organised political movements with clear aims, nor are they part of the socialist movement. However, these kinds of ideas may be heard being expressed in many anarchist ‘drop-put’ communities and have influenced the thinking of many anarchists who have not fully bought into them. These philosophies obviously reject participating in mainstream politics for completely different reasons.

Going back to those anarchists who do actually want to see working class revolution, in the 1960s, continuing through the 1980s to the present day, there was a revival of the nihilist-inspired ideas of the anarchist terrorists, with the growth of what is now called ‘insurrectionalist anarchism’, and certain anarchist terrorist groups have spread the idea that by militant action alone anarchists can inspire working class revolution, despite the fact it failed 100 years ago.

Because of the history of animosity between anarchists and Marxists, especially Marxist-Leninists, not only because of the Russian and Spanish revolutions, but also because of many times in which Trotskyists or Stalinists have bad-mouthed or betrayed anarchists, or have sabotaged anarchists’ attempts to inspire people to direct action, in many social movements such as in Paris May 1968, in which Trotskyists were widely seen as being complicit in counter-revolution, many anarchists now have a simplisitic idea that anything that Trotskyists do must be wrong, including participating in mainstream politics.

Anarcho-syndicalists and Platformists, as well as many Marxists have also often ridiculed the idea that real change can ever be achieved by electing politicians into parliaments in capitalist countries, as part of their propaganda efforts to encourage direct action of the workers instead.

Although it is important for revolutionaries to explain to other workers how the system is always rigged to suit capitalists, and that ultimately we need a socialist revolution, this does not necessarily mean that revolutionaries should not participate in electoral politics at all for the purposes of spreading propaganda, as Flores-Magon did in Mexico.

8. Conclusions

There is nothing inherent to anarchist theory which says we cannot participate in political parties for reasons of propaganda, and in fact one of the most successful anarchist communist revolutionaries in history: Flores Magon, did exactly this.

Anarchism does fit in the tradition of the Communist Manifesto, which is why for many ‘Libertarian Communism’ is a preferable name for our ideas, and why many people who call themselves Marxists, but not Leninists, have basically identical views to those of anarchists.

Anarchist-syndicalists have shown that workers organised into big unions that accept workers from all industries and nationalities can come close to achieving socialist revolution as defined by the Communist manifesto and there is no reason to suggest that these unions should even be limited to workers but could also include unemployed workers and fight on issues other than merely those in the workplace, as the Solidarity Federation and the IWW in Britain are currently trying to do with the idea of ‘community unions’.

The parties that have their history in the 2nd International include most of the Social Democrat, Socialist, and Labour parties in the world. They have a proven track record of betraying the working class, as Bakunin warned, and it is right that anarchists consistantly make the argument that electing these parties to power has nothing to do with revolutionary socialism. These parties will at best try to reform capitalism, and will never seek to overthrow it.

Marxist-Leninist parties are even more dangerous as they have historically not only betrayed many workers struggles but have also sought violent revolution and the establishment of one-party dictatorship for philosphical reasons that don’t make sense, and which it is even more important for anarchists to argue against and oppose.

However, the first Socialist to ever call himself an anarchist, Proudhon, was in favour of working class people having their own parties to vote for in parliaments run by capitalists, and it deos make sense from a practical point of view that if you are aware that a socialist revolution is not going to happen any time soon, you would want to have a government which at least represents workers interests in some small way as opposed to one which completely opposes them.

It is clear that there is no current mass organisation capable of uniting the working class to fight the capitalist state and take control of the means of production. It is also clear that it will take a long time to build up such organisations.

In the meantime, it makes strategic sense to prefer a Social Democrat party or other party representing workers interests, even if only partly, to one which explicitly anti-worker, such as the Conservative party, and even to become a member of a Social Democrat, Liberal, or any other party, for the purposes of gaining a platform with which to advocate the organisation of the working class into a force capable of bringing about a Socialist revolution.

In doing so, we would be consistant with historical behaviour of some of the most successful and famous anarchist revolutionaries, including Nestor Makhno, who advocated that anarchsits form political organisations rather than simply trades unions, and Flores Magon who demonstrated that it was possible to use non-anarchist political parties for the same purpose.

It is not, therefore, a ‘betrayal’ of anarchism for anarchists to participate in Momentum or the Labour party, nor is it a capitulation to Social Democracy or Marxist Leninism.If anarchists within Momentum and the Labour party to espouse anarchist arguments about the need for socialist revolution and anarcho-syndicalist style organisation, they will be doing far more for anarchism than those who refuse to engage with mainstream politics in any way, especially given how little known anarchist ideas are currently in this country.

I am sure that this article will not stop some so-called anarchists from criticising us, but I hope it gives contributes to debate within the socialist movement, and helps some anarchists who have chosen to participate in Momentum and the Labour party to argue against those who accuse us of betrayal.

When Internationalists don’t even bother, of course Nationalists win

(Originally written on the ACAB – Anti Capitalists Against Brexit blog on June 25 2016)

People blaming Corbyn for not pandering to anti-immigrant sentiment among some sections of the white working class miss the point. Instead, he should have done more to push a genuinely socialist message of working class people of different nationalities having more in common with one another than they do with the rich of their own countries.

It’s a basic idea, so basic that most leftists take it for granted that everyone already has heard that argument but the truth is many working class people don’t think like that because they are always encouraged to think the opposite way.

I feel the left wing intelligentsia in general is to blame for not acknowledging it’s the responsibility to educate that comes with the privilege of being educated. You get this weird and horrible paradox that many leftist middle class graduates actually hate working class people so much they can’t be bothered to even talk to them, let alone seriously try to argue their case in plain English, instead dismissing anyone who doesn’t respond to Marxist or liberal jargon as a hopeless case.

In Latin America I was always impressed at how the leftist activists I met from the universities always saw going into the shanty towns to do workshops and film showings as a normal practice, whereas the same idea never occurs to their equivalents here.

People often use the argument not to do it that it would be condescending or patronising, failing to see that being patronising and condescending is precisely why people like Boris and Farage and Trump succeed. There are ways of sharing the knowledge and insight you have without being condescending if you actually bother to try.

For more on this theme see my article More Ants With Honey

Raz O’Connor

Why the headlines didn’t say: ‘Fascist Terrorist Assassinates Elected Politician’

(Originally written on the Anti Capitalists Against Brexit (ACAB) blog on 20 June 2016)

That is what the headlines should have said when Jo Cox died. The man who killed her was a Fascist – that was clear from the fact he shouted the name of a prominent Fascist organisation – Britain First – as he shot her, and has since become even more clear.

It was also, clearly, an act of Terrorism. It was something done for a political purpose, and the tactic chosen was one intended to cause fear in the hope that this would achieve that political end.

It was also an Assassination- it was the targeting of a specific figure in the public eye who represented something that the killer wanted to see destroyed – white non-Muslim people having solidarity with Muslims of different skin colours or at the very least British Citizens having solidarity with non-British Citizens.

But the same media organisations that are usually happy to use the word ‘Terrorism’ as soon as possible if the suspect is believed to be Muslim, were very reluctant to use this word, or the word ‘Fascist’, or even the word ‘Assassination’.

In the British flawed ‘Representative’ democracy, the only way an ordinary citizen stands a chance of influencing the affairs of State is by writing to your MP or talking to them at a constituency surgery. Constituency surgeries are perhaps the greatest claim the British state has to actually being any kind of democracy at all, rather than the plutocratic oligarchy that it appears to be to the untrained eye.

It was precisely this event that was chosen as the seat of the attack by a man who does not believe in any kind of democracy whatsoever, to carry out the murder of an elected official. It may have been chosen simply because it was an event she was guaranteed to be at, but nonetheless the symbolism is powerful – this was an attack on democracy by anti-democratic forces.

Again, the same media organisations that normally love to use this kind of language utterly failed to do so. If a government far away chooses to allow it’s oil to be sold in a different currency to the US dollar, as Saddam Hussein and Colonel Ghadaffi  did, this is grounds for war to ‘protect democracy’, even though the US dollar is the property of the completely unelected Federal Reserve Bank, which even American citizens have no say over, let alone British ones.

So is the British army going to be sent to war against Britain First and other Fascist groups? It seems unlikely. Just the other week in Bristol I witnessed what must have been tens or possibly hundreds of thousands of pounds being spent on policing and fences to allow a group of 14 Fascists to have access to one of the most popular parks in the city, safe from the hundreds of anti-fascists who gathered to oppose them.

Such things are very common. The British State allows Fascists to march regularly and is prepared to spend an awful lot of money to protect their ‘freedom of speech’ to do so, even though under Fascism the rights to freedom of speech and protest would not exist. We are often told that this is because of the State’s democratic liberal values – that they are so principled as to defend someone’s right to say something even if they disagree.

Yet under an Anarchist or Democratic Socialist system, there would be much greater democracy, much greater freedom of speech, and yet the Anarchist, Socialist and similar-minded movements in the UK are rarely given this expensive police protection (quite the reverse!) even when we are on the streets trying to ‘protect democracy’ from Fascists.

We also have the disadvantage that we do not have sympathetic newspapers being sold in every newsagent in the country, blasting out propaganda for us for free.

Imagine is for every news story attacking immigrants, people on benefits, squatters, travellers and Leftists there was a corresponding one attacking corrupt bureaucrats, violent police thugs, rapacious transnational corporations or bigoted lower-middle class racists.

Imagine if for every article suggesting we should scrap the human rights act and put more people in jail, there was one saying we should give people more rights and take more people out of jail.

Imagine if when an Anarchist smashed a bank window or dared to use self-defence against a cop trying to smack them in the face with a steel baton, the newspapers asked the public to be sympathetic to their mental state rather than immediately labelling them a terrorist or trouble-maker.

Of course, anyone performing any kind of act of violence is probably not in the best mental state. Of course, it is wise when someone attacks you or someone you care about to try to hold yourself back from immediately judging them as ‘evil’ or dehumanising them in some other way. It is difficult to do so, but it is wise, and through meditation and much reflecting on the ways in which deep down all humanity is one and the same, I believe it could be possible.

So I am not criticising the media for looking into the mental health of the Fascist Assassin and Terrorist. I am criticising them for not also calling him a Fascist, Assassin and Terrorist at the same time. It’s easy to write a sentence doing both, e.g. What mental health factors drive someone to become a Fascist Assassin and Terrorist? See, easy.

I am also criticising them for not applying the same sympathetic considerations in other cases of Terrorism. Do they consider Muslim Terrorists to be completely mentally stable?

The Terrorist who killed dozens of people in the club in Orlando was also suffering from mental health problems. It seemed he was attracted to men and was repressing it, possibly due to being brought up with homophobic beliefs, causing him to lash out against openly gay people. This is a common psychological phenomenon and the cause of much of the homophobic violence in the world.

A media organisation that wanted to help the public understand violence and how it could be avoided might want to invite it’s readers or viewers to consider such things.

However, a media organisation that actively wants to promote racial and religious hatred among white working class people in the Western world to encourage them to support imperialistic wars in the Muslim world and be indifferent to the human cost, might report any act of violence carried out by someone who may be Muslim in such a way as to dehumanise them (and their entire religion) to make them appear evil and worthy of death.

A media organisation seeing a white working class person with mental health problems whipped up into a violent frenzy through years of its own propaganda to the point where he assassinates an elected politician, might not want its readers to think about whether or not it was to blame in any way for it. It might therefore not use the same language it uses in the case of Muslim terrorists. It wouldn’t want other white working class people to stop and consider that it is not a good thing to be a Fascist, essentially.

Of course if media organisations were behaving like this, this could be considered a threat to democracy in itself. If instead of impartially and unbiasedly reporting on similar crimes in a similar way regardless of the ethnicity or religion of the suspect, they were in fact using a double standard and protecting the fascist movement while continuing to stir up hated against ethnic minorities to encourage more people to become fascists – it could be considered that these organisations were actually pro-Fascist ones themselves.

How lucky we are that instead of living in a plutocratic oligarchy with a strong and thriving Fascist subculture and media protected by the power of the State, we instead live in a liberal democracy where power rests with those who are elected by the people rather than whoever has access to a gun.

Boris Johnson, a charismatic right-wing populist leader who is obsessed with ancient Rome and who could become the most powerful man in the country without having to stand for election goes around speaking on podiums that say #TakeControl . Nothing fascist about that at all, is there?

Let us not be afraid though. Truly, that is letting the Terrorists win. Jo Cox stood for Britain remaining in the EU, for letting more refugees come in, and for Peace. Let us continue to fight for these things, knowing that by doing so we are acting out of love for all humanity, rather than fear for whoever the Fascist media say we should consider our enemies.

Let us also consider the mental state of other prominent Fascists, Nigel Farage and Boris Johnson, and not dehumanise them as they dehumanise others. Perhaps one day they will learn to be comfortable in their own skin and not feel they have to constantly make spectacles out of themselves to get attention.

Speaking of spectacles and being comfortable in your own skin, here is a video of some naked people, trying to inject some positivity back into the referendum campaigning after all the doom and gloom last week.

Stay positive, and never give up

On the post-Brexit phenomenon of Anti-Capitalists joining the Labour party en masse


(Originally written on the ACAB – Anti Capitalists Against Brexit blog on 1st July 2016)

I write this as a committed anti-capitalist activist who has been active in various non-hierarchical, non-party-political groups for the past 8 and a half years. I never thought I would ever even consider joining any political party, let alone the Labour party – (which was after all the ruling party when I first committed myself to becoming an enemy of the State) – yet over the past few days I have considering doing just that.

At first I thought I was going mad, but then I posted some random thoughts on the irony of it all on my Facebook wall and was surprised to find that I was not alone. Of course, I knew that in in the past year many people in the anti-capitalist movement have joined the Jeremy Corbyn bandwagon, and that many had signed up as ‘supporters’ of the party in order to be able to vote for him in the leadership election. But now thousands of people are signing up and paying money to become full members, and many people who had avoided jumping on the bandwagon before are now putting aside their scepticism and joining in.

There is a simplistic anti-capitalist narrative being constructed, based on a confusion about the meaning of the word ‘Socialism’ which I feel slightly wary of, despite the fact I know it to be largely based on truth. There are many people joining the party despite not believing in this narrative, but who are also rejecting old anti-capitalist ideological reasons for not doing so, in favour of a ‘pragmatic’ approach.

I want to investigate all these arguments in this article: The ideological reason for joining Labour,  the pragmatic reason for joining Labour,the ideological reason for Not Joining Labour and critiques of all three of them. I will not discuss any pragmatic reason for not joining, because as far as I can see there is nothing to lose but the price of membership, of which the cheapest option is less than 2 pounds a month.

I hope this helps some people in the Anti-capitalist movement decide whether or not to join Labour, and how to conduct themselves within the party if they do choose to join.

The Ideological Reason for Joining Labour

The story goes that in the Good Old Days of our ancestors there existed a Socialist political party consisting of masses of workers organised into trade unions and which revolutionised British society half the way to ‘Socialism’ but didn’t manage to make it all the way there because of the Evil Tories.

Then one day the most Evil Tory of all, ‘Mrs T’ (No relation to Mr T), took over the country and dragged the political mainstream so far to the right that even the Labour party became no longer truly Socialist, being taken over by reptilian shape-shifting Evil Tories disguised as Labour party members, and all the true believers were exiled to the wilderness.

Neil Kinnock was the first of these, kicking out the Trotskyist Militant Tendency (who in this story are ‘revolutionary socialists’) and his successor Tony Blair, the most Evil Shape-Shifting Reptilian Overlord of all, actually changed the party’s constitution, abolishing Clause 4, which was (in this story) the ‘Socialist clause’.

But then, like the Morning Star rising at the break of dawn, Jeremy Corbyn emerged from the darkness to lead the way back to Socialism. Socialists would no longer be confined to tiny parties on the fringe of political life, but there will actually be a Socialist party that workers will be able to vote for and thus achieve Socialism in the UK via the ballot box.

Many anti-capitalists and other Leftists who support Corbyn believe that if he fails to remain the leader of the party then Labour will never have a leader with similar views to his ever again. It is claimed that the Parliamentary Labour Party’s Vote of No Confidence against him, which he lost 172 to 40, was the work of Evil Blairites, and that unless the left wing rallies behind him now, takes over all the Constituency Labour Parties and the National Executive Committee and then passes lots of democratic reforms at the party conference in September, the Right wing of the party will kick out the Left again like they did in the 1980s.

But, if Corbyn stays as leader long enough to pass his democratising reforms at the party conference, then the party will become a genuine Socialist party, democratically controlled by the grassroots, who will kick out the Right wing instead. Either way, the party will split, and the Left obviously prefer to have the Right be the ones wandering in the wilderness this time.

The Pragmatic Reasons for Joining Labour

Now, I am not saying that all anti-capitalists who are joining the Party are actually thinking along these lines. Many have said to be that they will join ‘tactically’ or ‘strategically’, and that they are not doing it because they think it will lead to Socialism, or that they see Jeremy Corbyn as some kind of Messiah, but simply because a Corbyn-led government seems like the lesser of 3 evils – the other two being an unelected Tory government or a Labour party led once again by Evil Shapeshifting Blairites.

Given that the next government will have to negotiate the UK’s future relationship with the rest of Europe, and that many decisions will be made which could potentially lead to disastrous consequences for workers and working class people if made by representatives of our class enemies, it is argued that it would simply be heartless for anyone who genuinely cares about the welfare of working class people to refuse to go along with this less of 3 evils for the sake of some kind of supposed Ideological purity.

The frontrunner of the Tory leadership race, Theresa May, has said she is in favour of scrapping the European Convention of Human rights  and has a long history of not only opposing immigration, but enforcing immigration law in very draconian ways during her time as Home Secretary.

The negotiations Britain will have with the EU will definitely affect the rights of millions of EU immigrants in one way or another. If the UK stays part of the European Economic Area but not part of the EU, like Norway, then ‘freedom of movement of labour’ will remain in some way, but precisely how is not certain. Leaving the European Convention of Human Rights will affect non-EU migrants as well, including many refugees who are often able to use the Convention to prevent themselves being deported.

So for people who oppose border controls and advocate solidarity among people of all nationalities, it is clear that Jeremy Corbyn, who has one of the best track records on refugee and migration policy of any MP, would be much more preferable than Theresa May.

Apart from immigration, many other causes dear to anti-capitalists hearts are up for grabs – equalities protection for Women, LGBTQ and Ethnic minority people in the workplace and in public services, and the vast majority of our environmental legislation

So for the same reason that many of us who actually oppose the EU as an undemocratic part of the capitalist super-structure nevertheless campaigned for a Remain vote in the referendum so that we could keep these limited protections and rights, obviously we want someone in power who will negotiate to keep as many of them as possible, which will not be a Tory or a Blairite.

The Ideological Reason For Not Joining the Labour Party

There is a long history of certain sections of the anti-capitalist movement refusing to participate in elections. The basic idea is that all systems of representative democracy are really just controlled behind the scenes by various capitalist interests, and that it is impossible to achieve any meaningful positive change for working class people by participating in them.

Left wing parties which seek to win elections are often viewed with suspicion by many anti-capitalists. People who want to reform the way capitalism works in a particular country to make it work better in the interests of working class people, are accused of ‘believing in capitalism’ and therefore dismissed. This can be witnessed in many anti-capitalists dismissal of the Green party as being ‘Green Capitalists’ for example.

This is a serious charge coming from people who define capitalism as inherently exploitative and violent. A picture is routinely portrayed of society as a pyramid in which the vast majority of people are at the bottom, suffering terribly from violence inflicted on them by people in the middle for the benefit of people at the top. With such an image of society it is easy to argue that it is meaningless to try and change the people at the top, because there will still be the same violence being meted out daily against the people on the bottom.

In this vision, the only true interest of the people at the bottom is revolution, to come about through a great world-wide insurrection leading to the direct seizure of the ‘means of production’ (fields, factories, workshops, communication and transport systems etc) by workers and working class people who will then use them to create a new socio-economic system to replace capitalism, in which decisions are made in ways consistent with direct democracy. This future society is sometimes referred to as ‘Communism’, sometimes ‘Anarchy’, sometimes ‘Socialism’, sometimes ‘the Ecological Society’, and often the word ‘libertarian’ is thrown in there as well for good measure.

For this to happen, lot’s of work needs to be done first of all, not least of which is the necessity to convince the vast majority of workers and working class people in the world that this is in fact what there true interests are and finding some way to organise such an insurrection.

Some people, calling themselves ‘insurrectionalists’ believe that the best way to go about this is to start the insurrection right now, as a minority of people, and to keep it going until everyone in the world joins in. This is the perspective of the kind of people who go out in the middle of the night to set off bombs in banks and other symbols of capitalism, or try to sabotage big ecological damaging structures, then come home and write poetic communiques about it to encourage other to want to do the same. You can see some of them on

Others believe in seeking to build mass non-violent social movements which are outside of the control of political parties until the working class of the world is organised enough and accustomed enough to the idea that achieving things through direct action is better than getting people elected to do them, that one day we will all be ready to start the final insurrection. This is the perspective of some Anarchist-Communist groups as well as Revolutionary Syndicalists like the IWW, who believe in fighting every-day workers’ battles in a militant way to build up the working class’s confidence until the One Big Strike some day in the future which will start the revolutionary insurrection.

Either way, the point is that anti-capitalists need to spend most of their time convincing people that political parties and voting are a waste of time and to put their faith in direct action, insurrection and the dream of the final anti-capitalist revolution instead. So those same anti-capitalists can not be seen to be participating in elections or political parties, or it would undermine their whole argument.

Working class people should not have ‘false hopes’ that capitalism can ever work in their interest, or in any leaders or political parties that say that it can, because this will mean they will continue to passively accept the violence inherent in the system instead of resisting and striking back against those responsible for the violence.

Critique of the Ideological Reason for Joining the Labour Party

The narrative I wrote towards the beginning of this piece was obviously quite tongue-in-cheek and you shouldn’t be surprised to read that I don’t agree with it. If you are really interested in this you should find someone who actually believes in it in order to get a fairer description of what they actually believe, which will not be hard for you as there are Leftist blogs all over the internet offering different versions of this narrative.

The main point I want to make is that there is a huge difference between the kind of ‘Socialism’ that the Labour party supposedly used to stand for and the kind of Socialism that the revolutionary socialists I described above are fighting for. It comes down to the question of whether workers should directly control the means of production, or whether a government supposedly representing them should. Clause 4 of the Party Manifesto, which Blair abolished, committed the Party to nationalising industry, not to giving it over to direct control by the people.

When a government ‘nationalises’ something, i.e. takes it over, some people have a tendency to call it ‘socialising it’ as if rather than belonging to the Nation State, it actually belongs to ‘society’. To equating the Nation State with ‘society’ is to follow the logic of Nationalist ideology, whether consciously or unconsciously.

Take for example the NHS. In your area are there ever any big assemblies or meetings where the neighbourhood gets together to vote on how your local hospital is going to be run? No, because it does not belong to you, or your neighbourhood, it belongs to the British Nation State, not British Society. It is nationalised, not socialised.

Anti-capitalists have long pointed out that a State which nationalises industry and banking can more accurately be called ‘State-Capitalist’ rather than Socialist. A state which owns factories, employs people, and gets into debt to invest in things it hopes will make it a financial profit to pay back the debt and run a budget surplus, is basically acting exactly like a massive corporation, just one with lots of soldiers working for it and a captive market of consumers.

Some Troskyists, and of course many Stalinists, would disagree with this and say that it is possible for a state that nationalises industry and banking can be socialist, if its a ‘workers state’ that has come about as a result of a popular revolution. It is hard to see how this argument could possibly apply in the case of a legitimate political party winning an election in a constitutional monarchy such as the UK.

Jeremy Corbyn wants to Nationalise the railways, and to make sure other things already nationalised don’t get privatised. For this he is called a Socialist, but it would be more accurate to call him a Nationalist. Many people in on the Left in Britain think this word means ‘racist’ and so would not call Jeremy Corbyn one. But many regimes around the world which have stood for State ownership of industry have been known as Nationalist rather than socialist, or sometimes both, though the term ‘National Socialist’ has especially bad connotations since the Nazis.

But look at what the Nazis actually did, aside from their genocidal and imperialist policies. They nationalised the central bank and used their power over it to promote economic recovery. They also nationalised various industries and were able to create jobs and social stability as a result. These are standard Leftist policies, and have also carried out by other horrible regimes from Stalinist Russia to modern day China. It does not make them good people.

In fact this is exactly the kind of thing that the revolutionaries such as the Insurrectionalists, Anarcho-Communists and Syndicalists are talking about – leaders and political parties creating false hope among the people to get themselves into power and continue to violently oppress the masses.

Under a Corbyn Government, wouldn’t people still get stopped and searched or killed in police custody? Wouldn’t people still get kicked out onto the street if they can’t pay their rent? Won’t baliffs, private security guards and other hired thugs still exist? Won’t overcrowded prisons still house thousands of people who never actually hurt anyone else, just took the wrong drugs or stole and committed fraud against people rich enough not to miss the money?

I am not comparing him to Hitler, just pointing out that the rule of a Nation State is ultimately based on it’s ability to monopolise violence within it’s territory, and that this always has terrible human consequences.

Critique of the Pragmatic Argument for Joining the Labour Party

Is Corbyn actually likely to win an election? The idea that he represents the ‘lesser of two (or three) evils’ is based on the assumption first of all that he has a realistic chance of winning. If he doesn’t, then wouldn’t it be more pragmatic to support a different Labour Party candidate, or even a Tory candidate, who is committed to keeping at least some of the things we like from the EU, even if not all of them?

One problem with that is that at time of writing this, the right wing of the Party have not chosen a candidate to challenge him yet, so we would have no-one to support in any case. But it is important to know that it is not only Blairites within the Parliamentary party who voted against Corbyn, but also people who are still to the left of the Neoliberal consensus but just aren’t quite as radical as Corbyn. Angela Eagle was one of them, and she was supposed to be the candidate they would put up against them but now for some reason they are hesitating.

When they finally do choose a candidate, we will be able to see from polling companies how well they do compared to Corbyn.

But even if Corbyn is the best choice, is it really a pragmatic use of our time to go to loads of boring Labour party meetings to get various Leftists elected to various committees, for the sake of what might or might not happen some time in the future, when right now racist attacks are on the rise?

Shouldn’t we put all our energy into community groups, anti-racist actions and other kinds of non-party political campaigning to be able to pressure whichever government takes power that they need to listen to what the people want from the EU negotiations? In short shouldn’t we worry about building up the strength of the working class to be able to impose it’s will on any government by building up the unions and other social movements?

Even if this building up the strength of the working class outside of the political parties never leads to a revolution, isn’t it still better anyway? If we put all our eggs in the basket of the Labour party, and then Labour loses an election anyway, won’t we have wasted our time when we could have been building fighting movements to force concessions out of the Tories? And wouldn’t we need those same fighting movements anyway even if Corbyn wins, to hold him to account and make sure he keeps his promises?

Critique of the Ideological Reasons For Not Joining Labour

As you might have guessed already, I have not fully made up my own mind on the pragmatism question, although I certainly have made clear that I thoroughly reject the Nationalist or State-Capitalist ideologies that masquerade as socialism and which have been the ideologies of the Labour party for it’s whole history, even in the Good Old Days.

For about 5 years I was fully convinced by the ideological arguments against voting or joining any party. After a couple of years of being just a generic anti-capitalist activist with no ideological commitment I eventually joined an Anarchist-Communist organisation and stayed in it for two years, by the end of which time I had become more convinced by the ideas of the Insurrectionalists. This carried on until my mental health improved and I was no longer constantly consumed with rage, and I joined the Revolutionary Syndicalist IWW, (the Industrial Workers of the World) becoming essentially committed to non-violent activism, but still accepting that violence is theoretically justified under certain conditions, such as in self defence against racist cops for example.

Over the past year, though, I have drifted even further away from my former insurrectionalist ideas and started to question the basic philosophical arguments underpinning the whole Anarchist/Syndicalist ideology. When David Cameron’s Tories won the election last year in 2015 I felt guilty for not having voted to stop him, and when the referendum was coming up I decided I would feel guilty if I didn’t campaign for a Remain vote if the overall vote ended up being to Leave.

In the end I did put in a fair amount of work-hours to campaigning for a Remain vote, and even sacrificed various opportunities to make money instead, meaning I have fallen even further into debt. I guess I don’t feel guilty, except that I could have started the process of campaigning a lot earlier.

Some friends and I came up with the idea for ‘Anti-Capitalists Against Brexit’ (ACAB) in late April, and if I had actually started working hard on it back then it might have built into a proper organisation by now instead of just being a blog and facebook group, or at least the blog and facebook group might have reached and influenced more people in the Anti-capitalist movement who were on the fence and mobilised them to actively campaign for a Remain vote, and this might have had a knock on effect in getting more people to vote Remain. Maybe we would have come up with a viral youtube video or something, who knows. There is not much point thinking about what might have been.

I still believe in the IWW vision of the working class getting gradually more and more organised, and winning more and more battles, until we get the confidence to one day finally abolish capitalism. Its an ideology I think almost anyone can get behind, because it means getting good things for the working class at every step of the way, even if we never reach the final destination. But now I am wondering if sometimes being part of a political party, and campaigning for one party to win over another can’t be part of that process.

If the point is to convince people that they should get off their arse and take action, opening their minds and hearts to the idea that having solidarity with others of all nationalities and industries is in all of our self-interest, and that if they do so then they will see rewards, well then we need to make sure that direct action and solidarity actually DO lead to rewards, or else we won’t convince anyone.

There are reasons why trades unionists over a hundred years ago became convinced that they needed a party in parliament to represent them: because government policy does affect how easy or hard it is to win union battles, and other social movement battles as well.

If there is a government in power that is more likely to capitulate to the unions and social movements, that will increase the people’s self confidence and belief in the power of direct action and solidarity, as long as the people remember that it was THEM who achieved the capitulation, not the good conscience of the capitulation themselves, who is in fact a State-Capitalist-Nationalist.

So should we try and get State-Capitalist-Nationalists in power even though we know they won’t achieve socialism, and that only the direct action and solidarity of the people can truly do that? I am personally coming to the conclusion that yes we should, and from attending a Bristol Momentum meeting last night full of other people saying very similar things, I feel more and more certain of it.

So yes, I say anti-capitalists should join the party, so long as we don’t kid ourselves about it. We need to have ‘one foot in and one foot out’ as someone from Momentum said last night, and never forget that it is direct action and solidarity of the people that really achieves things, and that all politicians are class enemies even if they call themselves socialists and are nice to refugees, even while we are campaigning to get them elected.

Choose a candidate you think will be a pushover for social movements and unions if they are elected, try and get them elected, then try and build up unions and social movements to push them over, and if we end up overthrowing the state and seizing the means of the production as a result of building up our strength and confidence so much, so much the better.

People are welcome and very encouraged to respond to this article with comments or by writing other articles responding to it, as long as they are civil, as I wrote this as much to inspire debate and critical thought as for any other reason, and am still open to having my mind changed myself

Raz O’Connor (still not yet quite a Labour Party member but probably to join soon)

1st of July 2016

MDA – a crazy, crazy drug

So, it’s been over a week now and I am still not fully recovered from my injuries of the early hours of the morning of May the 1st. I guess the ancient cultures of the world saw Beltane/Mayday as a mystical time. It certainly feels like it when you’re tripping balls.

It was always gonna be a wild weekend as Kilnaboy were playing two festivals in a row. The first was Landed festival in the middle of Wales somewhere. It was a beautiful site, with lots of nice trippy coloured lights, beautiful views of mountains and lots of lovely people. It was also fucking freezing, as if the winter was making one final stand against the imminent dawn of summer.

Anyway, I managed to get through the set while wearing all the jumpers and coats I had, and then listened to some great goth party bands before going to sleep. One was a band called Monsterometer – well worth checking out, especially if you’re on acid or something. I wasn’t, bnut they were still hilarious and great.

The other was a band I didn’t catch the name of but they were just two people – a guy with a big beard who played awesome lead guitar solos, managed the electronic beats, and sang with crazy distortion over his voice, and a powerful female lead singer who also played bass. Their music was like an industrial metal dance party. My only advice for them is to say the name of the band more clearly, as when you distort the fuck out your voice its really hard to know what you’re saying. ENUNCIATE, DAMN IT. Good lyrics I remember though were : We won’t let our enemies lead us/ We won’t let them think they’ve won/ No privilege for the rich and famous/ Kill em all with a lazer gun’.

The next morning I met a friend I used to live with who was just coming up on MDA, and let me take some for later. I probably should have asked a lot more questions about what it was actually like, rather than just being satisfied with his description of it as ‘like MDMA, but without the other M’. I guess i just thought it would be exactly the same except weaker, like the other M was just something to do with quantity rather than quality.

I played an impromptu set of old Irish rebel songs at an Open Mic stage, and then we had to get in the van and drive to England to get to the next festival. Of course, it took the van about 4 hours to actually leave site, because the suspension air-pressure thing was broken and some old hippy guy (who seemed better qualified than the actual repair man who was sent out) eventually fixed it in exchange for some free CDs and perhaps some drugs. In the meantime I spoke to a women who’d spent a lot of time in Morocco about the migrant solidarity project we have down there, and hopefully did a good deed for the day by linking her into it.

In hindsight the fact it had taken so long to get the van started, and that it was only a two and half hour journey, should have led us all to be determined to make it in one go without any stops, just in case it couldn’t get started again if we stopped. Unfortunately though we passed a chip shop in a village somewhere in Shropshire. If people had told me they were hungry they could have just asked me for some of the bags of food i had with me, including some really nice olives, pesto flavoured hummus and other tasty food i can afford to take to festivals because I don’t spend all my money on booze any more. Just saying.

But chips it was, and with it a SIX HOUR wait on the side of a freezing cold hillside as the van of course failed to start properly yet again. For some reason we didn’t call the repair guy straight away, first of all trying all manner of bizarre solutions. We drove to a nearby petrol station, with the floor of the van scraping against the road, just to find their air pump wasn’t good enough to get the suspension working, so drove back to the hillside. Then of course, we realised that someone had left their hat back at the petrol station so we drove back again.

Back the hillside there were some interesting attempts to lift the van enough for someone to get underneath and look at what was wrong. People ripped of a big plank from a picnic table and balanced it precariously on some rocks to make a ramp for the van to drive up (I’m not making this up) but then no-one wanted to go underneath due to a quite well-founded fear of being crushed to death. A friendly Polish couple who happened to stop on the hillside actually had a proper jack to lift the van up, but it was too small. Finally, after hours of faffing, we called the repair guy, he came, he fixed the thing, and then we were on the road again.

By this point it was almost midnight, and we had been supposed to be on stage by nine. Luckily for us the people running the stage were really cool, and fans of the band, so they said that if we made it my half twelve we could still play for an hour. We had basically managed to get bumped up to the headlining slot! Seems like all the faffing was meant to be after all, though we honestly didn’t do it on purpose, as many later alleged.

Horsedrawn festival is probably the crusty-est festival I have ever seen – pretty much an entire field of vans, trailers and actual horsedrawn wooden caravans with just a few marquees in the middle and very little open ground to sit on. There was a road made of mud that was really just a space between various vehicles that we had to drive through to get to the stage, our hearts racing, thinking that every second counted and that we might still not get to play after all. The van’s wheels inevitably got stuck in the mud, so we had to all get our stuff out the back and run two hundred yards in pitch darkness through the mud to get to the stage, where in fact we spent at least twenty minutes just chilling out and watching the band before us.

It was a great gig, as it was a Saturday night at one in the morning with hundreds of punks and crusty hippies all well and truly riled up, drunk, high and crazy as hell. We could have just played a bunch of shit and they would have probably still loved it, but we actually did all right, I think. Horsedrawn is awesome.

I knew I stood no chance of finding a place to put up my tent in the dark without severely pissing myself off and I had this bomb of MDA burning a hole in my pocket, so I resolved to stay up all night. Luckily a friend who lives in a converted upholstery truck was parked nearby and she let me lock my bass and backpack in the front so I wouldn’t have to find the Kilnaboy van, which I had no chance of finding on my own through all the mud and the eerie fog that had suddenly descended.

There were a few people already partying in the truck when I arrived, and they were pretty damn wasted so I surreptitiously took the bomb of MDA quickly so that I wouldn’t have to listen to their nonsense while sober. I also took out my weed vaporizer and some girl immediately picked it up and threw it across the room. Not because she didn’t like me, you understand, or that she didn’t approve of weed or even know what the thing was that she was chucking across the room. It’s just the kind of thing you have to be prepared for when dealing with punks and alcohol. Luckily it wasn’t broken, so all was good.

Soon the rest of the band arrived and we started having an acoustic jam. Since I have been in the band we haven’t had many opportunities to do this, so I was looking forward to it as a kind of bonding experience, and also because a lot of the slower acoustic songs that they never play at punk gigs are frankly just way better songs which I had really liked on the album but never had the chance to see performed live.

Unfortunately though, this was about when I started TRIPPING BALLS. One minute I was normal, the next i suddenly had to vomit – and my friend whose van it was passed my a bag to throw up in, thinking it was a rubbish bag but which turned out to be full of food (sorry!) – and a minute after that I was full on out there – reading bizarre mystical meanings into everything anyone was doing or saying, visualizing all kinds of trippy shit and generally getting really confused.

It’s not that I didn’t enjoy it, it was amazing in lots of ways, and made all the music sound really fucking awesome, as psychedelics always do. If you are a musician then you also start to feel that the music you are playing yourself is also really good, which is of course not always actually the case. Apparently I played the song “When Doves Cry” about 6 times, though I have no memory of this.

It’s just that if you end up tripping when you aren’t prepared for it, it can make you get kind of paranoid for no reason, especially if you are around people you don’t know that well, especially if they are really drunk and not making much sense or behaving all ‘peace and love’ anyway. You worry if you are doing something wrong by tripping, and keep having to remind yourself that its OK to take drugs and have fun at a music festival, that I wasn’t in some serious meeting or something and bringing the tone down. In some ways I was more sober than a lot of the people there. In others, definitely the opposite.

For example, I seemed to be the only one who had forgotten that fire is hot, and human skin is not heatproof. I do remember someone saying something like ‘Hey Raz, you know that burner is hot right?” and seeing that my hand was right on the metal. But I didn’t feel any pain or notice the massive blister building up on my hand until the next day when I started to sober up.

Similarly, I only noticed around the same time the next morning that my lips were swollen so much that I looked like a racist cartoon caricature. I had chewed my bottom lip and the sides of my tongue all night, with apparently some ferocity, but had no memory of doing so at all and only noticed when someone else pointed it out. Looking in the mirror was a big wake up call. The inside of my bottom lip was all white and yellow and weird, and so were the sides of my tongue. It was gross.

The van was going back to Cardiff that day, so I needed to find it, drop of my bass, pick up my tent and somehow put it up so that I could try to sleep, all whilst still tripping and in the rain. I somehow managed it, pissing of the owner of a van who I’d put the tent up right besides and then had to listen to them drunkenly ranting about how much of a prick I was while half asleep. It wasn’t a great experience, and my hand and lip were getting more painful by the minute as the drug wore off.

I ended up missing all the music that night, only leaving the tent to piss and try and find water. I still had plenty of weed to deal with the comedown headache I knew was coming. So MDA is similar to MDMA in that respect, as well as in the fact it makes you chew your lips (or ‘gurn’ as we say in the business) but apart from that its way more like acid. Acid with a comedown and fucked up lip? No thanks. I shall stick to the real thing. At least with MDMA you feel all loved up and often drift into a nice happy sleep. MDA keeps you awake all night and then you can’t even sleep off the come-down even by getting really stoned.

I must have managed it though, because by the time I got out of the tent it was 18 hours later and morning was breaking. Early in the morning at festivals is quite a nice time with everyone either asleep or sitting around fires still drinking and taking speed, singing along to pop songs and talking absolute bollocks. I even found one guy who actually seemed like he’d gone to bed at a normal time and gotten up early to feed his baby son with cucumber he cut with an axe. Now that was pretty impressive.

I sat around a fire with some friendly middle aged punks from Birmingham for a few hours, having been led to believe that someone parked near there was driving to Bristol that day. eventually I found him in someone else’s van in a pile of people taking ketamine and he admitted that it was unlikely he’d actually leave that day, but that I could get a lift with him tomorrow.

I went back to where my tent had been and found a car going to Bristol in just a few minutes, but I could only go if the fiddle player from Kilnaboy gave up her seat for me, which she did as she is a fucking legend, saying my need was greater than hers. I didn’t want to agree, but I couldn’t deny I felt like utter shit and just wanted to be at home in bed with my girlfriend looking after me. A two hour a drive and a shot walk through Bristol carrying all my shit in the rain and it all came to pass.

I hadn’t eaten properly since we’d stopped for chips almost 48 hours earlier, and it hurt to eat or drink anything for a week afterwards. I spent at least 4 days lying in bed taking painkillers until I realised they were just making me feel worse. Bloody legal drugs, don’t trust them.

Apparently MDA is a ‘research chemical’. I hope my story is helpful to this research. My lips are pretty much back to normal now, 9 days later, and so is my hand, though both will probably take at least another couple of days until there is no sign of damage at all. So here’s my advice:

  1. Don’t take massive bombs of any powdered drug you haven’t tried before. Maybe start with a tiny bit and see how you feel.
  2. Don’t take psychedelic or hallucinatory drugs unless you are in a space and with people you feel comfortable with and at a time when you are mentally prepared. Psychedelics are not really party drugs, they can bring your conscious mind into contact with stuff in your subconscious that you might not be ready to deal with, at least not without nice supportive people around you to talk it all through with – in which cases they can often lead to powerful life-affirming experiences. Trying to process those kinds of thoughts and realisations while everyone around you is totally wasted or are people you don’t really know can lead to you feeling quite alone and alienated from people, which is the opposite of how ideally you would want to feel when taking MDMA or LSD and similar drugs.
  3. If you are going to take amphetamines of any kind, be aware that they can make you chew the fuck out of your lips, so make sure you have chewing gum or something similar to chew instead.
  4. If you are going to get really wasted, try and do it somewhere where there isn’t a really hot fire in an enclosed space with lots of people jammed into it who are all wasted as well, or there is a big chance of accidentally getting burnt. If you live in a vehicle or other place were it is normal to have a wood burner and have built up an automatic subconscious awareness about these things you may be OK. If not, like me, watch out.
  5. Warn your friends! MDA is not the same as MDMA. That extra M is more important than you realise. I’m not saying don’t take it, it was a really interesting and different trip form any I’d taken before, and I have taken many different species of mushroom as well as Yage, LSD, 2CB, 2CI and smoked lots of different strains of very strong trippy weed. But be aware that it is a powerful psychedelic and not just a stimulant.

Stay safe and party on x









Why anti-capitalists should campaign against the Brexit

I was shocked to see the Socialist Workers Party and several other supposed anti-capitalists supporting the Leave campaign, on the basis that the EU is pro-capitalist. This completely misses the point.

In a capitalist society such as this, all State institutions can be understood as supporting the interests of the capitalist ruling class, whether they are EU institutions or not. Therefore the fact the EU institutions obviously act in the interests of capital is not in itself enough of an argument for Anti-Capitalists who happen to be British Citizens to vote for leaving the EU in the upcoming referendum.

In fact, the argument I am about the make is that an independent British State would be even worse for the interests of the majority of people – the working class – and would consolidate power even more into the hands of a tiny minority of capitalists.

Despite the fact that all capitalists share certain interests – the protection of the concept of private property, the continued existence of a subordinated class of workers, access to natural resources etc – there are many issues on which the capitalist class is divided, and this is the main reason that separate political parties and factions exist in so called ‘democratic countries’. The issue of the “Brexit” (‘British Exit’ of the EU) is one example of this.

Some capitalists think they will make more money if Britain remains in the EU, and others think they will make more is Britain leaves. This is why both the ‘Leave’ and ‘Remain’ campaigns are each well-funded, and each able to claim that what they want is better for ‘the economy’. What the mean by ‘the economy’ is profits for themselves and people like them, rather than anything to do with the interests of the majority of people.

As Anti-Capitalists we believe that the interests of the majority of people in the long term lie in the abandonment of capitalism as the dominant economic system and its replacement by a system based on values of freedom, equality and harmony with wider eco-systems. As far away as this goal seems, it will seem a lot farther if we leave the EU.

In the short term the interests of the majority of people are more obvious. People need more access to the basic material resources necessary for a dignified and happy life, which in today’s world means higher wages, better working and housing conditions, access to healthcare, education and other social services, as well as security and justice. If we leave the EU what little we have of all of these things will become even less.

The Leave campaign represents the interests of only a minority of the capitalist ruling class, let alone the rest of the population. There are certain capitalists interested in letting the British economy depend even more on financial services to other capitalists from around the world. They can see that the dominance of US imperialism will not last much longer and neither will the international economic system based on the US dollar and it’s links to the price of oil, or the institutions such as the World Bank and IMF that are effectively controlled by the US government.

The new situation in the world will be characterised not by Western dominance but by a balance of power between the West, Russia, China, India, Brasil, Iran and the other oil producing states. Certain British bankers and financiers want to be in a position to take advantage of this by getting rid of the various limitations placed on them by the EU. They also want British workers to be poorer, and to be prepared to work longer hours for less money, so that we can ‘compete’ with workers in other countries, another reason they want Britain to leave the EU.

This minority capitalist faction is represented in parliament by UKIP and the pro-Leave Conservatives. To achieve their political ends they have relied primarily on whipping up a frenzy of xenophobia and racism among the lower-middle class and certain sections of the white working class. There are actually only a very few companies that control the main news outlets in the UK, and it is not hard to tell that most of them have an interest in the Brexit.

They have tried to make racists afraid of the hundreds of thousands of traumatised refugees seeking safety from what are often British-made bombs, and to also give them the impression that somehow the EU is making it easier for them to come to Britain, despite how many people are murdered by EU-funded goons at the external borders.

They have also tried to make it seem like a bad thing that so many workers from other EU countries are in the UK, without ever talking about the benefits that British workers have received from being able to work in other EU countries, or the fact that the number of British workers living abroad is at least as great or greater than the number or EU workers in Britain.

Finally they resort to the good old excuse of Terrorism, and it’s best friend, Islamophobia, stirring up even more hatred of the Muslim community, blaming an entire religion for the crazed actions of a minority whom most Muslims openly say are not real followers of the faith. The European Court of Human Rights is made out to be something that lets terrorists evade justice rather than what it actually is, which is a last final hope for British citizens when our own police and court systems unfairly lock us up for crimes we didn’t commit, which is happening more and more often.

In short they are exploiting the fear of ignorant people who have not much to lose, and are afraid of losing it – who feel lonely and terrified of a complex world they don’t understand and seek comfort both in a strong leader or sense of identity as well as a feeling of superiority over people the papers say it’s OK to hate. This is exactly how Hitler came to power – not because the majority supported him, but because the financial elite and the racist lower-middle class did.

It will take a lot to defeat this agenda, and even if Britain remains in the EU, we will still have many more battles to fight against the institutions of the EU itself -not least of which is the struggle to end the deaths and human rights abuses at the external EU borders -but at least we will have millions of other EU-based anti-capitalists as allies instead of being trapped on this island with the Tories.

If anti-capitalist activists do not get involved in campaigning against the Brexit, making arguments on doorsteps based on class struggle rather than liberal idealism, and clearly explaining that it is not about being ‘pro EU’ but simply about being Anti-even-worse-capitalism, the referendum may be won by the Leave campaign. The Remain campaign will make unconvincing arguments that the majority of workers will not respond to, and try to glorify the EU rather than honestly admit that it too only represents the interests of a minority.

The Anti-capitalist movement can use different tactics to fight our battles than liberal capitalists will. We can take to the streets and make a noise. We can occupy buildings owned by the companies funding the Leave campaign and the general xenophobic racist propaganda of the press. We can organise cultural and artist events to bring together the different sections of the public who have the most to fear from the Brexit- migrant communities, marginalised people who are often victims of police brutality and injustice in the courts, low paid workers etc.

These are the kinds of actions that we can take as a minority movement to help build a bigger movement that might be strong enough to win this fight, and go on to win others afterwards. If we do not start organising such a movement, who else will?

The momentum of the popular movement that existed in 2011 has been lost, and no big unifying topic has come up again since then as an opportunity to build it back up. If the Brexit referendum is not that opportunity, what else will be?
















Is libertarian socialism possible in North Africa?

Is libertarian socialism possible in North Africa? Is it even possible to struggle for it in an organised way? What about West Africa? Central Africa?

These are the regions I am trying to educate myself about now. South of Europe.  There are hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants trying to cross the Mediterranean, and I have been trying to find out why.

Of course, I knew the general picture – Wars, Poverty, environmental destruction, corrupt and oppressive governments – and I knew that all these things in one way or another are the fault of transnational capitalists and the big imperialist states, of which most sit on the UN Security Council.

But now I’m trying to find out which way or another. Which transnational corporations, companies and capitalists are making money out of where, with help from who, and with what consequences? It’s a big question, made up of a great deal of smaller ones.

Of course, there are lots of books available, and lots of documentaries, but you’d be surprised how little actually. Or perhaps you wouldn’t.

Most countries in the Sahara and Sahel regions do not have TV networks producing high quality journalism in the English language, because of government repression, a general lack of resources, and sometimes just because of the generally chaotic situation.

Two English-language broadcasters who do have quite a lot of stuff up there on YouTube for free are Al Jazeera – owned by Qatar, and Press TV, owned by Iran. Iran and Qatar have completely contradictory geopolitical interests for the most part, and it is no surprise that Al Jazeera and Press TV often report contradictory narratives.

For example, take the war in the north of Mali. Al Jazeera glorifies the struggle of the Tuaregs for an independent State called Azawad with many emotional interviews and personal stories. Press TV says that hardly anyone in the north of Mali actually wants independence and it’s all a French conspiracy.

So basically, both of these channels are trying to appeal to Westerners who have anti-imperialist sympathies, as of course is Russia Today. But all of them are actually controlling information and constructing narratives to suit the interests of various imperialist states and, one must suppose, transnational capitalists.

How many Tuaregs actually wanted independence? Al Jazeera could just be focusing on the minority who do and making it seem like they represent them all, or Press TV, who don’t provide any evidence for their statistics, could be making it all up. Al Jazeera makes no mention of possible French interests in stirring up the conflict, though is usually quite critical of French imperialism.

So you can’t just base your ideas on what is on TV, is the conclusion. You have to go back to the basics.

When Britain, France and other imperialist powers directly colonised countries in Africa, and in other parts of the world, they basically wanted to export resources back to their imperial centres to sell to their people, or to convert in factories to something else which they could sell to people both in the colonies and in Europe.

So they needed to make sure that some roads and ports got built, as well as mines, plantations and a few shitty houses for native workers to sleep in, but that was about it. They definitely didn’t want these countries to have big industries of their own so that they could produce their own goods, because then they wouldn’t have to buy them from the imperialists.

Today in Africa you still see people using industrially-made products that are imported from outside Africa, only now the companies are not only European but Asian and American as well. You still also see African resources mainly being exported outside of Africa to Europe, Asia and the Americas.

So it’s clear that despite many changes of government in the past 60 or more years since these countries became independent, not that much has changed in terms of the basic economic set-up.  In colonial times, this economic set-up was based on the brutal force of a completely undemocratic state, and again, not much has changed.

So what about libertarian socialism? As Nationalism, Marxist-Leninism, Islamic Fundementalism and even ‘African Socialism’ have all failed to actually change the basic situation that African workers, peasants and landless, unemployed refugees are in, could a non-statist political movement work?

What has usually happened when countries have had mass political movements for independence from European empires is that their leaders have taken over the state structures and economic infrastructure that the Europeans left and have been corrupted or bullied by the Europeans and Americans into keeping everything basically the same as it was before.

Often there has been a bit of a struggle, usually taking the form of military coups and civil war, which when you look a bit closer turn out not to be a bunch of ‘mindless savages killing each other for no reason’ or whatever the Western media tries to present it as, but actually a bunch of armed groups funded by different imperialist powers fighting each other, or just one group funded by the West fighting another group which genuinely wants to nationalise the wealth of the country.

Unfortunately most of these armed fighters who have simply wanted to nationalise the wealth of the country have also been guilty of killing civilians and so cannot be supported uncritically, even if the imperialist stooges they are fighting are far worse.

Increasingly the anti-imperialist fighters are fucking crazy Islamic fundamentalists who kill anyone they don’t like, oppress women, kill LGBT people, and do all sorts of other stupid bullshit.

So what about libertarian socialism? What about a movement that says the same thing as all the others have said ‘stop exporting all the resources at the barrel of a gun’ but which instead of saying ‘then give it to our new state in the name of Allah, Socialism, the Nation or Whatever’ says ‘let the workers control the means of production directly at the level of the shopfloor?’

What about NO state? What about communities running their own affairs in municipal assemblies, workers running their own workplaces, everyone electing all individuals to be put in any position of responsibility or authority and having the power to instantly recall them if they abuse it?

What about villages, neighbourhoods, workplaces, all being self-governing and choosing delegates, again subject to instant recall, to go to regional or industrial meetings to coordinate production and distribution between themselves as and when is necessarily, with no fixed centralised authority?

There are some African political activists calling for such a thing. There are anarchist movements in South Africa, Nigeria, Egypt, maybe other places. But it is a very small movement in a very big continent.

Travelling activists have always played a role in the history of the anarchist movement. Bakunin, Kropotkin, Malatesta, Emma Goldman, Makhno, they all moved across borders many times in their lives, spreading ideas along the way and linking together organised workers and revolutionaries in different countries.

It seems to be that Europe has quite a lot of educated people of libertarian socialist opinions (whether they use that term or not) who are not particularly ‘engaged in revolutionary struggle’ right now – and North Africa is the closest place to go for most Western Europeans, where they would be able to find actual revolutionary conditions.

In Europe, conditions are not revolutionary because the ‘masses’ are far too bourgeois. There is an ‘underclass’ or lumpenproletariat of people who have nothing much too lose and everything to gain from social revolution. The majority of people, though, are enjoying the benefits of transnational capitalist imperialism far too much.

Look at me, for instance. I am unemployed, yet I can still eat and have a roof over my head, because the food I eat is mostly grown in other countries and the producers paid a fraction of the low prices that I pay for it, out of money that the State in my country is able to afford to pay me, just to stop me getting too angry, because it is a rich State that makes wealth by exporting high tech arms and financial services around the world to maintain the global, brutal capitalist order which it helped create in the first place.

Now take the average unemployed person in Morocco, the closest African country to me. They don’t get given money by the State just for being unemployed. The state isn’t going to pay the impoverished masses there money to stop them getting too agitated. Instead it relies on brute force and a network of government informers in every neighbourhood.

The Moroccan state couldn’t afford the kind of social welfare system that exists in the UK. They have what money the Western imperialist governments let them have, through the World Bank, foreign aid, or direct investment, which is very little.

Say they wanted to buy a load of landmines from a Western company. Well, I’m sure a Western bank would lend them the money, and a Western government would encourage them to. Then the Western arms company would have more money, and so would the bank, so that Western government would have a higher GDP. The same people might even own the bank, the arms company, and control the government. In effect they have just given the Moroccan state a bunch of weapons for free, because they wanted to anyway, to keep down the pesky Moroccan workers. But you may as well make shit loads of money at the same time.

So basically, in Europe you have a lot of revolutionaries with not much potential for revolution, and in Africa you have a lot of potential for revolution without enough revolutionaries. So how about some redistribution?

To be clear – I am not at all calling on European activists to come and ‘save Africa’ or any shit like that. We are not going to ‘bring anarchism’ to the masses. Anarchism doesn’t work like that. It is not the same as Marxism.

Marxists, especially Marxist-Leninists, believe that the people are basically too stupid to govern themselves, but that if a bunch of Marxist intellectuals come along at the right time and boss them around a bit, maybe those intellectuals could take over the State, and boss the people around some more, until one day, far in the future, the people will be ready to govern themselves.

Anarchists believe that people are able to govern themselves now, if only they would be given a fucking chance. Being given a chance includes acquiring land, tools and other means of production while being free from external oppression for long enough to get something going.

So whereas Marxists, for their strategy to work, need to go around convincing people that Marxism is a belief system that makes sense, but that is just too complicated for the workers to understand, and that they, the Marxists, are very clever and should be listened to and obeyed all the time if the workers know what’s good for them, anarchists have no need to behave like this.

Anarchists just need to go along, pitch in, help out, just like everyone else, and stay true to their principles, being as open and honest about them as is possible without getting shot in the head. At the most, anarchists need to convince workers of the value of themselves, not of anarchist theory.

For example, if you say to someone, ‘you can do that yourself, you don’t need some big shot to do it for you” and they say ‘oh no, for sure, I couldn’t do that, not little old me”, you just need to tell ‘em they shouldn’t be so down on themselves. Just be encouraging, like a mate.

There are people in Africa who cry out for foreigners to come and solve all their problems for them. They may not particularly be happy with a bunch of foreigners coming and saying ‘no, do it yourself, but we can help out a bit if you like’, but hey. Fuck ‘em. You can’t treat someone differently because they are from a different country. If some dickhead came up to me in England and asked me to solve all their problems for me I would tell them the same thing.

There can be no revolution in Europe without revolution in Africa. When people there kick out the multinational corporations and destroy all the dictatorships, taking the wealth of their countries into their own hands, directly, you know what will happen here in Europe? We won’t have any fucking food to eat, or petrol to drive cars with, uranium to power our laptops, or coltan to make those laptops out of. Then you might see some revolution. Then the European working classes might think about rising up and seizing the land, factories, and other means of production.

So that is the basis on which I am saying European activists should go to Africa – as revolutionaries who see no borders as being real, and know that our liberation is bound up with the liberation of all people, all around the world. We should use our privileged access to resources – as well as other privileges such as relative freedom of movement and in many cases skin colour privileges – to support working-class, peasant and landless people’s struggles for liberation – helping to build connections between movements in different countries, on the basis of non-hierarchical, horizontal organising, and resisting all bureaucratic or authoritarian tendencies in those movements from within.

It’s a lot to ask, I know, and potentially very dangerous. But what else is there? Shall we let Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb be the leading voice of opposition to capitalist imperialism in the region while we sit in Europe watching things get worse and worse from a distance?

Or should we practice what we preach?

Betraying my principles for money

After years of avoiding working for big corporations I suddenly found myself tricked into it, and even lying to myself that it was OK. Let my story stand as a warning.

I am a travelling musician and activist for social change. I have lived in many different squats, protest sites, and recently, a caravan painted in psychedelic colours and some crazy picture of a half-woman-half octopus. I’m not exactly used to the 9-5 lifestyle.

Don’t get my wrong, I tried it once, long ago, when i was young and reckless. I used to work for one of the worst companies in the world – The Royal Bank of Scotland, who are proud of the role they’ve played in creating the capitalist system as it stands today.

Call-centres are places i’ve always thought of as ‘work’ – ever since I realised it was better than having to stand up all day. You know, I’m pretty lazy, or at least reluctant to do physical work unless it really seems important. It never seems that important to me to make money for someone else, compared with, say, playing music, cooking, cleaning, carrying stuff around. walking to and from places, and really, most other things in my life.

So I’d rather have a job where I use to minimum possible mental and physical energy, in order to preserve it for later, in my real life.

I like a job where I get stoned in the morning, saunter in trying not to make eye-contact with anyone so they don’t guess how stoned I am, then sit down and play sudoku, read the news, or read classic novels on the computer system, occasionally taking calls to let idiots order over-priced coffee, complain about their over-priced coffee being late, or angrily huff and puff about how ordering it online isn’t as simple as they think it should be.

Well, when I say, I ‘like’ a job like that is a bit of an exaggeration because i have just quit said job in disgust, not only at the company and almost everything about the workplace, but also, and chiefly at myself.

I never actually applied for a job selling coffee. It’s not like I want people to buy coffee from big corporations. When I was 22 I travelled around Latin America and visited several coffee growing regions, learning as much as I could about the effect of the industry on the local people and wider eco-systems. It’s not great, let me tell ya.

Coffee is the last big addiction I am trying to kick. I don’t drink alcohol or use nicotine, but I am still constantly on either a high or a low of a caffeine rush, as I believe most of the modern world is. Capitalism requires workers to work harder than they naturally would, and drugs are a great way to achieve that.

Of course, some would say i’m also addicted to cannabis. But if so, I am not currently concerned about that. I believe caffeine has caused a lot more problems in my life than weed has. It makes me stressed out, irritable, nervous, paranoid, and quick to anger. Weed only makes me those things when it is combined with caffeine. The rest of the time it either makes me more creative, or at worse just more confused, and if suddenly i have to deal with something serious I am pretty good at cutting through the stoned haze and forcing my mind to concentrate.

A lot of people who aren’t able to handle weed don’t get that, but I was into meditation long before i ever tried psychedelic drugs, and it really helps.

So when I was sitting there at the call centre in a stoned daze, lost in thought about some bullshit or other, and then all of a sudden a beeping sound would come into my ear, sharply, followed by a guy with a Northern accent saying ‘Nespresso’, and then two more beeps, I would have just enough time to force myself into sobriety enough to deal with whatever inane bollocks they wanted to talk about.

Of course, it took a few days on the job before I built up the confidence to do it stoned, but really, a few days should be all it takes on almost any call-centre job. Did I mention it was Nespresso?

Nespresso was something I’d never even heard of until the last time I went to Morocco. I remember sitting in the cafe in Tangiers where they have the Senegalese restaurant, seeing an advert for it come on the TV, with George Clooney and Jack Black. I thought it looked ridiculous.

“Nespresso?” i’d said “is that like Nescafe but in an espresso? like an instant coffee espresso> thats disgusting”

But this Italian musician sitting next to me said ‘No! Haven’t you seen it? In Italy we have it everywhere!”

I guess before that I’d had some bizarre national stereotype in my head of Italians having good taste in coffee. No more.

Nespresso is owned by Nestle. Now, I have known about Nestle being fucked up for a long time. So has almost everyone. The thing with the breast milk. And the other thing with the child slaves? Come on now

So how did I end up there? It still puzzles me.

I went online and searched for recruitment agencies. The one that seemed most straight forward and lazy-bastard-friendly was Reed. So i put in some details, and then you just apply for loads of jobs at once my just clicking on them, and it would send your CV and cover letter to them all instantly. So I just clicked for about half an hour one day.

A few days later I am awoken by a phone call. Literally. Some totally different agency, called ‘Juice’, if you can believe it, has somehow gotten my phone number for the Reed website, or one of the things i clicked on, or who knows where. Perhaps they’ve been spying on me, or are just a front for the CIA.

Anyway, they offer me a job interview that same day. ‘Great’ I think, ‘this is even easier than I thought it would be’. The job interview is supposed to be for a call centre company that different charities use, so I would be calling people up who were already giving money to a charity and trying to convince them to give more.

Now, this is kind of shit, and I once had it happen to me when I used to give money to a charity every month, but at least I could have justified it to myself by thinking that maybe some of that money might actually end up going to make the world a better place somehow. So I went along with it.

But then ‘these’ Juice people manage to fuck up getting me an interview with the actual call centre, even though they already made me read the script for it, so I have to wait another 2 weeks until they give me an interview at a completely different call centre.

They say this one is going to be easy, just inbound calls for Southern Rail. This is kind of morally neutral in my eyes, boring as hell, yes, but not evil. I pictured myself half asleep for a few months answering calls with people asking about when the next train from Haywards Heath to Brighton was going to come and stuff like that. Sure thing.

So I go along to Teleperformance, the call centre company, for an interview, and we go through some practice worksheets all about Southern Rail, like what their policy on taking bikes on trains is and stuff like that. No sweat.

So the next day I get a call from Juice telling me I’ve got the job- at Nespresso. I should have just said no, but this was the only job I was being offered, and i’m a very lazy man when it comes to looking for work. Besides, they claimed (read ‘lied’) that it was not a sales job – I was just going to be asked questions about the product and take orders from people who were already going to buy it anyway.

So I convinced myself that this was also morally neutral somehow, and turned up for the two weeks of training, thinking that I could just quit straight away after that before I would have to actually do anything even vaguely of benefit to the company.

After the two weeks of training, which were mostly spent staring into space and occasionally watching powerpoint presentations so dull that I highly doubt anyone could actually absorb information from them, I was on the job. It took me about three days before I had mastered enough to just start getting stoned every day throughout the whole time.

But then my friend took my to see Saul Williams, who is GOD, and who reminded me of what I had been blocking out of my head for the past couple of months – capitalism is shit and must be resisted until it is ultimately destroyed.

The next day I quit my job. Thanks Saul. Seriously.