Political texts

‘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 http://325.nostate.net/

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

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?

Racism and Ignorance among British ‘progressives’

A lot of the time when I mention that I have family in Australia I get the same response from people – ‘Oh, right, Australia is really racist isn’t it?’, which I find pretty hilarious coming from people who are ‘100%’ British.

In Australia the movement in solidarity with refugees is way stronger than it is here. Just the other day some activists did a massive action in Melbourne blocking a huge bridge, and demonstrations against detention centres regularly have thousands of people attending.

In other words, in a country with around a quarter of the population of the UK the movement against racism seems to be about 10 times bigger.

Of course, there are historical reasons for this. Australia is a settler-colony, or rather a ‘Commonwealth’ of six different former British settler-colonies. Genocide against the indigenous population was, and still is, brutal. The population of ‘Aboriginal’ Australians is only around 1% of the total population.

So Australian people can see the effects of this. Everyone knows the history of Australia, and everyone except fucking idiots can see that its racist and awful, that a historical injustice has been done that still hasn’t been redressed, so many non-indigenous people have solidarity with aboriginal people, and a general anti-racist mindset which also finds expression in solidarity with refugees.

Not only this, but many ‘white’ Australians are themselves victims of a historical injustice. Their ancestors were brought to Australia against their will.

People like to make jokes about this too. “Oh Australians are all criminals, arn’t they”. Hilarious.

Tens of thousands of working class British and Irish people systematically rounded up, separated from their families and sent to the other side of the world to do forced labour, simply because they attended political protests for their rights or because their local land-owners didn’t like them. Fucking hilarious.

And you know what? Their ancestors don’t have the right to live in the UK. I know white Australians who have had to put on fake accents to try and evade the authorities to avoid getting deported, and I know others who desperately want to come here, and even have children with UK citizens who aren’t able to just move here, despite the fact that this is where their ancestors came from. Bloody hilarious.

In the history of the British Empire there were many other examples of massive forced migrations of people to different parts of the planet. Everyone knows about the African slave-trade. Do people from Jamaica or other Carribean and American countries have the right to go to African countries or to the UK? No.

After the slave trade was ‘ended’ many plantation owners simply replaced their African slaves with indentured labourers from the Indian subcontinent, known as ‘Coolies’, who who basically just slaves who had signed a contract most of them could not read. Many African, Caribbean and other countries have populations of Indian-descended people for this reason. Do they have the right to go to India or to Britain? No.

So when I hear people who have never been to Australia saying everyone there is racist, when they come from the country that has caused all these problems, as well as many more, it seems a bit odd.

Of course if you judge Australia by what politicians and redneck stereotypes say then you will see it as a racist country. That’s basically how i used to look at the United States when I was a stupid teenager.

I basically used to judge America by what George W Bush said, assuming that everyone agreed with him. That was before I started actually educating myself about the radical political movements in US history, and contemporary struggles going on, and of course before I met American people and had proper conversations with them.

We all liked to feel smug, here in Western Europe, during George W Bush’s reign, that we were somehow better than these stupid Americans who were going around bombing people. We like to think how enlightened we were compared to them, even after Britain started bombing Afghanistan and Iraq.

It was like people in Britain thought that there was perhaps a problem with racism in this island once, long ago, but that it was all over now. The Specials and other ska-punk bands solved it all in the 80’s. Now its all a big multi-cultural paradise and the only exceptions are a few Jeremy Clarkson types and stupid politicians.

But guess what – those are the people the rest of the world sees. They see Britain, the former biggest Empire in the world, the cause of all these deep-seated racial problems all over the world due to their divide-and-rule policies, genocidal wars and forced mass-migrations, as a country which is not only NOT making up for any of that historical oppression, but which is STILL promoting imperialism and racism.

So if you don’t think that David Cameron or Jeremy Clarkson represent you, then don’t make assumptions about other countries based on the most right-wing bastards from those countries who happen to make it on to your TV.

In Australia people talk about trying to change the constitution to make sure that the historical debt to Aboriginal people is repaid. Sure, its a struggle that hasn’t been won yet and there are a lot of stupid rednecks in the way, but at least it’s on the progressive agenda.

What the fuck is on the progressive agenda here in the UK? Making slightly less cuts to public services? Electing an old Islington lefty fart who can’t even govern his own party and wants to govern one of the most powerful states in the world? Letting a handful more refugees come into the country, only because the current war in Syria is so unbelievably horrific that people feel sorry for them?

Something like a million people, which is more than 1% of the population of the UK – more than the percentage of the Australian population which is indigenous – are undocumented migrant workers in the UK, working for shitty wages of around two pounds an hour, in awful conditions, in constant risk of getting detained and deported.

Does the ‘progressive’ movement in the UK give a shit about this? Ed Milliband actually mentioned it a few times, which surprised me, but no actual Socialists, Anarchists or other radical progressives ever do.

This is the BIG RACIST ISSUE of the UK right now, apart from historical reparations for the crimes of the Empire. Who is talking about it? Who is going to do something about it?

The Asylum system is fucking stupid. It makes people lie. Most people, even if they come from a country where they are persecuted or where there is War, actually want to get a job in the UK, but they have to apply for asylum and pretend they don’t want to work. So then there are in the position of having to work in the informal economy- the black market, where there are no rights.

Of course there are lots of people who are really traumatised and don’t want to work too, and if it were up to me then they would be allowed to sit back and get loads of benefits, which is NOT what happens to most people.

But the thing is, people have still got family back home, so even if they ARE traumatised not only from the persecution and war they left behind, but also from all the crazy oppression they went through in all the countries they passed through to get from there to here, they STILL want to get a job  to send some money home.

So even if you are an Asylum Seeker or a refugee you still should be allowed to work. Asylum seekers AREN’T ALLOWED TO WORK. Did you know that?

So there are at least a million people who either managed to get into the UK without getting caught by the authorities and who have to stay under the radar, or who have applied for Asylum just because its the only way they can get the right to stay here, and who are having to work without the authorities finding out, which is perhaps even more stressful than just being a straight-up undocumented migrant worker.

So here’s a radical ‘progressive’ idea: Equal Rights! What if all workers had the same rights, regardless of where they were born?

Wouldn’t that fit in with the Enlightenment ideas of Liberalism that supposedly our political system is based on? Wouldn’t that be something for ‘progressives’ to fight for?

Then maybe you could feel justified in calling other people racist.














The truth is that Borders have never really existed

The truth is that borders have never really existed. There is no separation between peoples, only the illusion of separation. A language shifts and changes throughout time, evolving as it comes into contact with other languages. The very fact that people can sit in a room together to have a conversation in which words from several languages are used is proof that these languages do not really exist. They are simply noises in the air, that human brains are translating into meaning. The very fact that people can cross borders so long as someone does not physically stop them from doing so is proof that these borders do not really exist.


The Tuareg people of North Africa cross borders all the time. They live in the desert, called ‘the Sahara’ – which is just a word meaning desert to the people who speak words that someone once grouped together and called ‘Arabic’. In different places there are different words that are clumped together and called ‘Arabic’, because there is no such thing as Arabic really, and no such people as “Arabs”. There no ‘Whites’, no ‘Europeans’, no ‘Westerners’. There are no ‘Blacks’, no ‘Africans’, no ‘Subsaharans’.


There are no Tuaregs. They are just a type of Berber. There are no Berbers. There is no Berber language. There is no Moroccan language. There are no Moroccans.


There are No Borders. What there are is fences, guns, handcuffs, vehicles, prisons, doors, locks, boats, uniforms, and human beings who have completely lost sight of reality.


A family of people on the backs of Camels can walk from one sand dune to another, or a van full of people, or just some desperate, hungry people with heatstroke walking through the sand. These people are not ‘crossing borders’, they are just walking in the desert. A camera up in the sky on a satellite maybe be filming them and that camera may be connected to a computer upon the display of which lines have been drawn by people under the orders of men commanding other men with lots of guns, but that doesn’t make it real.


Angry, violent people often let their egos run away with them and say ridiculous things that people would just laugh at if they wern’t afraid of getting hurt. They say things like ‘I’m the best’, or ‘that belongs to me’, or ‘that belongs to MY people, MY tribe, MY gang, MY nation-state”. People don’t laugh at them, they humour them, they say ‘whatever you want boss’, or ‘Sure, that’s your sandwich, that’s your wristwatch, that’s your continent’.


Let’s stop humouring these people. Let’s force them to confront reality. Make them see what dicks they are being and force them to stop it, for the good of everyone. They must first of all be stopped, then sat down and given a good talking to, made to understand what they have done wrong. If they express no remorse, they should be made to feel afraid of doing it again through threats of violence, which should then be carried out. This is how you would treat anyone who was fucking things up for you and your whole community.


When good people do nothing, that’s when bad people do things. We all know this. We mutter it to ourselves. So what are we going to do?


Every day, remind yourself that we are at war with all Nation-states. Their laws do not apply to us, nor to anyone else, least of all themselves.


Do not allow your consciousness to be poisoned by illusions. Laugh at nonsense. Laugh at those who think they are better than other people or have any right to anything on this earth. We are all equal, and this Earth does not belong to anyone.


We are all Equal and we are All Free. Don’t forget it, just because some men with guns have forgotten it. Remind them of it.


Remind them that private property does not exist. Money does not exist. Capital does not exist. Classes, nations, races, genders, even football teams – none of them exist. What exists is the universe. You can touch it, feel it, see it, breathe it. I listen to it all the time. It’s my favourite song.


If you break the law and there are no police around to see it, the law did not exist. If you break it and the police decide to let you get away with it, it does not exist either. If you do not break any law and the police arrest you, charge you, and give false testimony about you, the law still does not exist, even though you didn’t even break it. What exists are men with guns, women with guns, buildings, locks, doors, handcuffs and clubs. There are people who sit around on comfortable chairs with lots of shiny wooden panelling in the room, shuffling bits of paper and sentencing people to death or imprisonment. They are perhaps least in touch with reality than anyone.


I would like to witness a court case in which someone told the truth, just once in my life. I would like to hear someone say ‘my defence is that we are hurtling through the cosmos at millions of miles per second, so what does it matter if someone’s illusion of private property got shattered? It was good for their soul’ or ‘all of us are one, so we are all equally guilty’ or ‘I call a surprise witness – the moon’. Will that day ever come?


Don’t be afraid to die for the truth. Don’t be thinking of all the things you didn’t get a chance to do when you hear a big-headed idiot claim to be somebody’s lord. Say it right to their face – whatever it is that they need to be told. Do not be afraid – and they will fear you, or else they will kill you, but you would have been expecting that anyway, so it’s ok. Don’t think of all the things you haven’t done yet. That’s not a good way to die. You do not exist. You are the person that may kill you, you are the whole universe and everything in it is you.


There are no borders. No boundaries between yourself and others, yourself and the ground you stand on or the air you breathe. It is all everything and you are it as well.


But least, least of all, is there France.

More Ants With Honey       

An urgent appeal to the anarchist movement to stop acting like such dickheads and learn how to be more friendly to other members of the working class.

I have seen some of the nicest people I have ever met act like some of the stupidest, most stuck-up, unfriendly judgemental bastards possible when they have been faced with people outside of their own little ‘scene’ of likeminded people.

It has got to stop, not only for the sake of people new to the ‘scene’ or of people who just might happen to come into contact with people in the ‘scene’ while going about their daily business, but also for anarchist scene wankers like myself as well.

If we remain isolated, depressed, feeling excluded and shat upon by all of society, we are gonna probably all develop drug-addiction problems, suicidal tendencies and other mental health problems. Whoops! Too late!

But no, it’s not too late.

You can save yourself from being an irrelevant waste of space in the eyes of society and yourself by simply going back to the basic fundamental principles of the philosophy that our ‘scene’ is supposedly based on.

Now, it has often seemed to me that the actual day-to-day practice of people in the anarchist scene has about as much to do with the philosophy of anarchism as the relentless slaughter of the Tamil population of Sri Lanka by the Buddhist Singhalese government has to do with the Buddha’s teachings of compassion.

In fact Anarchism, as espoused by Proudhon, Kropotkin, Emma Goldman etc, is similar Buddhism in that it is a philosophy of seeking individual fulfilment through social action, recognising that there is in fact no separation between the individual and society, and that for an individual to be free they must fight for the liberation of all.

When the first Anarchists were writing the main way that people were oppressed was by capitalism and the state, and this has not changed in the past 200 years. Society is still split up into a great majority of people who have no control over the land or the means to produce things they need for themselves, and a small minority who are seen as having the right to control all the land and all the means of production, simply because they have ‘capital’ or money to invest to make more money from.

Anarchism is a philosophy of struggle, saying that this capitalist class, who oppress and exploit the majority, must be fought against until they are ultimately destroyed, so that the land and means of production might be controlled democratically by everyone in society, in decentralised fashion.

This calls for promoting unity among the working class, as well as ‘class consciousness’ – meaning getting out there and explaining to people how they all have a lot in common with each other regardless of nationality, religion, gender or whatever other divides might exist within the global working class, and that they should all work together and support one anothers’ struggles for liberation.

So you would think that anarchists would be really outgoing types, always ready to jump into a discussion on the nature of society with anyone they might come into contact with, having a whole load of well-thought-out comebacks to any racist or nationalist challenge to their basic message of working-class unity.

But no.

Most anarchists I know are simply terrified of talking about politics with anyone who doesn’t already agree with them, or even to engage in any form of confrontation with the State or capitalism unless there is some form of temporary thrill involved.

In some peoples minds being a ‘good anarchist’ means shouting at all your housemates for not being politically correct enough, or for not being prepared to engage in acts of anti-social violence for no particularly good reason, or even for declaring oneself part of the working class at all. Some people seem to think that working a job for a wage makes you a bad anarchist in itself.

So how did this happen? The parallels with Islam are striking. A belief system that started out with a universal message of equality ends up being perceived by most people as a community of people who totally refuse to engage with the rest of society unless it is to moralise or throw bombs.

Of course our masters in the Christian-white-supremacist ruling class are pleased as punch about this. They are free to drop bombs on little children whose skin-colour they don’t like almost every other day in a variety of exotic locations while the general public are busy being afraid of other people who are operating on a shoe-string budget and are actually on the whole completely non-violent.

So here’s some advice for scaredy-cat little anarchists for what to do if you find yourself trapped with one of these terrifying non anarchist people who flood the streets. (I would call you pussies except that one of you, a particularly deranged dickhead, once accused me of being sexist for using the word pussy. Since the word ‘pussy’ meant ‘coward’ long before it was ever used to mean ‘vagina’ – from the latin pusillanimous meaning lacking in courage- I can only assume this was another example of ignorance on that individuals part. I do not think vaginas are cowardly and that’s why I don’t call them pussies. Cats though, they really are cowardly. And nihilists of course)

Top ten pieces of advice for talking to non anarchists:

1: Smile at people!

No matter what occurs or how awkward the conversation might get, smiling helps. If nothing else it helps you to remain calm and in a positive mood, which usually helps any situation.

2: Say hello and introduce yourself!

Don’t, for example, awkwardly hover at the back of the room with a glum expression occasionally glancing over at them as if you hate them. Most people really don’t react well to this.

3: Ask them about themselves!

Most people love talking about themselves. Most people are also oppressed and exploited by capitalism and the state. With the magic trick of asking simple polite questions you may be able to discover exactly what way the person you are speaking to is oppressed and how they feel about it. This can open up all kinds of conversations about ways they could take action and make links of solidarity with other people also oppressed in the same way.

4: Mention that you’re an anarchist and explain what it means!

Often when anarchists actually do manage to make friends with other people and even inspire them to struggle for liberation or practice mutual aid, they forget to mention that they are an anarchist. Why? Are you so patronising that you think they won’t be able to understand a philosophy that can be summed up in a sentence? Do you not think they could benefit from this philosophy as much as you have? Do you not want to spread the ideas that you believe in? Do you even really believe in them at all?

5: Don’t use jargon!

My god. If it’s not pretentious pseudo-academic bullshit then it’s some kind of squatter/traveller exclusionary lingo aimed at making people feel like they just aren’t cool enough to be in your little clique. Just stop it. If you have really been away from ‘mainstream’ society for so long you can’t talk properly anymore then you can re-learn standard English through reading newspapers, watching TV, listening to music or just chatting to strangers on the street. Just try it out, set your self little challenges. Can you go a day without mentioning ‘gak’? Or ‘polyamory’? Or ‘tatting’? Or ‘intersectionality’?

6: Use the normal working-class slang for whatever community you’re in!

You may be surprised to find that people speak differently in different places. Often they think that the way that working-class people speak in their area is the way that all working class people speak. This is bullshit. Most working class people speak Chinese, and different dialects of it in different places. So, don’t be stupid. Make a fucking effort. Learn how to talk to people in the place you are from.

7: Don’t lose your temper if they disagree!

Probably someone you haven’t met before and who is not part of the anarchist scene already is going to have some opinions about some things that different from the opinions of yourself and your friends. Everyone, included yourself, is prejudiced in some way or another. If someone has a prejudiced view about a certain type of person, they are probably simply mistaken in some way and just need to be calmly and politely corrected about the factual error they have made, not shouted at or beaten up. Also, most people do not accept the idea that the whole structure of society needs to be fundamentally changed, because it’s a scary thought. So just introduce ideas to people piece by piece, always emphasising the positive, not invoking apocalyptic images of ultra-violence.

8: Don’t say anything to imply that your judge them for their lifestyle choices or opinions!

The vast, vast majority of people in the world believe in God or in some higher spiritual reality. People who believe in things generally don’t appreciate people snorting in disgust when they express something that to them is a profound spiritual truth that enriches their life. Also, many anarchists, as well as many non anarchists, are not vegan and do not practice ‘open relationships’ and so don’t like people who try to make them feel like they are evil for eating certain types of food or being faithful to their partner.

9: If they say anything you remotely agree with, tell them so!

Most people will not agree with anarchism they first time they hear about it, and if they do they probably should think about it a bit more. So of course people are going to have a lot of questions, counterarguments and concerns about such a radical philosophy with so many far-reaching implications over all aspects of life. If you make it out as if their little doubts mean that their ideas are fundamentally incompatible with ours, they will be put off and will never want to come back. On the other hand, if they express some trite opinion such as ‘I think everyone should have the same rights’ or ‘politicians are corrupt’ then if you say ‘yes! Exactly, that’s what we think to’ then they are likely to want to find out more.

10: Use positive reinforcement to encourage them to take direct action against the state and capitalism!

If you don’t encourage someone to take direct action to liberate them as well as work towards to liberation of everyone else, then perhaps no-one ever will and this idea will never occur to them. It’s worth a shot, and what have you really go to lose? You may gain a new friend and comrade for life.

OK? Now get out there and start agitating!

Please x

Queer Ecological Insurrection – an introduction to Burroughs, Bookchin and Bonanno

The three 20th century Anarchist writers who have influenced my own perspective the most have been William Burroughs, Murray Bookchin and Alfredo M Bonanno. These are three writers whom I think even most anarchist or like-minded activists are very unfamiliar with, so here I will attempt to give a very brief overview of their main ideas, how they can go together, and why I think they are still relevant today, unlike certain other writers..

Unfortunately in my experience most Anarchist and like-minded activists do not read works of political theory at all, being too busy engaging in actual revolutionary activity, or else just posing as revolutionaries, hanging out in counter-cultural spaces and pretending to care. This tends to lead to a lacking in the intellectual skills required to develop realistic strategies for achieving social change, even among those prepared to risk death or arrest to achieve it.

Those that do look into the theoretical side of things usually limit themselves to whichever zines with interesting titles happen to be hanging around. Unfortunately an interesting title does not necessarily actually mean a text is that significant, or even has much original thought gone into it at all.

Some more enquiring minds might decide to look into the distant past of the Anarchist writers of the 19th Century, who were once described to me as ‘Old Dead Russians’. This is not entirely fair – Malatesta was from Italy, Proudhon from France – but the implied criticism that these writers were operating in a context that is no longer relevant is hard to ignore.

Reading the Old Dead Russians – Bakunin, Kropotkin, Emma Goldman etc – you are struck by how much they stick to the basic narrative of the Inevitable Proletarian Revolution, almost like Christians talking about the Judgement Day.

The story goes that the meek, humble, toiling masses will one day seize control of the means of production, by virtue of their organisation and solidarity built up through the culmination of years of trades union activity. Once the factories and farms etc have been collectively seized, on occasion of a great insurrection heralded by a General Strike, all that remains is to ‘defend the revolution’ by means of fighting at the barricades, and once the forces of reaction have been dealt with, we shall all live in perfect harmony and freedom forever more.

Maybe it is a symptom of how desperate people in modern day society are to believe in anything at all that some people still cling on to this old, quasi-religious faith in old-school anarchism. Others know that it is not going to happen like that, but failing to come up with any other theoretical perspective, and not wishing to give up on the actual basic principles of anarchism – positive belief in the values of mutual aid, autonomy and solidarity coupled with a rejection of all forms of hierarchical oppression – they simply muddle on, trying not to think about it, and carrying on with political activities they can not actually justify logically but simply go through the motions of, not knowing what else to do.

But even as the old, glorious Workers movement or Red flags, mass trades unions and socialist parties was dying, in the 1940s and 1950s, there were radical writers around who were sniffing around for new ideas with which to understand reality and fight for universal freedom. One of these was William S Burroughs.

Burroughs had never been a trade unionist or card-carrying socialist, so perhaps he didn’t have any ideological baggage to have to get rid of. He was not a working class man, but, like Bakunin, Kropotkin and Karl Marx before him, was a drop-out from the ruling class. His grandfather had invented the Burroughs Adding Machine, which was a precursor of the modern-day computer, and used mainly in the banking industry, making the family rich. The fortune had collapsed somewhat by the time William was a young man, but he still had the tremendous good fortune of being able to travel the world for most of his youth, as well as the benefits of a classical education.

Willaim Burroughs’ personal rebellion against bourgeois society was on the basis of his sexuality, not his class. Much as his writings decried the gruesome realities of upper-class racism and snobbery towards poorer people, it was the homophobic, heteronormative nature of bourgeois life that offended him, oppressed him and made him into a revolutionary.

Burroughs was the first popular writer to use the word ‘Queer’ as a positive identification. In this he was decades ahead of his time. Even in the 1950s, when Gay rights had not even been won yet, he was already looking far beyond the understanding of sexuality as a binary opposition between gay and straight.

Burroughs was a writer who deconstructed old established ideas, including those of the radical socialist left. This was the spirit of the age in the post-war period, when all the old certainties of liberalism, socialism and nationalism were crumbling in the face of the horrors of the genocide and mass slaughters of the age.

In London, George Orwell’s 1984 and Animal Farm challenged the Communist Party’s vision of the future, but from a left-wing point of view, as did the writings of Satre, Camu, and De Beauvoir in Paris. Similarly in New York, Burroughs and his close friends Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg, were seeking meaning in a new and frightening world.

You can not get a sense of Burroughs’ revolutionary views by reading any one of his works alone. He did write political essays, and essays on tactics for creating riots etc, but most of his work was satirical fiction. He was on the attack against all forms of bullshit, and especially was trying to make people ‘hip to the scene’, as he and his beatnik friends would have said.

In Burroughs vision of the world, there are hustlers everywhere. The whole capitalist system, Bolshevik-communist system, and in general the whole business of government at all is a series of cons by sociopathic, sadistic bastards. You are either hip to the scene and engaged in some kind of nefarious activity yourself, involving breaking all the rules you can to get what you want, or else you are just a ‘mark’ – a fool waiting to be conned by some kind of parasitical entity.

William Burroughs made breakthroughs in exposing the true nature of the US criminal underworld, starting with his first published book ‘Junky’. This book reveals how he was himself a conman, preying on the naivety of innocent fools, playing all kinds of tricks on people to feed his heroin addiction, but the really juicy details are not in the things that he did himself, but rather in the complex and fucked up scams he saw being perpetrated by much bigger players than himself, including the US government.

Burroughs saw the US government for what it really was – an imperialistic, genocidal mafia-style organisation that had taken over the world and was just as bad, if not worse, as the regimes of Hitler and Mussolini.

He new that the US government was involved in organised crime, and that the way that drug policy was executed in the country was not at all aimed at actually solving the problems of drug addicts like himself, but rather in keeping money flowing into the pockets of those who really ran the State.

Burroughs portrayed pretty much anyone in a position of authority as a total scumbag, usually with sexual fetishes for death, torture and rape of people of all genders, and complicit in the most unspeakable crimes, lies and exploitation.

Most of his writing, therefore, appears as a series of appalling scenes of depravity, which are shocking and disorientating even to modern day readers who you’d thing would be completely desensitised by Hollywood gore. It is therefore hard to see what positive messages he really had, from a revolutionary point of view. Indeed, many active anarchists I know have been perplexed and disgusted when I have told them I see him as a hero.

But Burroughs did have a positive message for those willing to read between his disgusting lines and find it. His writings describing physical acts of love between men indicate he was a sensitive soul wishing to help other men discover and celebrate their sexualities in the face of the extreme violence threatened to them by the mainstream society.

“Wild Boys” is a post-apocalyptic novel describing the collapse of Western Imperialist society due to an extremely widespread youth rebellion of young men who want to do nothing but have sex with each other and take drugs, but who are organised and numerous enough to constitute an unstoppable global guerrilla movement.

This is perhaps the closes we can get to a manifesto in Burroughs’ work. He did not see revolution emerging from the ranks of trades unions, but from the ranks of alienated youth, the weird crazy hustlers who were the social class he most identified with, for though he was born wealthy he spent most of his adult life among the lumpenproletariat.

People on the fringes of society, who didn’t even try to fit into it except as a scam to get some money to continue their mad liberated lifestyles, these were the people he thought showed promise. People who would not be conned by the hustlers of the State, because they were too busy trying to hustle and con rich people out their money themselves.

He respected sex workers, hustlers, drug dealers, artists and revolutionaries, living outside the system. His friend Jack Kerouac in ‘The Dharma Bums” also foretold a vision opf the future in which the youth, dropping out of society and creating their own values, would bring about social change, in a less violent way than Burroughs’ Wild Boys, simply by hitching around and living in tents.

Burroughs was a pioneer of post-modernism and the youth counter-culture. He didn’t believe in the Marxist idea of setting up a new ideology to get everyone behind, with a new set of leaders to follow, to bring some new ‘workers state’ into being. He saw that as just another con, being perpetrated by a bunch of evil sadistic hustlers who just wanted power for their own sick psychological reasons.

He wanted people to break free of all ideology and to question absolutely all claims to universal truth. ‘Nothing is True, Everything is Permitted’ was perhaps his most repeated phrase. He even tried to get people to challenge the way they experienced the written word, to bring peoples attention to the fact that rationality was simply an illusion, usually used in the course of conning people into something or other.

He followed on from the work of his friend Brion Gysin in experimenting with ‘Cut-Ups’ – texts that were literally cut up and stuck back together in different ways to reveal how even when texts obviously had no deliberate rational meaning behind them, the human mind always imposed meaning anyway. This had huge implications as an artistic idea.

Think about all the forms of art which have been developed since the Burroughs Cut Ups in the 1960s which use the same idea – collage is now one of the most accepted mediums in publishing and fashion, Hip-hop and other sampled forms of music are now the dominant forces in the world, and almost any modern book or film pretty much has to fuck around with flash-backs and flash-forwards to even be seen as credible these days.

These cultural phenomenon maybe not have fully delivered the means of production into the hands of workers yet but they have done a great deal to bring about shifts in consciousness throughout the western world and beyond which mean that people are a lot more able to think outside of the box and not be limited to seeing the world only in a narrow spectrum of belief any more.

This was how the old-fashioned workers movement kept getting betrayed – by leaders and bureaucrats who used ideology to take over people’s heads and turn them into cogs in a party or state machine, making them as dependent on the political bosses as junkies were to their dealers. This was Burroughs central message. He wanted freedom for the working class, but was prepared to abandon that whole language if it was only going to be used as junk for the mind, in favour of raw, wild, spontaneous rebellion coming straight out of the subconscious and into daily life.

These kinds of ideas and attitudes, as everybody knows, burst into the mainstream in the late 1960s. In the year 1968 there were insurrections, mass trade union strikes and even revolutions, all around the world, mainly led by wild youth. In these movements the party and union structures of the Old Left were being shown to be irrelevent and so people talked of it as the New Left.

People were not going out there on the streets all dressing in the same clothes and subsuming their differences under the homogenous identity of being ‘working class’ – rather they were asserting all kinds of other identities which had been suppressed for generations – as women, as queers or gays, as Black people, as indigenous people, as crazy hippy freaks, as whatever the hell they wanted to be – and yet there was still a sense that everyone was on the same side.

This was post-modernism made real. It wasn’t a movement based on one big socialist narrative of “we are the working class and our historic mission is to overthrow capitalism through a revolution that will emerge from class struggle in the workplace”. It was a movement of movements, with many different narratives ranging from ‘the white man has kept us down too long and now we’re gonna show em’ to ‘the dawning of the age of aquarius is upon us’ to ‘we’re here, we’re queer, get used to it’ to ‘I am woman hear me roar’.

Did it matter that there was no overarching narrative? Maybe not. But someone who was part of all these movements, and who was well versed in the dogmas of the Old Left, and therefore in a unique position to write about the differences between the Old and New, was Murray Bookchin.

Unlike Burroughs, Bookchin had indeed been a trade unionist, an organiser and even a Communist party member. He caught the tail end of the glorious old workers movement and saw it all crumble under the boots of fascism and the forces of new technological organisation of workplaces. Also unlike Burroughs, Bookchin wrote serious works of political philosophy, so you don’t need to read between his lines to understand what he was trying to say.

Bookchin wrote a huge body of work, not only thoroughly critiquing the old Marxist paradigms but also attempting to synthesise the most important trends in the New Left into a new theoretical school called Social Ecology.

Bookchin celebrated the fact that the radical movements of the 1960s did not limit themselves to a socialist critique of class divisions, but actually critiqued all forms of hierarchy, whether based on class, race, gender, or even species. The basic idea of Social Ecology is simply that humanity should live in harmony with other species, and that this requires a social revolution with the same aims as Socialism, Anarchism, Feminism etc.

Bookchin was trying to make people think about how everything is interconnected, saying ‘mans domination of man is based in mans domination of nature’. We can not think about changing the way human society works without thinking about changing the way it interacts with the rest of reality, for it is part of that greater reality.

As a committed class warrior, active in revolutionary struggle since he was a little boy in a Communist youth club, he of course was deeply disturbed by the treachery and distortions of the Bolsheviks and other authoritarian socialists and sought to analyse where they had gone wrong both in theory and in practice. To him, as to Burroughs, any kind of bureaucracy was intolerable and dangerous.

According to his essays in the book ‘Post-Scarcity Anarchism’, revolutionary things occurred in history whenever people simply organised their rebellions directly, in a face to face way, without electing representatives or committees to manage the struggle for them. He advocated the a peoples assembly, in the sense of a face to face congregation of people all talking together and coming to decisions by consensus or direct vote, as the tried and tested form of organisation, rather than the ‘workers councils’ called for by others at the time such as the Situationists.

Bookchin in fact regarded the Situationist international as just another club of authoritarian Marxist intellectuals trying to boss people around and control their minds, despite the popular celebration of them as those revealing the horrible authoritarian and treacherous tendencies of the Trotskyites and others. Bookchin’s essay ‘Listen, Marxist!’ is a delight to anyone who’s ever found themselves tongue-tied in an argument by with a Marxist demagogue and wished they’d thought of the right come-back in time. He says it all.

In the struggle for a better world, as his vision for the better world itself, Bookchin was steadfastly opposed to any form of alienation. What was the point of revolution if some ‘council’ was controlling your participation in it rather than yourself? That was political alienation, leaving you as an individual as unfree as you were before..

Also, what was the point of a revolution to seize control of the means of production if once you had it you were going to use it to continue to destroy eco-systems, oppress women, or reproduce hierarchies in the workplace? Suffering from alienation from the natural world, and from other human beings on the basis of categories like gender and race with little real basis to them, what was the point of struggling for such a situation?

Do we even need to seize control of the factories and workshops that currently exist in the world? Are they not just tools for a society that we don’t want to exist any longer? If so, what was the point of identifying as a ‘worker’? What was the point of patiently acting like a good little trades-unionist and keeping ‘revolutionary’ discipline, until one day in the future when supposedly the union would be strong enough to take over the means of production? Was that ever going to happen, now that unions seemed to be completely sold out and serving a function to help keep workers in line for the bosses rather than being something actually controlled by workers themselves?

Weren’t the more radical workers the ones who grew their hair long, showed up to work stoned, bunked off work early to have sex with each other, and try to drop out to enjoy the beauties of nature? Were the hippies and other counter-culture types really just counter-revolutionary degenerates, as many old-school Communists of the day made them out to be, or were they not actually resisting capitalism and hierarchy through their daily lives while Marxists just wrote boring pamphlets about it?

Bookchin saw that the capitalism of the 1960s was not the same as that of the 1930s, and that the struggles against it were obviously not going to take the same form. While so many communists and anarchists refused to accept this, clinging on to their old dogmas as rigidly as ever, Bookchin was part of the new movement, using his Marxist background to help develop a new revolutionary theory for the new generation.

It was not enough to say that your goal was ‘socialism’ or ‘workers control of the means of production’, but that didn’t mean you abandoned that as a goal to focus only on ‘single issue’ campaigns about environmentalism and identity politics, as perhaps some radicals in the sixties were guilty of.

Rather it meant thinking about how the struggle for a sustainable relationship with the environment could actually be the same thing as a struggle for the workers control of the means of production, AND the deconstruction of traditional ideas of gender roles or racial stereotypes.

At the same time, it meant embracing all the new experiments in alternative lifestyles that young people were experimenting with, inspired in part by the writings of Burroughs and his beatnik contemporaries of a decade before. However, unlike Burroughs, Bookchin did insist that living a different, liberated lifestyle was not enough, and that actual revolutionary activism had to be taken seriously.

For all the revolutionary implications of his ideas and work, Burroughs had basically just been a bohemian artist bum, hanging out with other artists and intellectuals, taking drugs, going on holidays to exotic locations and having sex with a lot of young male sex workers of various nationalities. Bookchin was perhaps open minded enough that he wouldn’t have just called Burroughs a degenerate counter-revolutionary, but he certainly wouldn’t have held him up as a role model either.

In ‘Social Anarchism vs Lifestyle Anarchism – an unbridgeable chasm’, Bookchin angrily laments what was lost in the collapse of the old workers movement, revealing that he did not reject the spirit of it even if he critiqued much of the ideological baggage that it left us with.

The kind of person who simply tried to live an alternative lifestyle but who had no interest in helping to build a revolutionary movement, was no anarchist worth the name. He detested things like ‘anarchist cafes’ where a bunch of people would sit around acting like consumers in any other capitalist business, but covering the place with symbols of anarchism. That was the worst form of alienation of all – alienation from the meaning behind the words you are saying.

Someone else who decried this form of alienation was Alfredo M Bonanno, writing in the 1980s, when capitalism was even more clearly different from the 1930s. He called peoples attention to the fact that very little about what went on in Anarchist organisations or informal Anarchist ‘scenes’ had very much to do with fighting for a wider revolution, in his text “The Fictitious Movement vs the Real Movement”.

He saw how revolutionary groups built up ideas above their station, until they considered themselves to be more important than the wider working class, whether they were Stalinists, Trotskyists, Situationists, Anarcho-syndicalists or even just an informal group of radical hippies.

The real struggle, according to Bonanno, is happening all the time, out there on the streets and in the working-class ghettos of the post-industrial world. Capitalism had changed, just as Bookchin said, and there was no use getting stuck in the past and dreaming of the unionised workers taking over factories and farms to create a socialist society. That was just a ridiculous way to think when factories throughout Europe and North America were simply being shut down and relocated all over the world and more and more jobs were being lost to robots anyway.

Bonanno proposed thinking less in terms of people being ‘working class’ or not and more in terms of whether they were ‘excluded’ or ‘included’ in the ‘project of capital’. Bonanno uses the word ‘project’ a lot in fact.

Just as capital has its projects – wars, economic restructurings, the conquest of new areas of the natural world, and generally whatever will keep profits rising and the rich getting ever richer – so can revolutionary people have projects – to destroy the institutions of Capitalism, the State, Colonialism and Patriarchy, among other systems of oppression.

People who are excluded from the projects of capital are the dispossessed and shat-on peoples of the world, the kinds of people that Burroughs hung out with – illegal immigrants, landless indigenous peasants, street hustlers in the ghettos, queers, sex workers, etc. To people excluded from capital’s projects, or from the hierarchies of power based on gender, race or whatever else, life is a daily struggle already, that is going on all the time whether or not any revolutionary activists are around to see it.

Conversely, many of the unionised industrial workers, and indeed, members of socialist or communist parties, were in fact very much included in the projects of capital. You get trade union leader hobnobbing with capitalists , going to business meetings, being consulted on new big deals, and generally giving their consent to whatever the bosses want to do, so long as they can claim to be representing the interests of their members. So if there’s a war going on to get more natural resources into the hands of transnational corporations and out of the hands of local people or governments, then the workers in the industries needed for that war are of course complicit in it if all they care about is getting their union to give them a better salary for it, rather than actively trying to sabotage it.

The only people who would try and sabotage it would be those excluded from it, those who aren’t getting a share of the profits, not even a tiny one in the form of some wages paid by the hour in an arms factory. If an oil company is trying to cut down a rainforest, it is the local people of the rainforest who are likely to try and resist it in some way, not the unionised labour force in the logging company.

So what does this mean for the revolutionary project? We want to destroy all the big bad systems in the world and create a world where everyone can be as invidually liberated as a character from Burroughs’ Wild Boys, while living in Bookchin’s Social Ecological utopia. So who are we revolutionary types who want this going to ally ourselves with? The workers in the unions who are happy to work for capital’s projects so long as their union makes sure they get some meagre benefits or the excluded masses already struggling for liberation every day?

Bonanno lived through periods of mass insurrection in Italy in the 1970s and saw the race riots in the UK in the early 1980s. He saw how the Italian anarchist movement did not necessarily have anything to do with the real movement of people on the street, because maybe the people in the movement didn’t really understand the people on the street at all.

As Bookchin and the Situationists criticised the hiearchies of Marxist groups and showed how they could lead to corruption and a bureaucratic tendency emerging that could put the breaks on real struggles developing in more and more radical directions, Bonanno showed how the same thing could even happen with Anarchist political organisations that had no formal hierarchy.

By forming an organisation like a Federation of Anarchist groups, or an Anarcho-syndicalist union, or even just an informal circle of friends who all happened to be anarchists, all you were doing was cutting yourself off from reality and kidding yourself that you and your buddies were going to change the world. Bonanno said it more politely than this, but that was about the crux of it.

The struggles of the exploited and excluded are happening already. If anarchists want to try and use those existing struggles to build up a big militant movement strong enough to destroy the oppressive institutions once and for all, or even just win some significant victories against them, then we need to be out there where the struggles are really happening, not just hanging out with one another in a ‘revolutionary organisation’ that really just has its head up its own arse.

Bonanno’s advice was to avoid wasting time trying to build up an anarchist organisation with regular conferences and publications and the rest, or an informal scene based around some kind of café of the type that Bookchin detested, but rather to join up with just a handful of comrades you knew and trusted, and get out there to where excluded people were already in struggle and join in with them.

If you and your ‘affinity group’ of close trusted friends succeeded in making links with excluded people in struggle, whether they be undocumented migrants struggling to cross borders, or militant queers resisting police oppression, or even exploited workers fighting the bosses in one of the many industries in the world NOT organised by sold out trades unions, then you could find yourself being the nucleus of a real struggle- an autonomous base nucleus – a self governing hub of activity right at the ‘base’ – the lowest point of society.

Your affinity group of anarchists, alongside the people already in struggle, working together and learning from each other, could escalate the struggle into something more than what it was before. You could plan out a ‘trajectory’ that you want to see the struggle take, and make interventions to make it happen, constantly updating your plans in a spontaneous way as and when things change, but never losing sight of your overall ‘projectuality’ – the project of revolution, which you are doing it all for.

So, lots of big fancy words there – affinity, autonomous base nucleus, trajectory, projectuality. Bonanno even came up with a longer phrase still to describe the whole theory: ‘insurrectionalist anarchism’. We should point out that in Italian it is considered less poncy to use really long words.

So let’s think of an example. Say you are just a few friends who share a political perspective, close enough at least to feel you can work together and commit to each other. That’s all you need, no organisation, not even a ‘scene’ or ‘milieu’ of others around you.

You hear about a struggle going on, a struggle of people excluded from capital’s project who are fighting against an oppressive institution. It could be a bunch of people stuck in a border zone, facing daily police brutality and pitched battles in attempts to get through the border fences.

You see that you as revolutionaries who want to see the State destroyed have a common enemy with these people. They want to destroy the border, they are fighting against it. You want to destroy the border to, and you want to be part of fighting against it. So you go there with your friends and you try to join in.

As long as you don’t just stick rigidly to your group of friends and actually engage with the people in struggle in an honest and friendly way, you are bound to find yourself part of some kind of new group, that is not an anarchist group per se, but which includes both anarchists and other people, and which is actually involved in concrete activity already, is really part of the struggle and not just theorising about it. This is your autonomous base nucleus.

That nucleus of people can do various things. It can produce propaganda, it can raise money for itself, it can acquire resources, it can make strategies, it can have a formal structure or an informal one, whatever it needs to do what it needs to do, which is radicalise and escalate the struggle.

As long as it is actually part of the struggle, doing what needs to be done to build the struggle and win victories, it is not a pointless ideological group or a bureaucratic false entity. All that work of fundraising, producing propaganda, creating formal structures etc takes time and energy. It is worth that time and energy if it is actually part of a real struggle – it is not worth it if it is just some revolutionary debating society living in a bubble-world of its own.

If instead of theorising to one another, preaching to the converted and nitpicking over theoretical points that most people don’t care about, we used the theories of socialism, anarchism, feminism, environmentalism etc to help people already involved in struggle see how their struggles are linked to other peoples, and directly helping to build links between different struggles, then we would actually be contributing to building a revolutionary mass movement, not just talking about it.

So insurrectionalist anarchism is not actually opposed to formal organisation, or in building a mass movement. Insurrectionalist anarchism is actually a theory about how to build a mass movement consisting of many formal organisations – by getting out of our ideological ghetto as ‘revolutionaries’ in our scenes and revolutionary organisations – and actually getting stuck in to the real struggles, hoping to build them up into mass movements by bringing in a revolutionary analysis.

It says, sure, be an anarchist, or social ecologist, or whatever you want to call yourself. But don’t keep going on about it or trying to find others who want to start some little club of people who think exactly the same, just find people you agree with more or less and who you get on with well enough to work with, find some people in struggle and join in. Once you are there, part of a real struggle, then you can talk about how to organise things, based not on abstract theoretical notions but on the basis of whatever the struggle you’re involved in obviously need.

So this is what I mean by ‘insurrectionalism’, and this is what I think Bonanno meant too, not that it really matters. Many people these days in anarchist circles are calling themselves insurrectionalists when actually they are not engaged in any kind of insurrection involving real people but are actually just hanging around in a scene posing as revolutionaries with their friends and occasionally going out in their anarchist affinity group and smashing something up, just so they can feel smug.

Other people look at these people and assume ‘oh well, insurrectionalist anarchism must be a stupid set of ideas then’ and so don’t bother to actually read up on it. This is a terrible shame in my view.

It would be a bit like seeing some hippies inspired by Bookchin, working in an eco village, and thinking they cant possibly have any insights worth listening to if all they’re doing is running gardening workshops, or perhaps seeing some queer punks tearing shit up while listening to recordings of William Burroughs telling stories about talking arseholes and thinking there’s nothing revolutionary about it.

For me Burroughs showed us the attitude of a revolutionary – someone guided not by ideology but by the wild desires of their own subconscious, not able to fit into any abstract system of false rationality and not afraid to be called weird or ‘queer’ just for not confirming to a system built by conmen for their own twisted ends.

Bookchin did his best to give us a new set of theories about what the overall goal of revolutionary struggle is, taking the best parts of socialism and adding in a whole load of other stuff, and possibly providing the only realistic blueprint for a vision of a world which could survive climate change.

Bonanno gave us ideas about the methods to achieve such a world, not by getting bogged down in silly crap like the Judean Peoples Front but by just getting out there and doing it, uniting with the excluded in real struggles, trying to radicalise them in the direct of a full revolutionary insurrection.

You could call this combined approach a Queer Ecological Insurecctionalist one, and debate the merits of it with your ‘comrades’ in your scene or federation for a few years. Or you could just get out there and do it.