Anarchism

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?

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You Don’t Need to Be a Dickhead to Be a Nihilist, But It Helps

06/April/2015

I sit in a caravan in the Sully site, where most of Kilnaboy is based, contemplating the events of the last 24 hours or so, in which I have experienced a series of changing interpretations of the same event

I have heard things second hand, third hand, fourth, all at different times, piecing together the implications. It has caused me at certain moments to doubt whether I had any friends in the world, then to be reassured. At times I felt that the forces of evil were triumphant, and that I was resigned to abandon all my hopes and dreams to discover a new life on the road.

Basically, some shit went down, but it all seems sorted now.

The future ahead of me seems bright, my plans seem not only feasible but almost inevitably bound to come to fruition almost without much effort needed. Of course, this is not actually the case at all and I will need to constantly keep the dream alive in the minds of others, and of course myself, which takes considerable energy.

It’s basically a dream war that I am engaged in, and sometimes rival dreams come into collision to my own in ways that are disturbing and most confusing. Indentifying malignant dreams in the minds of others seems to me now to be of paramount importance for the success of any venture.

Witness the nihilist-individualist-insurrectionalist tendency of the anarchist mileu. Their dreams are on full display, they make no bones about it. They want destruction.

I am not unfamiliar nor even particularly unsympathetic to their world-view. Sympathy is after all about feeling the same way as someone, and I have often felt that there is a great need for the destruction of a great many things that currently exist in this world.

But much of the literature of this tendency uses the word ‘existent’ to describe that which they wish to destroy. Now I am sure that many of these writers have chosen their words carefully and probably could give you a pretty reasonable sounding reason for why they choose to use that word, which sounds so awfully close to the word ‘existence’. But it is certainly not a word in everyday usage in English speaking countries, so it is extremely likely to be misinterpreted.

My understanding of what nihilism means as a political philosophy is not so much that they wish to simply destroy everything that exists, but that they are in favour of the violent destruction of all authoritarian structures and yet do not believe it is wise to formulate a program or vision for how society should be organised afterwards.

I can see a certain logic there from the point of view of someone who wants to see a better world and is convinced that it necessarily involves the dismantling of all oppressive structures. Most anarchists do not claim to have all the answers for how a post-revolutionary anarchist world would look after all.

Indeed, for enough people to be mobilised against the forces of the State in order to stand a chance of defeating them, there would need to be an extraordinary level of unity and cooperation amongst working class people, and perhaps this is unlikely to be achieved if people are to insist upon too much consensus upon theoretical questions.

It is often the case that groups of well-meaning people end up arguing for hours about theoretical questions without coming to a consensus and that this causes much less work to be done than when these discussions are somehow avoided.

Some nihilists may be people who would indeed like to see a world based on mutual aid and cooperation, but just don’t want to ram that vision down other people’s throats while they are trying to unite with them and take on the forces of oppression.

For example I once read a pamphlet called ‘nihilist communism’ which seems to be arguing for nihilism as a strategy for libertarian communist revolution. They claim that attempts by ideological communist and anarchist groups to inspire class consciousness amongst working class people have little to no effect on the actual likely hood of a revolution.

Instead they assume that in the workers will take over the means of production and reorganise them along communist lines inevitably without communist activists having to do anything.

This may just be a rationalisation of these particular nihilists’ laziness or ineptness at reaching out to the public. Or it may be an interesting contribution to a debate on revolutionary strategy. Perhaps both.

At least it is clear that they ultimately believe in a world based on a positive vision of human solidarity, to the point where they naively imagine human nature to be such that people conditioned their entire lives by capitalism would suddenly change their entire world view and way of life over night simply because the power of the State had collapsed.

The same can not be said though of a certain individual I have recently met describing themselves as a “nihilist individualist” – which I understand to be an increasingly popular tendency amongst certain members of the anarchist milieu, thanks in part to the ‘propaganda of the deed’ of certain groups such as the Conspiracy of Cells of Fire.

As an individualist, this person claims not to care about the working class, and as a nihilist, not to care about the world once the State is gone, or even about trying to destroy the State completely, merely doing lots of violent actions against it just for the hell of it. He seems to be one of those people who believe that climate change will sweep away the State, or that everything will collapse on its own.

In this regard he is similar to the nihilist communists in that he thinks the State will collapse on its own and then his preferred vision for the future will come about. Where he differs from the communists is that his preferred vision seems to be a nightmare apocalypse world rather than one which is actually good to live in.

He thinks there is no hope to save the world, and that anyone who thinks there is so stupid that their ideas should be violently opposed.

This is what he has spent many hours talking to me about, even when I have made it clear to him that I do not particularly enjoy listening to it. He will sketch out in detail just how doomed everything is, painting a vision in other people’s minds that he fills in more and more details of. Whatever visions he has in his own mind of such a world must be even darker.

His dreams are on a collision course with those of almost everyone else in the anarchist milieu, and he seems to actively take pleasure in destroying their faith in whatever it is they believe in, through constant angry ranting, regardless of how much people beg him to stop for the sake of their mental health.

This experience is going to make it very hard for me not to become prejudiced against any person claiming to hold views they call ‘nihilist individualist’, or any actions or literature bearing that title.

I know it is not fair to blame a set of ideas for the actions and attitudes of a particularly unpleasant individual, but he truly has scarred my mind, which will surely be likely to impair my rational judgement of a set of philosophical ideas that are so closely intertwined with these unhappy memories.

All of this has made me feel it more necessary to affirm what I do believe in and how it differs from nihilism, and especially nihilist individualism.

The set of ideas that first convinced me that the anarchist project had validity were those of the social ecologists, such as Murray Bookchin. In short, social ecology is the theory that in order for human beings to live in harmony with other species as part of sustainable ecosystems we must organise our society on basically anarchist communist lines, while of course also making other more obvious technological and agricultural changes.

Social ecology is a radical tendency of the environmental movement which has been explicitly influenced by anarchist communist ideas, and creates a theoretical framework for understanding the intersections between social struggles and environmental struggles.

To me, social ecology is compatible with class struggle anarchism, anarcha feminism, queer anarchism, and pretty much every other strand of anarchism. It can be an intellectual tool to help unite working class people of all identities to unite to create a more sustainable world which is also one in which individuals are more or less completely liberated by the fact that their basic needs are met by communistic forms of social organisation.

My experiences as an active anarchist militant between 2007 and 2011 led me to the conviction that the ideas of the insurrectionalist tendency, and especially Alfredo M Bonanno, about the ways in which anarchists should organise in order to help build working class revolutionary consciousness were correct.

At least, I thought they were more correct than those of the platformists, specificist’s and ideological anarcho-syndicalists, though I still retain sympathy for the IWW concept of trying to build ‘One Big Union’ as part of a diversity of tactics, but not as a sole strategy.

Ideological anarchist syndicalists, like the IWA, or groups inspired by platformist and specificist ideas, like the IFA, in my opinion are wasting too much time trying to convince people that anarchist communism is what they should believe in.

This is why I find the ideas of the nihilist communists interesting, but I believe they take it too far. I believe that we should be trying to convince people of anarchist communism, but not by talking about it theoretically as a potential vision for the future that we can choose to struggle for if we want to.

I believe we must demonstrate the necessity of the ideas of anarchist communism by showing how they are directly useful in creating a new society based on a sustainable relationship to the earth, and be actively trying to build a working class movement to fight for the revolutionary changes necessary to save the human species.

I believe that to build such a movement we should adopt an insurrectionalist approach to strategy and organisation. We should organise as informally as possible while retaining as much structure as is absolutely necessary for practical reasons, and the basic unit of organisation in any anarchist project should be the affinity group.

Affinity groups should seek to make direct contact with working class people outside the anarchist milieu to form ‘autonomous base nuclei’ who then engage in a conflict with the State around a clear, achievable goal. Insurrectionalist Social Ecology would mean forming autonomous base nuclei that were engaging in struggles against the State based around both social and ecological goals at once.

By taking action with people outside the anarchist milieu, we avoid ghettoising ourselves and becoming irrelevant ideologues. If we achieve our specific goals we will hopefully inspire other working class people to replicate the actions we have taken alongside the people in our autonomous base nucleus rather than only inspiring other anarchists, as would be the case if we only took action in our own explicitly anarchist affinity groups.

An example of a conflict with the State that had both social and ecological aspects and which involved a combination of anarchists and non anarchists taking action would be a squatted piece of land being used by anarchists and non-anarchists alike to promote ecological awareness and the benefits of communal living, which actively resists attempts by the State to evict it and mobilises the community to help with the resistance by pointing out that they have a common enemy in the local capitalist landlord.

Such a struggle is going on now in the Yorkely Court Community Farm in the Forest of Dean, and it is successfully building it’s support base in the local working class community, while at the same time hopefully inspiring them to care more about ecology and the necessity of struggle against the state.

Thousands of similar revolutionary projects are going on around the world, resisting Fracking, Mining, Tar Sands Oil extraction, and many other environmental disasters being perpetrated by the State and it’s capitalist friends.

The amount of territory on earth which needs to be taken out of the control of the State and be put in the hands of working class people organising in ways compatible with Social Ecology, is huge, and in fact grows by the day. We not only need to be reclaiming the land, sea and sky from our enemies but also to be repairing all the damage they have done over the past two centuries and creating something sustainable at the end of it.

It’s a ridiculously huge task, but luckily for us as individuals we don’t need to really waste our time thinking about how big a task it is, because we are just playing very small parts in a very big task, so we just need to look after our mental health, stay positive and get on with doing our own fair share of the revolutionary work.

By carrying on pushing, by creating good strategies and by constantly updating our understanding of how best to inspire people to change their consciousness and become actively involved in fighting for a more sustainable world, I believe it is possible that the human race will survive the twenty first century.

We are not going to get there if our efforts are hampered by people who openly admit that they do not want to help fight for that world because they either do not believe it is possible or even desirable. If such people get in our way we must resist them and not sacrifice our revolutionary projects to their death-wish for the planet.

If there are people reading this who call themselves nihilists but who do actually care about the survival of humanity and just have some difference of opinion about what kind of strategy we need to get there, then I do not mean to cause you offense, so long as you are someone capable of polite conversation and debate.

If you do not care, either about humanity, or the feelings of those humans who do care about humanity and are trying to help save it, then I don’t know why you would hang around the anarchist milieu except to deliberately provoke people and cause them harm just because they have a different, more positive outlook than yourself. In other words, you’re a dickhead.

What does the Anarchist Action Network want to be?

This text is intended to be a contribution towards helping to build a new Anarchist organisation in the UK. Individuals and small groups of Anarchists from various cities have been cooperating for several months already under the name of the Anarchist Action Network and are organising several events aimed at reaching out to working class communities in which the Anarchist movement is not currently very strong.

Over the years much has been written about the problems that can occur in situations such as this, when a group of people who are in a minority – Anarchists – attempt to reach out to “the masses”.

Anarchist groups and organisations often run the risk of acting like “vanguards”: separating ourselves off from the rest of society and then reaching out to people as if we believe our ideas are better than theirs and that therefore they need us to educate them or follow our example.

If we allow ourselves to think like this too much then we fail to see reality as it really is. Oppressed people struggle against their oppression in a self-organised way whether Anarchists are around or not. This is something we should never forget, especially because it is where the real hope for an anarchist revolution lies, rather than in our own actions as a minority of people.

However, because Anarchists by definition reject all forms of hierarchy and have an uncompromising attitude towards the State, we can often play useful roles in the struggles of the oppressed in ways that people of other perspectives usually do not.

When people organise their own struggles without hierarchies and are directly fighting against the sources of their oppression, the struggles can get more and more intense, with lots of energy behind them, as individual people tend to feel empowered and inspired in these situations, especially if they struggling together with other people and there is a sense of real, practical solidarity going on.

But powerful people know this and so use a number of strategies for destroying this rebellious energy in individual people’s minds. Power tends to offer concessions and to encourage the oppressed to delegate representatives to negotiate on their behalf, then to try to corrupt these representatives and to go back on any promises of concessions as soon as the struggle has quietened down.

Anarchists, if we are genuinely part of a struggle in which this is going on, would usually be expected to argue against this, and to push for an uncompromising attitude with power and for non-hierarchical self organisation so that there can be no representatives for the powerful to corrupt.

We would do this simply because we are anarchists and that’s what we do. But we can only do it if we are genuinely part of the struggle, which means that if we start from a situation of being outside a struggle, we need to think deeply about how to merge with the struggles that we wish to be a part of.

People who are already in a struggle will often be grateful to anyone who comes along and helps out in a practical way without trying to take over the struggle or impose their own world-view.

The Anarchist Action Network should therefore aim to be an organisation of people with useful skills and resources to offer people who are engaged in struggles of various kinds, rather than an organisation of intellectuals or propagandists for a particular ideology.

This does not mean that we should not be an intellectual organisation. We should on the contrary be constantly analysing hierarchies in the struggles we are involved in, the success of failure of these struggles, and being self-critical about our own position in these struggles to make sure we are not acting like vanguards, and make sure the struggles actually win.

Anarchists do not only have to argue in meetings of other people that the struggle should not compromise with power. We also sometimes need to actually take action as a minority within a broader movement in order to counter-act the hierarchical or treacherous tendencies in the movement.

For example if some powerful individuals within a movement are trying to steer the movement towards accepting a compromise rather than pushing for more action, sometimes we need to just take action ourselves, to make sure than action happens. This may even involve organising actions in secret from other people in the movement against oppression so that no-one stops us.

This is basically what happened at the Millbank demonstration in 2011. A group of anarchists, who were probably not even students themselves, decided to take the action of attacking the Millbank building, correctly assuming that other people would join in.

This meant that the NUS, which was lead by the Labour Party and was trying to get students to accept compromise with the same government that was oppressing them, became irrelevant as an organisation in the struggle against fees.

The Millbank action sabotaged the NUS’s ability to control the student movement by reminding students that they could take action in more autonomous ways. Sure enough, in the week following the action thousands of students were organising their own autonomous demonstrations, occupations and actions, all around the country.

The wave of militant struggle was coordinated through the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts, which was an autonomous organisation that developed from the reality of the struggle, rather than being an ideologically anarchist organisation, although anarchist activists played a role in creating it.

The Millbank experience demonstrates the kind of approach that anarchists can take when acting as a minority in a wider struggle.

Anarchists took actions themselves without waiting for anyone to give permission, but had a good enough analysis of the struggle to know what kind of action would resonate with the rest of the people in the struggle and help kick it up a notch.

Anarchists also were involved in helping to shape the autonomous decision making structures that were born out of the struggle in order to make sure they were as horizontal as possible,as well as taking part in the propaganda of the movement, but all without making too big a deal of the fact that they were anarchists.

This shows that instead of being a bunch of people promoting a particular ideology, we are at our best when we take action that helps to radicalise real struggles while being a minority but without acting in an authoritarian way ourselves – simply by living by the principles we believe in: in favour of direct action and against hierarchy.

The Anarchist Action Network should also avoid as much as possible the formation of any kind of hierarchy within itself. Whatever tasks need doing to keep the organisation actively engaging in real struggles should be done by people chosen to do those specific tasks and particular people should not be allowed to take on too many important tasks so that they become more important figures than others.

Any tasks that are not actually about moving the real struggles forward but are simply about preserving the Anarchist minority organisation itself should not be done at all – or at least kept to an absolute bare minimum- because otherwise we will be just another irrelevant political clique.

We should not be interested in anything except the increasing self-organisation and direct action of the oppressed masses for their own liberation. If anything we do goes against this or is irrelevant to it then it is not Anarchist just because we say it is, unless we change the definition of Anarchism to mean “whatever we say”.

We should also bear in mind that not all struggles are “visible” to us in the same way that trade union or community campaigns are. Not all struggles have organisations with names and leaflets and public meetings behind them. So we do not have to just wait for public meetings to be organised by other people so that we can come to them and argue against hierarchy from within them, we can be the ones to organise public meetings ourselves for struggles that do not currently have them but which are still real struggles.

One important example is the never-ceasing struggle between the police and the various marginalised populations of the country. People resist the police in many ways: through setting up lookouts to warn when they are coming so that people can run away; through security culture (‘gangsta no answer no unknown number”); through solidarity (not grassing each other up); and sometimes through massive riots.

As anarchists our rejection of the police is absolute, as we reject the whole State, and the only forms of “policing” that would be compatible with our beliefs would be those in which the “police” were directly elected by and accountable to the communities that they serve through community assemblies etc (though many anarchists would not even accept this).

In the direct action subculture that many Anarchists are a part of there are many people with lots of skills that are useful to direct confrontations with police such as Legal Observing, prisoner support, affinity group tactics, ‘dearresting’ skills and much more.

The Black Panther Party for Self Defence – perhaps the most important revolutionary organisation to emerge in the Western world in the last 50 years – in fact began with just two people with legal observing skills going out to marginalised communities as a physical presence on the street to confront police when they would harass people for no reason other than to intimidate and oppress them.

By directly helping people in marginalised African-American communities to avoid getting arrested, and by having the courage to get in the faces of their oppressors, the Black Panthers quickly gained the respect of disaffected working class people of all races and grew to become a national organisation in just 2 years despite intense state surveillance.

Given that the most significant working class uprising in recent years in the UK was a nation wide uprising sparked by the murder of a Black man by police, the experience of the Black Panthers is not something we should ignore when attempting to build a new national revolutionary organisation.

Despite the fact that some Anarchists claim that the Mark Duggan riots were a continuation of the student riots in which the anarchist movement unmistakably played an important role, the truth is that there was very little involvement or even support from the “official” Anarchist movement – in the form of federations, social centres and various informal hierarchies in different single-issue direct action campaigns.

This shows how Anarchist organisations can become irrelevant to the real struggles of oppressed people and become self-serving, pointless organisations, if they have the wrong attitude.

Unfortunately Anarchist ghettoes really do exist in which people just play out the motions of keeping their own groups going without successfully attracting new people, because they are not involved in real struggles and are only interested in keeping an anarchist minority together for it’s own sake.

There is no point in creating the Anarchist Action Network if it is going to become just another example of this. We need to get out of the anarchist ghetto and into the real ghetto, and to anywhere else that oppressed people are already in self-organised struggles against the State, Capitalism, and all other forms of oppression.

Comments or angry rants are welcome, so long as it helps move forward the struggle.

For the constant self-organised direct action of all oppressed people against the State, capitalism and all forms of hierarchy.

For Anarchy, now and always.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why I think Pentagrams are cool… and Rock’n’roll… and Anarchist… etc

pentagram2

That’s right, 5 elements. Who knew? In school they said there were loads more. But no.

anarchy sign

Ever notice how this looks like someone was trying to draw a pentagram in a circle in a hurry but then they had to run before they did the last two lines because the cops were coming?

Coincidence? Hah!

Lots of Anarchists will tell you that they don’t believe in organised religion. Duh!

But that doesn’t mean that you can’t spare a thought for the spiritual side of life.

One of the things that pissed me off about the Anarchist Federation (apart from that they were really rude to me) was that they insisted on everyone being a “materialist”.

A “materialist” means someone who believes only in material things. It doesn’t have to mean that they are “materialistic” in the sense of wanting to own lots of stupid crap they don’t need – lots of Materialists are total Communists, against anyone owning anything at all.

I was essentially brought up to be a Materialist, though my parents didn’t ever actually use that word, and now they seem a lot more open minded to spiritual stuff.

Basically, i was brought up my my parents, my schooling and my friends to believe that the universe, all existence, was just matter – stuff that had no “life force” or whatever. In the beginning there was a singularity and then it exploded, causing protons, neutrons and electrons to come into being, and then some of the electrons started orbiting around some of the protons and neutrons to make hydrogen atoms, then helium, then all kinds of other shit, till eventually there was our planet and a bunch of different atoms started interacting with each other in a way that had such a momentum to it that it started to replicate and make RNA, then DNA, then one day human beings came into existence, with brains capable of creating the illusion we called consciousness, because our ancestors whose DNA made them conscious did a lot better at surviving and reproducing in this universe of swirling matter than those that didn’t.

So that’s the creation story i was brought up to believe in. It doesn’t have as many interesting characters as some of the others i’ve heard, but it’s mine. No snake telling a naked woman to eat fruit, no big eggs cracking and different races of people coming out, no mischievous coyotes, no magic turtles or fish or any of that shit. Just matter.

Well, that’s all very well, but it doesn’t really help when it comes to trying to actually BE one of these sacks of conscious matter. Consciousness is annoying like that. It insists on being dealt with as if it really existed and wasn’t just an illusion. It insists on being taken seriously, and when it isn’t then it asserts itself by plunging you into an existential crisis that often results in physical pain, as if to say to it’s host body “oi! fucking pay attention to me!”

So what are we to do? Ignore it and keep getting hurt? Or try and see what these spiritual types have to say on these questions, these people who take consciousness so seriously that some of them even think it exists completely outside of the material realm?

The great thing about being open-minded to spirituality as a materialist anarchist is that you can just use whatever bits and pieces work for you at that moment in time without being bound to any set of doctrines or laws at all, because you know deep down that its all bollocks, even if it massively helps you out in dealing with your existential crises, relationships with other humans, and can even leave you feeling like you’ve just taken loads of drugs even when you haven’t.

Pretty much a win-win situation i would say. Which is what brings me back to the Pentagram. As you can see from the diagram it supposes that there are 4 material elements and one extra one called the spirit. But the spike of the 5-pointed star that is labelled “spirit” is exactly the same size as the others, as if it’s saying that reality is 80% material, 20% spiritual, or even if it isn’t we should at least pretend it is.

Satanists put the pentagram upside down just to emphasize this point, that the material world is more important that the spiritual, but it doesn’t really matter. You just need to be able to count, and to know that 4 is a bigger number than one.

Pretty rock’n’roll, right? Just pretending to have a soul even if you don’t really think you do, just so you can feel like you’re really high on drugs when you actually arn’t? Flirting with pagan and satanic imagery just for the sake of it and making up reasons that it makes sense? Pretty damn rock’n’roll i’d say.

Just think about it. When you are going through some kind of crazy “mental health problem” or “spiritual crisis” or “whatever”, it is usually a fuck of a lot worse if you have not been eating properly, or sleeping, or if you are too cold, or too hot, or being whipped by a slave-driver, or being beaten around the head by a cop, or being locked up in a prison. All of those things are material problems, not spiritual.

So obviously, if you have all those material problems solved then you might still be left with a vexing philosophical/spiritual/mental health problem. But you can sit in a nice chair eating nice food and think it over in your free time without anyone interrupting your thoughts with their bullshit about “work hard! do what i say! make me rich! make me fucking happy!”. And maybe you might actually figure something out.

The problem with people who put “spiritual” or “insane” concerns ABOVE material concerns is that they are bloody annoying. They say things like “trust the universe” or “put your faith in the lord” or “inshallah” or “hare krishna hare krishna krishna hare hare hare rama hare rama rama rama hare hare” and smile at you with their dead, stupid eyes while refusing to help you out with your actual real problems. And that’s just no good.

But people who have their spiritual bullshit under control and only bang on about it, say, one fifth of the time, are usually actually BETTER at figuring out material problems in the real world than people who are 100% materialistic.

And that is why pentagrams are cool. And that is also why so many awesome rock musicians wear pentagram necklaces, or teeshirts, or tatoos, or put it on their album covers, posters or whatever else.

Because they know the truth. That rock’n’roll is mostly a material thing: a series of vibrations in the air bashing into your eardrums. But that REAL rock’n’roll has got something that just can’t be explained in those terms, and which can only be explained in terms of some hippy spiritual bullshit or other.

And what’s true of rock’n’roll is also true for political movements. Marxists and people like that might be able to tell you about the “objective economic conditions” that caused some riot or massive wave of strikes or insurrection or revolution, but they will not be able to tell you in their maddening jargon about the VIBE. The spiritual significance of it all to the people involved, or whatever. For that you need a whole load of other maddening jargon.

So the next time you are objectively analyzing the fucking economic and material circumstances of some shit, take a look at the pentagram and listen to some weird hippy nonsense. It may just do the trick.

All power to the people, hail Satan, and rock on!

Where would Camden Market be without Stalin?

“If it weren’t for Stalin would Post-Modernism have happened?

That is the thought which occurs to me as I look into the mirror brushing my teeth, staring at the tee-shirt I am wearing. It’s a stylised picture of a “worker” holding a hammer, with a slogan in German and the symbol of the former East German Deutsches Demokratisches Republik. The whole style of the shirt is unmistakably Modernist, and what’s more, Stalinist.

In the twentieth century the various State-Capitalist dictatorships going by the name “Communist” made heavy use of this kind of Modernist art, as did the Communist Parties of many Western Countries. When I went to Cuba in 2005 the legacy of this was still intact, as amazingly vibrant surrealist art was everywhere to be seen.

The styles of art used on old Communist propaganda are edgy, and in most peoples opinion, pretty cool. At the time they first came out they must also have seemed fresh and “modern”, hence “modernism” – signifying the ideals of the Modern Age: Progress, Technology, Big Hammers.

I cannot help but contrast the style of the art on the teeshirt I wear to bed with those I saw just earlier that day for sale in Camden Market. I used to go there as a teenager to actually buy things – rather than just go busking as in the case now – and I remembered seeing (and buying) a great number of old Communist propaganda tee-shirts, with just a few that would make reference to silly things in popular culture like Star Wars and Supermario, as well as a shit-load of teeshirts for rock bands.

There were always a few that were examples of what the Situationists called “detournement”, which basically means “subversion”. These would be shirts where a politically or culturally significant piece of art would be altered in some way so as to change the underlying message.

This process was highly popularised in the UK by the Punk movement, such as with the iconic Sex Pistols images of the Queen with safety pins through her face. In that case the message being expressed was clearly a rejection of Monarchism in favour of a nihilistically destructive, yet fun-loving attitude – Punk.

These days it seems that ‘detourned’ teeshirts are the main sort sold in Camden Market, but rather than signifying any anarchistic political messages there are, in the words of Hamlet, “signifying nothing”.

Take for example the “Obey” brand. This, as I understand it, was a fiendishly clever social experiment by a subversive street artist, to create a new brand that simply contained the word “obey”, sometimes with a funny picture of an angry old wrestler. In so doing I believe he was trying to make a comment on the fact that modern consumer-capitalist society has become so focused on Brands that they have become authority figures in themselves.

The experiment worked extremely well, as the brand has become commercially successful; with the result that now you will see “Obey” written on the fronts of clothing shops next to other brands like Nike and Adidas. This means that rather than having to go around putting stickers on all the shops, he has found a way to make the system itself do the work for him.

Unfortunately I do not believe that too many of the people who actually spend money on clothes which say “Obey” on them really realise that this was the original intention. Ironically most of them are simply taking the brand’s injunction to Obey at face value, which only proves the original point, that our society’s culture has become dominated by Brands to a scary degree.

The “Obey” story doesn’t end there, however, for now in Camden market you can see a great number of tee-shirts which have been “subverted” to say “Disobey”, and the wrestler’s face has been replaced with the V-for-Vendetta mask. This V mask has become something of a brand-name for “revolution”, with new activist groups like Anonymous and Occupy appropriating it as a symbol, and thus advertising the film V-for-Vendetta each time they do so, to the benefit of the production company of that film.

The film itself was already an example of capitalistic appropriation of a genuinely revolutionary piece of art, the V-for-Vendetta graphic novel by Alan Moore, an Anarchist. The film version takes out all explicit mentions of anarchism or even the word Anarchy, and changes the lead female character into a potential rape-victim who needs to be saved by another man rather than a sex worker being oppressed by the government for her choice of profession. This obviously makes the film character much less of a strong female role model, as you’d expect from a Hollywood film.

So now some smaller scale capitalists – the people who put up the capital to make all these shirts in Camden, and the people who own the stalls and shops selling them – are making money from the fact that some people never understood the original intention behind the Obey brand and who furthermore cannot understand a revolutionary message unless a watered-down Hollywood film version of it has been made. It would be interesting to know how many people wearing these “Disobey” shirts even know who Guy Fawkes was.

Generations of graphic designers have detourned so many images from popular culture already that they have started to detourn things that were already, in my opinion, subversive enough. In this process all meaning has started to become lost. Rather than expressing some clearly understood message such as “Fight for revolution against capitalism”, they more and more express an absence of any kind of over-arching coherent meaning at all.

This is called “post-modernism”, the idea that we must consciously do away with any “meta-narratives” such as “society is progressing towards a better capitalist world for us all” – which is still the official narrative of most Nation-States, or “society is progressing towards a better Communist/Islamic/New Age world for us all”.

I have no objection to Post-Modernism in itself as an artistic or political theory, for great damage was indeed done to the world by blind acceptance of these kinds of meta-narratives, and indeed is still being done.

Post-modernism – I believe – was born partly out of the realisation of many genuine revolutionaries that the Marxist-Leninist revolutionary project had become corrupted to the point of representing a reactionary and extremely violent threat to the liberty of the global working class, rather than a force for it’s liberation.

This realisation prompted a crisis within revolutionary circles in the West, with some turning to “Trotskyism”, a mythological version of Marxist-Leninism which portrays Leon Trotsky as a messianic figure whose ideas can save the whole project. Many others dropped out of the Marxist movement and became Anarchists instead, as anarchists had not been tainted by association with the Bolsheviks, and had actually been the first to criticise their corruption. Others just dropped out of revolutionary politics altogether.

Some however – the Post Modernists- began calling into question the fundamental assumptions of Marxism itself, assumptions which many Anarchists had also shared, as they too had been influenced by Marx, even if they did not see him as an authority figure.

The greatest of these assumptions was that capitalism will inevitably collapse in on itself due to the nature of its own contradictions. This prediction of the future relies on belief in some abstract historical forces that have nothing to do with decisions that we as revolutionaries make in our real lives.

It is similar to a religious belief that the final victory of good over evil has already been foretold, and therefore we don’t have to worry too much about it. We just have to do what the Church, or the Communist party tell us, even if they tell us to do “evil” things like kill innocent people in the name of the cause.

Along with challenging the ideas of Modernism – which Communism and Capitalism were both examples of – came challenges to Modernist art work. Post-modern artists began to juxtapose images of progress – like big factories and workers with hammers -with images representing the pre-Modern world – like big old Cathedrals or idyllic countryside scenes – with other images that were just completely chaotic.

The overall message behind this kind of collage is that Modernism is a myth and progress is not necessarily happening at all. Elements of the pre-Modern world are still very much with us now in the 21st Century, as a quick glance at the Islamic world, or indeed most of the former colonised world will prove. These exist alongside elements of “Modernity” – big skyscrapers and constant advances in technology – and of course the chaos of War, Climate Change and Nuclear radiation tearing at the very fabric of reality.

So when post-modernist art is a reflection of this reality in which we live today in the twentieth century, then it’s all well and good. But what the fuck am I supposed to make of a tee-shirt I saw in Camden where the faces of the Olympic athletes making the Black Power salute had been replaced by those of Imperial Stormtroopers from Star Wars? Are they saying that the Black Power movement has been incorporated into the Western Imperialist superstructure? Or are they just “signifying nothing” again?

 

 

Dying Is The Only Good Thing Margaret Thatcher Ever Did

The only good Fascist is a dead one, as the old saying goes, and today Thatcher finally achieved this positive distinction. She had made a fair effort at being a good fascist for many years, but clearly did not understand that if she had just killed herself in 1975, the year she became Tory party leader, she would have already achieved her goal.

Some people would object to my categorization of her as a Fascist. These people need to get a life, and some perspective. Margaret Thatcher was a close personal friend of Augustus Pinochet, the Chilean dictator and even helped him avoid punishment by letting him hide out in the UK. This is clearly a strong endorsement of Fascism.

Pinochet did not come to power as a result of free and fair elections, but as the result of a coup financed by the CIA and the ITT corporation. His regime killed literally millions of people and destroyed the Chilean labour movement.

Thatcher clearly admired this in him as she was committed to destroying the British labour movement. Her regime used extreme violence against striking miners (amongst other workers) and passed legislation that made effective working class solidarity illegal.

Under her reign UK police were given more power and more weaponry with which to fight working class people, starting a trend which continues to this day. This use of direct violence may not compare with Pinochet’s, but she managed to kill many working class people through more indirect ways too, by beginning the dismantling of nationalised industry and the welfare state.

Like most Fascists, she saw left-wingers and ethic minorities as serious threats to the divine order of things and so supported the various bloody “anti-communist” wars going on throughout the 1980s in the “3rd world” and made speeches sympathizing with racist violence against immigrants.

Her policies towards the remaining British Colonies were predictably brutal, maintaining a heavy British military presence in Northern Ireland which collaborated with violent Protestant gangs, and even started a war with Argentina to keep the completely insignificant Falkland Islands under British imperial control.

But of course her major accomplishment toward achieving a Fascist world order in which all power is in the hands of an un-elected elite backed up by extreme State violence and divide -and-rule propaganda lay in her reforms of the financial system.

During the 1980’s international financial capitalists aided by Thatcher and her buddy Ronald Reagan consolidated their power over the international system to an unprecedented degree.

Thatcher deregulated the financial sector in Britain and helped the IMF force indebted “3rd world” States to do the same. This meant that in very real terms financial capitalists had far more power over what governments did than elected officials.

It created a world where those in a position to borrow money are seduced into living in a dream world of material excess which can be taken away at any time, while those that are not able to borrow money face ever increasing hardship and are ignored by almost everyone even when dying on the street.

There is much, much more i could say on this theme, but frankly, i don’t want to right now because it will only make me angry, whereas today should be a day for joyous celebration.

When “Evil” people die, “Good” people should be happy, even if taking pleasure in the death of others is not usually a “Good” thing to do. Like her friend Pinochet, Thatcher never faced punishment for her crimes against humanity and was allowed to die as an “innocent” person in the eyes of official society.

Now that she had been dead only a few hours the mainstream media are already talking as if we are all supposed to be sad about it. What about all the people who died as a result of her economic and military policies? Where are the mainstream media articles commemorating them?

This emotional whitewashing should not be stood for. A huge proportion of British citizens, and many people of other backgrounds besides, have hated Margaret Thatcher for years and have been anxiously waiting for this day. Many people around the country will be celebrating today.

But the mainstream media will probably not report this, or if they do, they will probably make it out to be a bad thing. Well fuck them. We have a right to feel the way we do.

Let the truth be known. Margaret Thatcher was an evil fascist arsehole and millions of people are glad she’s dead.

Now get out there and start partying.

 

 

Anarchism Which is not Anti-colonialist is Just Racism in Disguise

Saying you are opposed to Capitalism and the State without talking about Imperialism and Colonialism is quite a strange thing to do. It is in fact suspicious, as it indicates not only that you live in an imperialist country and enjoy the benefits of this, but also that you refuse to admit this fact. I am afraid to say this makes you a racist, even if you don’t realist it. Like with drugs, the first step to giving up racism is admitting you have a problem. The UK Anarchist movement has yet to take this first step.

Divide and Rule Affects Anarchists Too

Many people living in Imperialist countries whose armies have invaded other people’s territory to exploit their labour power and resources may feel pissed off at the government for reasons that have nothing much to do with Imperialism.

They may feel that their taxes are too high, for example, or that the government is letting too many immigrants come into the country, or not providing enough public services. In all of these examples such people may actively support even more imperialist government policies to bring more wealth to the country, such as wars of aggression and tightly regulated border controls between imperialist countries and their colonies.

Basic to the age-old Imperialist strategy of divide and rule is the placing of members of certain ethnic groups in privileged positions in relation to others. In settler-colonies such as the modern day Israeli-occupied Palestinian West Bank, the settlers are the group given the privileges by the government, while the indigenous people are subjected to racist oppression. In imperialist “home” countries it is the “indigenous” population which is given privileges by the State whilst migrants from the colonies and their descendants are racially oppressed. Modern day Israel is also a good example of this, as people of Palestinian Arab descent are systematically excluded from political and economic power.

Sticking with the example of Israel, let us examine the Israeli Anarchist movement. Judith Butler, in a lecture available online misleading called “Queer Anarchism and Anarchism Against the Wall” (which in fact barely mentions Queer Anarchism at all) offers a critique of certain sections of the Israeli Anarchist movement which talk about their struggle against the Israeli state as something separate from the Palestinian people’s struggle for self-determination.

Butler points out that many Anarchists, not just in Israeli but all over the world, wrongly understand “self-determination” to mean “the creation of a State”, which is not necessarily the case. Though it is of course true that many Palestinians do wish to see the creation of a new State of “their own” (which to Anarchists would be an impossibility since States are always controlled by elite minorities rather than whole populations) many other Palestinians keep the ideas of self-determination and State-creation deliberately distinct.

This confusion on the part of Anarchists living in Imperialist countries between anti-colonial struggles for self-determination and chauvinistic nationalist struggles for the creation of new States does not just apply to Palestine, but indeed to all anti-colonial struggles. This leads many anarchists from such countries to refuse to support any anti-colonial struggles unless they are explicitly anti-statist, which is very rare.

Point 4 of the UK Anarchist Federation’s Aims and Principles

… is typical of this confusion, stating:

We are opposed to the ideology of national liberation movements which claims that there is some common interest between native bosses and the working class in face of foreign domination. We do support working class struggles against racism, genocide, ethnocide and political and economic colonialism. We oppose the creation of any new ruling class. We reject all forms of nationalism, as this only serves to redefine divisions in the international working class. The working class has no country and national boundaries must be eliminated. We seek to build an anarchist international to work with other libertarian revolutionaries throughout the world.

Notice that there is no distinction made here between different types of nationalism, indeed the first sentence talks about “the ideology of national liberation movements”, as if they were all the same. They do claim to support “working-class” struggles against colonialism, but what does this mean in regions of the world that remain industrially undeveloped or where capitalist modes of labour relations have not been fully established?

The first sentence also mentions “claims that there is some common interest between native bosses and the working class in the face of foreign domination”, but it does not actually offer any argument against these claims, because there is none. No-one can deny for example that the Chinese working class is better off now than they were under colonialism, even if they are still horribly exploited.

But being less exploited is in their interest, and it has come about because of the interests of their “native bosses” in promoting export-led industrial development. The Communist Party has an interest in enriching itself and trying to outcompete the West, and this has led to increases in the standard of living for working class Chinese people as well.

This refusal to provide an analysis of how capitalist economies actually work, beyond the simplistic communist view of that money and wage-labour are inherently wrong and need to be ended, is perhaps part of the reason for these baffling claims against economic nationalism being in the interests of working class people.

What I think the Anarchist Federation mean to say is “being oppressed by native bosses is not as good as being your own boss”. So why don’t they just say this, instead of ruling out support for any anti-colonial movement that calls itself nationalist?

Benedict Anderson argued that “nations” are Imagined Communities, in his book of the same name, because in any nation there are too many people for them to all personally know one another, yet they still think of one another as a community.

Is it not possible, therefore, to imagine a community that you might even use the word “nation” to describe that does not have a State? Anarchism is after all the philosophy that communities don’t need States to exist or manage themselves. But the Anarchist Federation claim that any form of nationalism “divides the working class” and that “national boundaries must be eliminated”.

I would argue on that it is rather Nation-States that divide the working class and that it is the institutions of border control between such States that must be eliminated. If this happens then it really doesn’t matter in economic or political terms whether or not people choose to identify with nationalist concepts.

In the same lecture about Israel, Judith Butler mentions the “age-old” question of whether Anarchy can only exist if there is a State for it to be opposed to, or if Anarchy is instead something that can exist without States, even though it is defined in relation to them.

I would say that of course Anarchy can exist without states, and that just because the word means “without State” it doesn’t mean States have to actually exist for the concept to make sense. Before there were States people obviously didn’t use the word “Anarchy”, because it wouldn’t have meant anything, like how no one used to talk about “organic” food before chemical pesticides and fertilisers were invented. But just because they may have used different words back then it doesn’t mean people’s food wasn’t organic or their societies anarchic by the definitions we use today.

The words “self-determination” are much less confusing, because they are framed in positive terms. Anarchists would perhaps be better off describing their beliefs in such terms, especially when engaging in anti-colonial struggles. If a group of people “imagines” themselves to form part of a national community and organises a political movement calling for their “self-determination”, there is nothing wrong with this in itself from an Anarchist standpoint.

The problem only comes when people start conflating the concepts of “self-determination” with “state creation”, and as anti-statists Anarchists should be the main people voicing opposition to this conflation, rather than conflating it in our own heads as well.

This means instead of closing our eyes and putting our fingers in our ears whenever we hear about a group of people struggling in the name of their national identity, we should actively participate in these movements as much as possible in order to promote an anti-state perspective from within.

It is strange that organisations like the Anarchist Federation do not apply this logic to anti-colonial struggles when it is precisely the same logic they use to justify their engagement with workplace and community struggles more generally. In these struggles, the Anarchist Federation argues, it is necessary for anarchists to be present in order to counteract the tendency of authoritarian and statist groups, whether Marxist, Liberal or whatever, from taking decision making power over the direction of the struggle away from the rank-and-file.

Anarchists do this not only because it provides opportunities to spread our critiques of States and authoritarianism to wider audiences, which is more like a by-product of taking up this role within wider social movements, but also because we believe that if Statists take control of struggles then the rank and file have already lost, whereas we want them to win.

As anti-capitalists, Anarchists desire a world in which the concept of being “working class” becomes meaningless, because there would be no other classes to compare it to. Yet we are happy to call ourselves “working class” right now in order to join in struggles with other people who identify with this label. So why can we not apply the same logic to nationalism?

Just as we criticise Marxists for claiming that working class self-determination can only be achieved by the creation of a Workers State, so should we also be arguing that national self-determination (whatever nation you might be talking about) is not dependent on the creation of a Nation State, but is actually severely damaged by it.

White Supremacist Anarchism

If anarchists living in imperialist countries (such as Russia, Israel, the US and all the EU countries) do not participate in anti-colonial struggles which are being fought against those same states, then we can only conclude that they do not really care about destroying the State they are oppressed by, or in preventing anti-colonial struggles from being taken over by Statists.

If this is so it suggests that they are in fact merely pretending to be opposed to inequality when they really want to maintain their own privileges over colonised people, whom they are also happy to allow to continue to be oppressed by States, whether “foriegn” or “native”. As they will almost always have a different ethnic identity to the colonised people whose struggles they refuse to declare allegiance with, this position must be seen as fundamentally Racist.

I do not mean to suggest that this racism is conscious, and I know full well how quickly people can lose their tempers once accusations of subconscious oppressive attitudes start getting thrown around. In the past Anarchist Federation members have argued that their position is justified because some of their members are from the same countries as the anti-colonial movements which they criticise. This was the apparently the case with an article they produced which criticised the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka for being nationalists, at a time when Tamil civilians were being brutally murdered and one might have expected words of solidarity instead.

If this article was written by somebody of Sri Lankan Tamil descent, then of course it doesn’t make much sense to accuse them as an individual of being racist. But the Anarchist Federation was not a presence at any of the Tamil Solidarity demonstrations going on in the UK at the time, nor has it been very involved in anti-colonialist solidarity activism in general.

Instead they focus mainly on the struggles of unionised workers in the UK, who are predominantly White Europeans of British descent and so are already extremely privileged compared with other ethnic groups. Though the Anarchist Federation is heavily involved in anti-fascist activities, to its credit, it does not emphasise an opposition to racism in UK society more broadly, and is itself a disproportionately White organisation, despite its black (and red) flag.

The main emphasis of the AF is on issues of economic oppression, which also reflects the fact that it is a predominantly White (and Male) organisation. The minority of Female-identifying and Queer members has enabled a shift towards recognising the necessary interconnectedness of struggles against both class society and patriarchy, but so far even this has been limited and no comparable shift towards an anti-racist focus has occurred.

Islamophobic Anarchism and Atheist Chauvinism 

This may also have something to do with the AF’s 10th point in its Aims and Principles, which declares:

We oppose organised religion and cults and hold to a materialist analysis of capitalist society. We, the working class, can change society through our own efforts. Worshipping an unprovable spiritual realm, or believing in a religious unity between classes, mystifies or suppresses such self-emancipation / liberation. We reject any notion that people can be liberated through some kind of supernatural force. We work towards a society where religion is no longer relevant.

Though an improvement on the previous wording of this point which simply said “we are opposed to organised religion and religious belief”, the fact that this is even part of the Aims and Principles is clearly going to disincline the vast majority of the world’s population from wanting to have anything to do with the organisation. When I was a member of the Anarchist Federation I witnessed and participated in many discussions on this issue and found that the Anti-religious faction was simply too powerful within the organisation for there to be much hope of this changing.

This is one of the reasons that I declared in my “Critique of the Anarchist Federation” that the organisation should just be abandoned and a new one formed, because it is too set in its ways to be reformed, much like the State it purports to oppose.

I found many Anarchist Federation members, and other White UK anarchists generally, to hold Islamophobic views almost identical to the fascists they opposed. Many Anarchists fall into the trap of accepting the Fascists’ own terms of the debate, including the assumption that Islam is inherently authoritarian and sexist.

Most Westerners have a very poor understanding of the core teachings of Islam, and Anarchists are no exception. All you need to do in order to be considered a Muslim, according to the most liberal interpretations of the Koran, is declare belief in a single God and Mohammed as the messenger of that God. In itself this has nothing to do with the question of whether or not one is opposed to the state or has a materialist analysis of capitalism.

Going one step further in being a good Muslim than simply saying you think the Koran is genuinely the word of a single God who actually exists, you could also decide to pray 5 times a day (which is mainly just declaring the first point over and over again), give 2.5 per cent of your income to the poor, fast during Ramadan and try to visit Mecca at least once in your life.

That’s it. Those are the 5 pillars of Islam and everything else is pretty much optional (again, according to the most liberal interpretations). Women don’t have to cover their faces, and have the right to divorce their husbands. All races of people are considered equal. Usury and inequalities of wealth are considered immoral. Oppressed people have the right to fight back against oppression.

Rather than being opposed to Anarchism, liberal forms of Islam actually complement it incredibly well. Any religion that emphasises “One God, One Authority” can also be interpreted as an anarchistic statement that “there should be no human authority in the material world”.

Just because you don’t believe in God doesn’t give you the right to say that people who do cannot be true revolutionaries. Just because you were brought up to believe in Christianity – a particularly illogical religion which tries to say that God both is and isn’t human at the same time –  then lost your faith in it later, that doesn’t mean you know everything about all world religions.

Believing in “materialism” as the Anarchist Federation claims to, usually means having been raised in a society where you have been able to achieve a high enough standard of scientific education to be able to get at least the basic gist of both the Biological Theory of Evolution by Natural Selection and the Cosmological Theory of the “Big Bang” as well as the Socio-economic “Labour Theory of Value”.

These theories are all on the State school curriculum’s of many Western countries, and open discussion of them is not punishable by law. This is not the case in most of the rest of the world.

Even if many anti-colonial political organisations may be “secular” this does not make their members Athiests, and secularism is in fact more often used to help people of different religious faiths get along rather than to help them get along with athiests.

I am not going to claim that refusing to work with religious people is actually racist, even though the majority of people who take such a hard line against religion are likely to be from ethnically privileged backgrounds. What I will say though is that it does nothing to help the aims of the movement, which I understand to be the achievement of greater working class unity around the world.

There is no reason why someone cannot have both a materialist analysis of capitalism and a moral one which is prepared to actually call capitalists and governments Evil. The use of moral language in political discourse makes for much more powerful propaganda than just “holding to a materialist analysis of capitalism”. If you say “capitalism is against our interests as a working class people” the obvious response is “So what? Who are we to assert our interests anyway, in a value-free materialistic universe?” but if you also say “revolutionary activity is the only moral thing to do” then you hit people where it hurts, their hearts.

Non-white people living in the UK, or the world in general, are much less likely to be Atheists. This means that most people actively struggling against colonialism – and therefore against presently existing States – have some kind of religious view. Saying that they “worship…an unprovable spiritual realm [which] mystifies or suppresses [their] self-emancipation/liberation” is not only a terrible way to express solidarity with them, it is also quite clearly not true.

Religious faith is often cited by its practitioners to be the only thing keeping them going in tough times, such as when they are fighting revolutionary wars against the State for instance. Far from “suppressing” their self-emancipation, religious teachings often provide a catalyst for it, for example when Malcolm X encouraged Black people in the US to organise for “self-defence by any means necessary”.

This was a most revolutionary idea and one which was based on Islamic religious teachings that legitimise violence against oppressors. Indeed, one of the last things the Prophet Mohammed said to his followers before he died was “do not oppress, and do not be oppressed” which could be considered an elegant summing up of anarchist revolutionary practice.

Again, just because you may see your own society’s dominant religion – Christianity, for most Westerners – as a force keeping down the working class in your country, it doesn’t mean that religious belief necessarily always plays this role everywhere in the world.  Even Christianity has sometimes been used as a catalyst for revolutionary anti-colonial and anti-capitalist struggles, especially in Latin America, where many Catholic Priests influenced by “Liberation Theology” even took up arms themselves against the State alongside poor people.

If the Anarchist Federation, or any other similar organisation, wants to be a private members clubs for atheists only, it should choose another name. Christian, Islamic, Buddhist and Hindu Anarchists have all played roles in world history and will continue to do so. So will anti-statist nationalists involved in anti-colonial struggles.

Anarchists of all ethnic and religious/philosophical identities should unite on the basis of a shared commitment to the self-determination of all people and the negation of all States, and leave religious and national/racial identities out of it.

Then we might just stand a chance of really becoming a global working class movement.