ANARCHISM AS PROPHYLACTIC. Excerpts from Robert Michels’ Political Parties. A Sociological Study of the Oligarchical Tendencies of Modern Democracy (1915) PART FIVE: ATTEMPTS TO RESTRICT THE INFLUENCE OF THE LEADERS.

 anarchism, Politics by other means, Society  Comments Off on ANARCHISM AS PROPHYLACTIC. Excerpts from Robert Michels’ Political Parties. A Sociological Study of the Oligarchical Tendencies of Modern Democracy (1915) PART FIVE: ATTEMPTS TO RESTRICT THE INFLUENCE OF THE LEADERS.
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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THE REVOLUTIONARY PROJECT. Towards a sociology of the events of May-June 1968eBook £1.50 (see eBookshelf)

 anarchism, Anarchists in France, Politics by other means  Comments Off on THE REVOLUTIONARY PROJECT. Towards a sociology of the events of May-June 1968eBook £1.50 (see eBookshelf)
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  eBook £1.50 (see eBookshelf)  Also available from Kobo    Check out other Christiebooks titles HERE 

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…

Aug 062012

Farquhar McHarg, Belleville, Paris, 1976

¡Pistoleros! 1 – 1918

¡Pistoleros! 2 – 1919

eBook £1.50 (see eBookshelf)  Also available from Kobo    Check out other Christiebooks titles HERE 

Farquhar’s Chronicles (Vols. 1 ; 2 ; 3 )are folk history, bringing the changes that shook the political and social landscape of Spain (and the world) between 1918 and 1977 into the framework of a contemporary adult lifetime. They make a vexatious but fascinating story that explains the spirit and Idea that moved the selfless, generous, occasionally naïve and recklessly idealistic people involved in the bitter social struggles that marked the hectic insurrectionary and utopian aftermath of the great imperialist war of 1914-18.

This third volume of Farquhar McHarg’s journal focuses on the remarkable adventures of the Glaswegian anarchist during the period 1920-24 as a member of the anarchist action groups: Los Justicieros (‘the Avengers’); Crisol (‘Crucible’); Los Solidarios (‘Solidarity’), and the armed clandestine defence cadres of the CNT, the anarcho-syndicalist labour union. Their militants faced extermination from the calculated violence of the security services of a vicious semi-feudal state, and the mercenary killers employed by landed grandees and an equally savage industrial and commercial bourgeoisie.

Pistoleros! 2 – 1920-1924 (to 1977)

Farquhar’s Chronicles also tell a parallel narrative of plot and counterplot, ranging from 1936 to 1976, exploring the background to the murder of Farquhar’s comrade, the notorious anarchist counterfeiter and facilitator Laureano Cerrada Santos, and the subsequent attempts to kill the seventy-six-year-old Farquhar himself. It is a compelling and dramatic tale of the Govan man’s attempt to ferret out the identity of a long-term traitor within the Spanish émigré anarcho-syndicalist organisation, the CNT-MLE (Spanish Libertarian Movement), a confidente known only as ‘The Priest’.

Farquhar McHarg 1925

This story unfolds against the backdrop of machinations by Spanish and other Western spymasters obsessed with the idea that post-Franco Spain might go ‘Red’. To pre-empt this eventuality they deployed deep-penetration agents of influence, traitors at the highest level of the Spanish émigré anarcho-syndicalist movement. By inducing fear and paranoia through acts of treachery, their objective was to demoralise, disrupt and neutralise the effectiveness of that small band of anarchist militants who had fought relentlessly to topple the old regime by aggressive action and who might thwart their plans for a post-Francoist Spain.

Farquhar McHarg 1959

Farquhar McHarg 1976

These puppetmasters also sought to extend and consolidate their proxy control over the influential anarcho-syndicalist organisation inside and outside of Spain during the ‘disease-prone’ transition period to democracy’ (communism being defined as a ‘disease of transition’). It was the height of the Cold War and, with Spain’s dictator dead, the West’s geopolitical agenda-setters needed to ensure NATO hegemony over the Mediterranean, and the continuity of the Francoist agenda (and elite) at a time when they believed Spanish society would be particularly susceptible to a social breakdown as it underwent modernisation.

PHOTO ALBUMS Vol. 1: 1918 a ; 1918 b ; 1918 c

PHOTO ALBUMS Vol. 2: 1919 a ; 1919 b

PHOTO ALBUMS Vol. 3: 1920-24 a ; 1920-24 b ; 1920-24 c


Jun 032012

Farquhar McHarg (the ‘Big Man’ from Govan), Céret, Pyrénées-Orientales, 1959

Autobiography is essentially an act of confession. Some people can’t bring themselves to do it; others just can’t be stopped. Sometimes what comes out is so unbelievable it’s easy to mistake it for fiction. In the case of “The Chronicles of Farquhar McHarg”, you couldn’t make it up if you tried. Or could you?

Albert Meltzer introduced me to Farquhar in 1974, but the legend had already preceded him. I refrained from asking how much, if any, of it was true. What little I knew about his past seemed the sort of stuff you keep quiet about, if you want to avoid answering serious criminal charges, or stopping a bullet with your face. When Laureano Cerrada Santos was murdered in Paris two years later I expected Farquhar to be next; so did he. Farquhar furiously committed to paper his experiences of a lifetime of anarchist activism, to leave behind an explanation of things which powerful and dangerous people would much rather leave unexplained.

This is the testimony of a man drawn into clandestine struggle as a naive but idealistic teenager, who witnessed the “heroic” days, and the not so heroic days, of Spanish anarchism and survived long enough to tell the tale.

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Mar 292012

James Kelman — On Self-Determination

In an article for the US magazine NY Arts, Glaswegian writer James Kelman nails his colours to the mast with regard to the current debate on Scottish Independence:

‘In an American journal I read a prominent English writer was described as ‘very British’. What can it mean to be ‘very British’? Could I be described in this way? Can my work be described as ‘very British’? No, not by people in Britain, or by those with a thorough knowledge of the situation. The controlling interest in ‘Britishness’ is ‘Englishness’. This ‘Englishness’ is perceived as Anglo-Saxon. It is more clearly an assertion of the values of upper-class England, and their validity despite all and in defiance of all.

Power is a function of its privileged ruling elite. To be properly ‘British’ is to submit to English hierarchy and to recognise, affirm and assert the glory of its value system. This is achieved domestically on a daily basis within ‘British’ education and cultural institutions. Those who oppose this supremacist ideology are criticised for not being properly British, condemned as unpatriotic. Those Scottish, Welsh or Irish people who oppose this supremacist ideology are condemned as anti-English. The ‘British way’ is sold at home and abroad as a thing of beauty, a self-sufficient entity that comes complete with its own ethical system, sturdy and robust, guaranteed to outlast all others.

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Obituary: John Brailey (Stoke Newington, 2 April 1934-Lewisham Hospital, 21 March 2012), printer, bookseller, anti-war activist and life-long anarcho-syndicalist.

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Mar 262012

, Glasgow , D

John Brailey, anarcho-syndicalist (1934-2012)

John Brailey, SOGAT rank-and-file militant (with fellow anarchist Albert Meltzer) and anti-war activist, worked for many years as a printer in Fleet Street until the mid-1980s when the newspaper print industry moved to Wapping, after which he became involved in bookselling.

A founder member of the Committee of 100, John was closely associated with the ‘Spies for Peace’ group in 1963 and was one of those who demonstrated against the Greek royal family during their visit to London in the summer of 1963, the first time the Queen of England had been booed on the streets of London. He  also among those who occupied the Greek Embassy in London in April 1967.

My first contact with the Brailey family was when John’s partner, Laura, visited Brian and Margaret Hart at their flat at 57 Ladbroke Road in Notting Hill (where I was living at the time). Brian and Margaret hosted the monthly Notting Hill anarchist meetings (from which sprang, eventually, the Notting Hill Anarchist Group). She’d brought her three children along, and telling me about it later Brian told me the little boy was ralking excitedly about the moon. All the kids were well behaved, but lively and natural. They had all just moved into Peter Lumsden’s large and rambling apartment in Colville Houses further down Notting Hill. Peter, a truly saintly person, was a great admirer of the US Catholic Anarchist movement round Dorothy Day (Catholic Worker Movement), and had visited their centre for ‘down and outs’ (‘the Joe Hill House of Hospitality’) run by Ammon Hennacy, the Irish American Christian anarchist and pacifist in Salt Lake City. Anyway, Peter wanted to run something similar in the UK, but was unable turn anyone away and his place soon filled up with less unfortunate leftists, mostly under forty and unmarried, with housing problems. Many of these were members of — or associated with — the London Committee of 100 (as opposed to the more holier-than-thou Committee of 100 people around Bertrand Russell). These included some of the original ‘Eskimos’ — Terry Chandler and Mike Nolan — who attempted to board the Polaris submarine Patrick Henry on the Clyde from their kayaks in 1961. It was also home to the late Doug Brewood Jr, the only (as far as I know) identified member of the ‘Spies for Peace’ group. In fact Colville Houses was such a hotbed of radical activism that the security service had at least one agent planted there as a tenant. The one I am aware of, a guy called Darren, was exposed when someone asked him for change and, pulling a handful of coins from his pocket, a brass button inscribed ‘RAF Police’ fell to the floor.

I went to Spain soon after and didn’t re-establish contact with John until 4 or 5 years later when I was working closely with Albert Meltzer, who by that time was employed as a copytaker on the Daily Sketch and, later, on the Daily Telegraph, and quite often would run into John in ‘The Albion’ bar, with Albert, after SOGAT meetings, or on demonstrations. In later years, after Wapping, John took up second-hand bookselling, and he would be my first port of call if I was looking for a particular title or the back issue of some magazine or other. He’ll be sadly missed! May the earth lie lightly on you, John.

Stuart Christie

Danger! Official Secret: the Spies for Peace: Discretion and Disclosure in the Committee of 100 by Sam Carroll

Dinner with the Tuckers by Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn

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Mar 142012

Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn

In December, 2011 a tiny but wondrous Chicago program of the Illinois Humanities Council (IHC) launched an on-line auction to raise needed cash for its public programming. The Public Square was celebrating its Tenth Anniversary, and Bernardine and I had been on its Advisory Board from the start. We kicked in what money we could, and we donated two items to the auction: choice seats at a Cubs game and an afternoon at beautiful Wrigley Field with Bernardine—an ardent and unruly fan—and dinner for six, cooked by team Ayers/Dohrn. We’ve done the dinner thing two dozen times over the years— for a local baseball camp, a law students’ public interest group, alternative spring break, immigrant rights organizing, and a lot of other worthy work—and we’ve typically raised a few hundred dollars. There were many more attractive items on that year’s list: Alex Kotlowitz was available to edit twenty pages of a non-fiction manuscript, Gordon Quinn to discuss documentary film projects over dinner, and Kevin Coval to write and spit an original poem for the highest bidder.

We paid little attention as the online auction launched and then inched onward—a hundred dollars, two hundred, and then three—even when a right-wing blogger picked it up and began flogging the Illinois Humanities Council for “supporting terrorism” by giving tax-payer money to us. He was a little off on the concept, because we were actually donating money and services to them, not the other way around, but this was a rather typical turn for the fact-free, faith-based blogosphere, so onward and upward, no worries.

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