Mar 312015

Vince Stevenson, Iris Mills, Ronan Bennett, Trevor Dawton and ”Taff’ Ladd. ‘Taff’ skipped bail prior to the trial and the sixth defendant, Stewart Carr (a ‘politicised’ prisoner like Jake Prescott in the ‘Angry Brigade’ case before him) pled guilty and disassociated himself from his fellow accused.

We have just witnessed the first of the political show trials of the ’80s. There will certainly be others—and what proportion of them will be before freely-selected juries? Before any kind of jury? With anti-libertarianism becoming the rallying cry of the extremists of the right and centre, the state is creating an ugly balance to the unifying anti-nazism of the left. Its methods are rather different, however. Such is its vigilance that it can find conspiracies when nothing has happened.

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Mar 082015

MutualAidMUTUAL AID A Factor of Evolution by Peter Kropotkin  LOOK INSIDE
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Kropotkin’s Mutual Aid is usually, and rightly, called his masterpiece. While the high quality of all his work makes it hard to say whether this classic can be considered his best, it is fair to say that it is probably his most famous and one of his most widely read. Suffice to say, that it is rarely out of print testifies to its importance as well as the quality and timelessness of its message.

It is often called an anarchist classic. This is not entirely accurate. Yes, it is a classic and it was written by an anarchist, indeed the leading anarchist thinker of the time. However, it is not a book about anarchism. It is, first and foremost, a work of popular science, a “best-selling work,” which made co-operation “well known in lay society” while ensuring it would “be discussed among biologists in the following decades.” It was aimed at rebutting the misuse of evolutionary theory to justify the status quo, but its synthesis of zoological, anthropological, historical and sociological data achieved far more and, consequently, its influence is great. “It is arguable that of all the books on co-operation written by biologists,” suggests Lee Alan Dugatkin Professor of Evolutionary Biology at the University of Louisville, “Kropotkin’s Mutual Aid had the most profound affect on biologists, social scientists, and laymen alike.” Anthropologist Ashley Montagu dedicated his book Darwin, Competition and Co-operation, to Kropotkin, stating it was a “classic” and “no book in the whole realm of evolutionary theories is more readable or more important, for it is Mutual Aid which provides the first thoroughly documented demonstration of the importance of co-operation as a factor in evolution.”

This is not to say that anarchism plays no part in it nor that it holds nothing of interest for anarchists or anarchist theory. Far from it! The very mode of analysis, the looking into mutual aid tendencies of everyday life is inherently libertarian. It flows from the “bottom-up” and is rooted in popular history. More than that, it is documented with the skill of a talented scientist and, in this, it is somewhat unusual. It is often noted that Proudhon, the founding father of anarchism, was unique in being a socialist thinker who was also working class. In the case of Kropotkin, he was one of the few socialist thinkers who was a trained scientist, an extremely gifted one according to his peers. This education in the scientific method can be seen from all his work, but most obviously in Mutual Aid.

Mar 062015

CharlemagneWHAT IS PROPERTY? An Inquiry into the Principle of Right and of Government by Pierre-Joseph Proudhon (Translated by Benjamin R. Tucker) LOOK INSIDE
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ChristieBooks on KOBO  — WHAT IS PROPERTY? An Inquiry into the Principle of Right and of Government by Pierre-Joseph Proudhon (£2.50)

Proudhon’s work is a classic for many reasons. Not only did it put a name to a tendency within socialism (“I am an Anarchist”) and raise a battle-cry against inequality (“Property is Theft!”), it also sketched a new, free, society: anarchy.

The bulk of the book contains Proudhon’s searing critique of property. This rests on two key concepts. Firstly, property allowed the owner to exploit its user (“property is theft”). Secondly, that property created authoritarian social relationships between the two (“property is despotism”). These are interrelated, as it is the oppression that property creates which ensures exploitation while the appropriation of our common heritage by the few gives the rest little alternative but to agree to such domination and let the owner appropriate the fruits of their labour. The notion that workers are free when capitalism forces them to seek employment was demonstrably false: “We who belong to the proletarian class, property excommunicates us!”

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Aug 262014

alberolagransacpalma“No longer does innovation come about through parties, trade unions, bureaucracies or politics. It is now dependent on individual moral concern. No longer do we look to political theory for an indication of what we should be doing; we need no tutors. The change is ideological and it runs deep.”

(M Foucault, 1978)

Back in 1978 I opened an article on the topic “Ethics and Revolution – the dialectical tension of the age” [i] with the quotation above from Michel Foucault; not merely to underline the change that was taking place in terms of social transformation but also because it struck me that that change was of great significance to anarchism and liberation struggles.

More than three decades have now passed since then and the course of history has repeatedly borne out what, back then, was more than plain to be seen: that “innovation no longer comes about through parties, trade unions, bureaucracies and politics”, that “nobody looks to political theory any more for guidance as to what we should be doing” and that “we have no need of tutors”. This does not mean, however, that there is not still an insistence – coming from various strands of the left (institutional left and supposedly “alternative” left alike) – upon the need to theorise about action before setting about it and that some grassroots groups are not still on the look-out for tutors …

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Aug 172014

Agustín Guillamón, historian of the proletarian revolution in Barcelona in 1936

Agustín Guillamón was born in Barcelona in 1950, the son of textile workers. From the age of 13 he lived in the working class barrio of Poble Nou and later in La Verneda. He graduated from the University of Barcelona in contemporary history; his dissertation, under the supervision of Muniesa, dealt with the activism and political thought of Amadeo Bordiga.

He has published four books on the 1936 revolution, ‘Barricadas en Barcelona‘, ‘Els Comités de Defensa en Barcelona 1936-1938,La Revolución de los Comités‘, and most recently La Guerra del Pan. Hambre y violencia en Barcelona revolucionaria. De diciembre de 1936 a mayo de 1937 wherein he provides a platform for the protagonists of the revolution themselves. His books are essential reading for anyone investigating the revolution and for any Catalan eager to know what happened in Barcelona during the revolution and the counter-revolution in 1937. Agustín Guillamón lets the protagonists speak for themselves and this entails complicated and dogged research. A non-directional, non-interpretative, superb way of showing us the history by letting the ‘cast’ do the talking. Vital books on self-organisation among the Barcelona proletariat, mostly, the handiwork of a non-aligned historian involved in class struggle.

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Jun 142014

Ferdinand Domela Nieuwenhuis (1846 –1919)


Anarchists were the first to insist upon the hierarchical and oligarchical consequences of party organisation. Their view of the defects of organisation is much clearer than that of socialists and even than that of syndicalists. They resist authority as the source of servility and slavery, if not the source of all the ills of the world. For them constraint is “synonymous with prison and police.” 1 They know how readily the individualism of the leaders checks and paralyses the socialism of the led. In order to elude this danger, anarchists, notwithstanding the practical inconveniences entailed, have refrained from constituting a party, at least in the strict sense of the term. Their adherents are not organized under any stable form. They are not united by any discipline. They know nothing of obligations or duties, such as elections, pecuniary contributions, participation in regular meetings, and so on.

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Jun 132014

Michael Bakunin (1814 –1876)


The dissolution of the democratic consciousness of the leaders may doubtless be retarded, if not completely arrested, by the influence of intellectual or purely ideological factors. “So long as the guidance and representation of the party remains in the hands of persons who have grown grey in the great tradition of socialism,”1 so long, that is to say, as the party is still dominated by vigorous socialistic idealism, it is possible that in certain conditions the leaders will retain their ancient democratic sentiments, and that they will continue to regard themselves as the servitors of the masses from whom their power is derived. We have already discussed the drastic measures that have been proposed to prevent the embourgeoisement of the leaders of proletarian origin. But it is not enough to prevent the proletarian elements among the leaders from adopting a bourgeois mode of life; it is also essential, on this line of thought, to insist upon the proletarianization of the leaders of bourgeois origin. In order to render it impossible for the socialist intellectuals to return to their former environment it has been proposed to insist that they should assimilate the tenor of their lives to that of the proletarian masses, and should thus descend to the level of their followers. It is supposed that their bourgeois instincts would undergo atrophy if their habits were to be in external respects harmonized as closely as possible with those of the proletariat.

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Jun 062014

barrikaden[1]It is often supposed that revolution is something distinct from evolution. But if we examine the history of the past two hundred years or so it becomes evident that revolution and evolution are part and parcel of a single process. As Alexander Berkman observed: ‘Revolution is merely the boiling point of evolution‘ (What is Communist Anarchism? New York, 1972, p. 226). The problem for political scientists and revolutionaries alike, is, however, identifying when and under what economic, cultural and social circumstances evolutionary change becomes revolutionary.

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Jun 052014

This article is abridged from a talk by the author to the Cambridge branch of DAM/IWA on 8 August 1985


The Storming of the Bastille, July 14 1789

‘…you ask me what I seek in life. I wish neither to dominate nor be dominated. I wish neither to dissimulate nor deceive; nor do I wish to exert myself to acquire what I am told is necessary, but of which I do not feel the need.’ — N. G. Chernyshevsky, What Is To Be Done? (1863)

REVOLUTION is a much used term but rarely is it discussed in a way that sheds any light on what the process actually involves. Revolutionaries themselves more often than not refer to it only in passing, or in terms of some historical myth dictated by whatever their particular ideology happens to be. The actual historical events of revolutions are either overlooked or tailored to fit a prefabricated political dogma. So let us get away from this habit and look at what we mean when we talk about revolution.

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Apr 032014

GombinTHE REVOLUTIONARY PROJECT. Towards a sociology of the events of May-June 1968 (Kindle Edition) by Richard Gombin (Translated by Paul Sharkey). First published in France in 1969, as Le Projet révolutionnaire, éléments d’une sociologie des événements de mai-juin 1968 Check out all Kindle editions of ChristieBooks titles  — £1.24/€1.49/$2.20  READ INSIDE!  ¡LEER EL INTERIOR! UK : £1.24 ; USA : $2.20 ; Germany : €1.49 ; France :  €1.49 ; Spain:  €1.49 ; Italy:  €1.49 ; Japan: ¥ 206 ; India: R120 : Canada: CDN$ 2.21 ; Brazil: R$4.52 ; Mexico: $26.15 ; Australia: $2.16

French Council Communist Richard Gombin’s ‘sociological’ study of ‘The May Events’ of France 1968 — a libertarian analysis (focusing primarily on events between May 3 and 13 June) that examines the links between the leftist groups (the ‘groupuscules’) and the various factors that contributed to the revolutionary threat to the French state during the summer of that year…