Direct Action: the education of revolutionaries.

Chapter Thirty-One of The Authority of the Boot-Maker by Mal Content.

“Anarchism is neither sectarian nor dogmatic. It’s theory in action. It doesn’t have a pre-determined worldview. It’s a fact that anarchism is manifest historically in all of man’s attitudes, individually or collectively. It’s a force in the march of history itself: the force that pushes it forward.”

– Nestor Makhno: to Francisco Ascaso and Buenaventura Durruti, Paris, 1927.

This, my friends, is where the cop-out ends, once you’ve accepted that there is no one above or below you, you become responsible for everything that happens within your sphere of influence. Who gives governments the power to abuse, torture and kill? It is you. The prison I referred to earlier exists only in the mind, in the collective consciousness, the defeatist attitude that: “nothing can be done”. In fact everything can be done and already is, in this world we built with our hands, eyes and brains. Everything you require to live is provided by your fellow workers, as you provide for them. The intervention of bosses, accountants, academics and politicians only serves to make the process less efficient and pleasant to operate. If we allow these intermediaries to manage our desires they will stifle and kill them. Despite not being noticeably more competent or wise than anyone else they have been elevated above their fellows and it isn’t in their interests to upset the applecart. They will patiently explain why we can’t have what we want, just yet.

“Our people stand for action on the march. It is while going forward that we overtake. Don’t hold them back, even to teach them `the most beautiful theories’ …”

– Francisco Ascaso, quoted by Paz and others.

Direct action is that which seeks its ends without the mediation of a third party; it does not necessarily involve protest, and where it does, is not limited to protesting. Breaking up a fight is direct action, calling the police is not. It can be anything from distributing free food to the needy or recycling old clothes, to strikes, sabotage and factory occupations. This principle demands that those who have most invested in a struggle should direct it, whilst relying on solidarity from others, so priority should be given to projects and organisational forms which give confidence to those who are marginalised or unused to taking action.

Q. How many Anarchists does it take to change a light bulb?

A. None – “The light bulb must change itself!”

– Anon.

Direct action is most popularly associated with the practice of revolutionary syndicalism or industrial unionism, which gained currency at the turn of the last century but lost out to Bolshevism; however the abject failure of political and industrial representation has revived its popularity in this one.

The importance of direct action goes far beyond its immediate goals; it ingrains the habit of taking responsibility, of working with others in a voluntary and horizontal fashion for reasons other than personal reward. It builds confidence and trust, shares skills and teaches by example. A solidarity action that at first glance seems to have only a minor impact, in fact operates on several fronts. It gives satisfaction to the participants, courage to fellow workers who hitherto felt powerless, and issues a warning to the exploiters that their acts have consequences. It helps repair the social cohesion and sense of community that capitalism tries so hard to abolish. Above all every comrade must feel valued and supported, every blow must be returned, until over time a culture of militant solidarity is established, only then can we act coherently in our common interest, and prise power from the exploiter’s grip.

There are many traps into which revolutionaries can fall; relying on the limited vision and experiences of a few people for example, or on the other hand diluting the movement with those who have too much invested in the status quo; falling back on dogma, or abandoning essential principles. It’s a mistake to assume that every oppressed person is ready and able to shake off their oppression, and equally erroneous to wait until conditions are perfect. To transform society we must transform ourselves, we can do it along the way but we have to start now. Lines must be walked between making real improvements to the lives of people in the here and now, and giving in to reformism, we want the earth, but we’ll take it a piece at a time.

“This task of laying the groundwork for the future is, thanks to Direct Action, in no way at odds with the day to day struggle. The tactical superiority of Direct Action rests precisely on its unparalleled plasticity: organisations actively engaged in the practice are not required to confine themselves to beatific waiting for the advent of social changes. They live in the present with all possible combativity, sacrificing neither the present to the future, nor the future to the present. It follows from this, from this capacity for facing up simultaneously to the demands of the moment and those of the future and from this compatibility in the two-pronged task to be carried forward, that the ideal for which they strive, far from being overshadowed or neglected, is thereby clarified, defined and made more discernible.

Which is why it is both inane and false to describe revolutionaries drawing their inspiration from Direct Action methods as “advocates of all-or nothing”. True, they are advocates of wresting EVERYTHING from the bourgeoisie! But, until such time as they will have amassed sufficient strength to carry through this task of general expropriation, they do not rest upon their laurels and miss no chance to win partial improvements which, being achieved at some cost to capitalist privileges, represent a sort of partial expropriation and pave the way to more comprehensive demands.

From which it is plain that Direct Action is the plain and simple fleshing- out of the spirit of revolt: it fleshes out the class struggle, shifting it from the realm of theory and abstraction into the realm of practice and accomplishment. As a result, Direct Action is the class struggle lived on a daily basis, an ongoing attack upon capitalism.”

– Emile Pouget: ‘Direct Action’.

The Gaza Centre for Human Rights has been targeted and destroyed by Israel

Aotearoa Workers Solidarity Movement

Palestine Solidarity Network media release, 18 May 2021

The offices of the Gaza Centre for Human Rights have been targeted and destroyed by a missile from an Israeli fighter jet.

New Zealander Julie Webb-Pullman has been working for the Centre for several years as an international expert on gathering evidence of Israeli war crimes against Palestinians in Gaza. (Julie is currently waiting to return to Gaza after being delayed in New Zealand through Covid 19)

So far the Centre, under Julie’s guidance, has sent over 2000 claims of war crimes relating to Israel’s attack on Gaza in 2014 and its targeting the Great March of Return protests in March 2018.

Earlier this year the International Criminal Court made the formal announcement that they are opening an investigation into allegations of grave Israeli breaches of International Humanitarian Law. Israel is furious and has tried to stop the investigation.

Now Israel has seized the opportunity to hit back with missiles from a Israeli fighter jet.

The Centre is making an appeal for funds to get back up and running and PSNA is co-ordinating fundraising here.

People can donate to:

Account name: PALESTINE SOLIDARITY NETWORK

Account number: 38-9015-0849542-02 (Please put GCHR in the reference)

This is a message from Julie describing the photo and the damage.

I would really appreciate it if you could also appeal for funds for Gaza Centre for Human Rights – our offices were directly targeted and destroyed a few days ago. We need to replace printers, photocopiers, furniture etc.

Our electronic backup files are safe, but all of the original documents have been destroyed.

Attached (above) is a picture of the destruction – our offices were on the third floor, the translators’ office is the one with the blue wall, my office is at the front. Was.

Like almost every building in Gaza, it is a mixed residential and office tower.

We expect the New Zealand media will report on this and the government will condemn outright this bombing of a human rights organisation.

John Minto

National Chair, Palestine Solidarity Network Aotearoa

johnminto@orcon.net.nz

IFA Communiqué – Mayday 2021

Mayday 2020 in Dorset.

Why we celebrate May Day

Solidarity with Exarcheia! | Statement

Reproduced in full from Organise Magazine

On Monday the 26th of August, the Greek police launched a large operation in Exarcheia, the famous rebel district in the centre of Athens. This is a unique place in Europe for its high concentration of squats and other self-organised spaces, but also for its resistance against repression and solidarity with migrants and the precariat.

Early in the morning, the squats of Spirou Trikoupi 17, Gare, Rosa de Fon and Transito were surrounded by huge police forces: anti-riot police, anti-terrorism police and secret police. The police then launched a large repression operation, leading to over 100 arrests. Migrants have been sent to camps known for inhuman living conditions. More than 15 kids that grew up in Athens and had their life there were deported. The security forces are now walling up the buildings that used to be home to so many.

This operation aimed to directly attack the incredible solidarity efforts that were developed by a network of people, many of them anarchists, to cope with the austerity measures the Greek state and the EU implemented.

It aimed to destroy a neighbourhood that has invented a new world where it has been possible to exist and live regardless of your economical, social or cultural background.

It aimed to keep Exarcheia under the control of a violent state that, like the rest of Europe, is ready to put humans in camps, simply because they were born on the other side of a border.

Exarcheia has many other squats, around 20, but the newly elected Greek prime minister promised a complete “cleaning”. More battles are to come.

The Anarchist Federation is expressing its full support to everyone in Exarcheia.

For a future without state, police or borders. ■

Solidarity! αλληλεγγύη!

Anarchist Federation

Additional from the Editor:-

Since this morning when the evictions took place Spirou Trikoupi 17 put out the call for people to gather and have taken a stand.

” Here, in Spirou Trikoupi 17 we have lived more than 2.000 people, coming from more than 10 different countries, and that we have crossed, at least, 3 borders till here. This wall that the state is building to seal the entrance will never be able to stop us!

See you at 6pm the solidarity assembly towards the squats in Notara 26 “

Since the evictions police have rounded up immigrants who will be dragged through the system and government workers have bricked up the doorways to peoples homes.

As night has fallen the police have taken a aggressive stance against the locals and tooled up with riot gear have taken to the streets for what is sure to be yet another night of horrific state violence.

Follow them & the AF for updates.
Spirou Trikoupi17
Anarchist Federation

External reports on what is happening from the ground.
Enough is Enough
Squat.net

RADICAL WORKERS’ BLOC AT TOLPUDDLE 2019

Tolpuddle Martyrs Festival and rally 2019 Friday, 19th to Sunday, 21st July 2019. View map No stall this year, apparently they were “oversubscribed”. Nah we don’t either, more time to get drunk then.

On the plus side the IWW are back, with a new improved stall run by Dorset branch.

Wob kitchen will run from Friday evening to Sunday lunch, next to the Big Tent; you’ll hardly notice the difference. Wessex Solidarity will make some of our literature catalogue available on the day. We’ve lots of new stuff that isn’t in the reference library as we’re running out of storage space – it hasn’t been updated for years. Why not get in touch now if there’s a subject you’re particularly interested in.

Catering Cadre: Comrade Les, our Wob kitchen chef is offering free training on outside and event catering for Radical Workers and groups who want to feed their members, homeless or unemployed workers in a safe and cost-effective way. Topics including:

  • Basic Health safety and hygiene.
  • Basic budget and Menu planning.
  • Basic dietary requirements.
  • Basic safe use of LPG and Butane gas cookers.

Let us know if you’re interested or come and see us about it at the festival.

Safe Space Policy: “don’t be a dick”.

This year we ask Radical Workers to be especially kind to members of the Prison Officers Association, as they are ever so sensitive, and easily upset by loud noises and rude words.

Bloody hell it was hot! Tolpuddle R.W.B. 2018

Anti-fascist callout, Swindon 9th February 2019

A fascist infestation is anticipated this saturday in Swindon.

https://www.swindonadvertiser.co.uk/news/17415220.swindon-yellow-vest-protesters-to-to-hold-demo-on-saturday

The event is being promoted by Martin Costello and Luke Nash Jones, who got chucked out of UKIP last year for abusing staff in a socialist bookshop while wearing Donald Trump masks.

The weirdoes will now put on yellow vests in imitation of French anarchists to express their disdain for foreigners and their enthusiasm for WTO rules.

Swindon Trade Union Council are inviting humans to gather at the cenotaph, regent circus, at 13:00 hrs to oppose them. facebook event

Spoons strike solid.

From Bristol SolFed on twitter

The world transformed or staying the same? An open letter to Plan C

From Anarchist Federation

This is a reply to the three texts World Transformed/the Labour Party and the Libertarian Left,/Dreams, Memes, Labour and Us and Corbynism from (the great) below, written by members of Plan C. We felt we had to reply to these texts as part of the libertarian left, members of the Anarchist Federation, and one-time members of Big Flame.

We welcomed the appearance of Plan C when it first appeared and were pleased by its determination to develop a Plan C in response to the Plan B of social democracy and Labourism. Plan C seemed like a bright new star on the libertarian left. The “C” could be interpreted as either “Commons” or “Communism”.

Now however Plan C’s initial aims seem to be disoriented by the rise of Corbynism. Recently, three articles appeared on their website arguing for support for Corbyn and the Labour Party. Each article to a greater or lesser extent refers to the reactionary and counter-revolutionary nature of the Labour Party in the past but yet somehow things are completely different now. So the lessons of the history of the Labour Party are swept aside, as are those learnt from SYRIZA, who implemented the worst anti-austerity programme in Greece’s history, and indeed previously PASOK, supported at the time of its election by the left, Lula’s Workers Party in Brazil,etc. The Trotskyists are renowned for their past slogans of Vote Labour Without Illusions, now Plan C seems to push aside even these qualifications and call for a Vote Labour full stop. There are a number of reasons why the analysis of the current Labour Party and the strategy arising from this analysis by a section of Plan C are both mistaken and detrimental to transforming the world.

1. Corbyn’s policies are not that radical and are becoming even less radical as a result of pressure from institutional political constraints.

After Corbyn’s election as leader of the Labour Party his close ally Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell and Jon Trickett, the Shadow Communities and Local Government Secretary, sent a letter to all Labour councils demanding they abide by the law and impose austerity cuts set by the Conservative government “…the situation councils are now in is if they don’t set a budget, a council officer will do it for them. There is no choice for them anymore. As you know, councils must set a balanced budget under the Local Government Act 1992. If this does not happen, i.e. if a council fails to set a legal budget, then the council’s Section 151 Officer is required to issue the council with a notice under Section 114 of the 1988 Local Government Act. Councillors are then required to take all the necessary action in order to bring the budget back into balance.” No indication here that Labour Councils could band together to pool general reserves and make use of prudential borrowing to set budgets that didn’t involve cuts. That they could use prudential borrowing to build 100,000 council houses throughout Britain, and that they could tie this to inciting mass defiance of cuts.

Because of the Labour Party apparatus ruled by the Blairites, Corbyn had to shift his political positions, at least publicly. An opponent of immigration controls, at the last election he promised the most right-wing Labour policy on immigration in over 30 years. An opponent of NATO, he regarded it as a “danger to world peace” and socialists had to campaign against it. He has now embraced NATO, saying that “I want to work within NATO to achieve stability”. A life-long opponent of the monarchy, Corbyn now states that the abolition of the monarchy “is not on my agenda.” A critic of the police and its shoot-to-kill policy he once laid a wreath to victims of police violence at the Cenotaph. He now says that the police should use: “whatever force is necessary to protect and save life.” Labour pledges to increase the number of police by 10,000 and the number of prison warders by 3,000 and border guards by 500.

How much more would Corbyn turn to the right if he were Prime Minister?

2. The Labour Party and Momentum are detracting from rather than contributing to building a social movement. They are using the movements to reinforce its electoral strategy.

We must not let the new social movements currently mobilising around housing, against austerity and against racism and police brutality, become tools of Labour. McDonnell in particular has as on several occasions hinted at such a scenario, talking of transforming “the party from the traditional centralised party into something more akin to a mass social movement, responding to the rising demand for greater activist engagement.” By this he means co-option of the currently existing social movements as auxiliaries to the Labour electoral machine. More recently he affirmed that Labour is “changing into a social movement”. But whilst Labour is able to organise mass triumphalist rallies it has failed to go beyond that, to massively engage its members in social action. Corbyn and McDonnell would like to capture the social movements for their own ends. It is up to those of us active in the social movements and in grassroots workplace struggles to develop a truly mass social movement, one that is autonomous and independent of political parties including Labour so that it can set its own objectives and aims. But instead of realising the potential of these new movements, of the rebel union phenomenon, (IWW, IWGB, CAIWU, SOLFED, UVW) of the housing struggles, the anti-fracking camps, etc. we are told by members of Plan C that: “Standing ‘outside’ of the movements influenced by Corbyn’s ascension to the top of the LP really doesn’t cut the mustard” and that “there is no other game that could build a mass movement at present.” Momentum and Unite the Community branches “as external support networks of the Labour Party” are cited as able to provide support for strikers and their families, etc. However, there is no evidence that this is happening. In many areas Momentum groups are just chat shops,or at best inwardly focussed on reshaping the Labour Party not involved in social struggles. Our own experience of membership of a Unite the Community branch was negative, as when on several occasions we urged the branch to support actions of a private renters group and against gentrification we received no support whatsoever. We are aware that in some areas these groups have performed useful work, but our view is that in many other areas they are only chat shops or there to draw people into Labour or stunts for the Socialist Party, SWP or People’s Assembly. In fact, the new enthusiasm for the Labour Party has drawn people away from involvement in grass roots campaigns and movements.

It is argued that a Corbyn-led Labour government would somehow galvanise social movements. However let’s look at the example of Bennism in the early 1980s. Bennism was a similar movement to Corbynism. It mobilised around the left Labour figure of Tony Benn. In fact both Corbyn and McDonnell were minor figures within Bennism, as were some of their present associates. There was great hope that Benn would become deputy leader of the Labour Party until he was defeated by Denis Healey in 1983. In the process a large number of activists from the various social movements, women’s groups, gay liberation groups etc. who up till then were existing outside the Labour Party, were now dragged into Labour and in the process these social movements were demobilised. A similar phenomenon happened alongside this when Ken Livingstone ran the Greater London Council from 1981 to 1986 and developed his ‘rainbow coalition’, involving the same social movements mentioned above, absorbing them into the GLC. The GLC funded many groups and organisations and often became dependent on this funding, unable to carry on when the funding was withdrawn. Again the result was demobilisation, with people looking towards the GLC administration rather than relying on their own action. Livingstone backed down against Thatcher on tube fares and setting local rates and there was no significant response on the streets.

Going back to SYRIZA, we saw a situation where it persuaded people to rely on its being in power and fighting against the austerity measures imposed by the EU, the IMF and the World Bank. Of course SYRIZA broke every one of their electoral promises. The SYRIZA member Stathis Kouvelakis had later to admit that the negotiation process with the EU “by itself triggered passivity and anxiety among the people and the most combative sectors of society, leading them to exhaustion”. The Greek social movements have taken a long time to recover from the SYRIZA experience and that could be the same scenario with a Corbyn government. Again we repeat, we have to rely on our activities and our own organisation of grassroots struggles.

3. The cult of Corbyn: this is not libertarian!

As regards the assertion that the Corbyn cult is “precisely BECAUSE he isn’t a charismatic leader”, this is far removed from the real world. We are deeply disturbed by the messianic cult of Corbyn, and have personally witnessed vitriolic condemnation of even the slightest criticism of the Leader. This is not healthy and contributes nothing to the autonomy of social movements, and to deny the existence of this unhealthy cult is extremely dangerous. We will never achieve a libertarian communist society if people are taken in by the celebrity culture that pervades much of today’s society. Even in our own movements, informal leaders are a problem and is something we need to constantly fight against.

As to the danger of media celebrities, let’s take a look at the self-proclaimed “loudspeaker of the revolution” Daniel Cohn-Bendit, so eager to appear as a media celebrity during and after the May-June events in France in 1968. This brought unease and suspicion then among French libertarians, suspicion which proved to be well-founded as Cohn-Bendit subsequently became co-chair of the German Greens, and then advocated military intervention in the Balkans and a free-market liberalism. Or take another media celebrity, Russell Brand, who once called for revolution and a shunning of the ballot box in 2013, then made a U-turn calling for a vote for Miliband (Vote To Start Revolution!) and then his Love the Police outbursts. Or a more heavyweight media celebrity like Paul Mason, one-time Trotskyist, who now tells us that: “The security services are our first line of defence and they need our support, as do the police and special forces” and who advocates the renewal of the Trident missile system, a permanent paramilitary police force, the ending of immigration for people earning under median wage, and the defence of BAE, manufacturers of Typhoon bombers. Any criticism of celebrity culture is swept aside in the first contribution, despite many glaring examples of those who set themselves up to speak for movements, with no control from those said movements. Have we learnt nothing from texts like Tyranny of Structurelessness? Are we now supporting any media-hungry personality, who might say something vaguely radical at some point, and then inevitably renege on their previous positions? We don’t need this, we need the development of alternative media created by and under the control of social movements. Novara Media is proving NOT to be this, with its increasing tacking towards Corbynism and its abandoning of previous radical positions, all under the guise of professing libertarian communism whilst continuing to shore up social democracy.

4. We can learn from history; the economic and political context are the same. There is no more scope for a ‘left’ leader to make any major changes within the current system of capitalism and the State than there was before.

For us, the key question in all of this is the autonomy of the social movements, as we have underlined above. If Labour is elected again, our belief is that we will see a scenario similar to that of the election of the Labour government led by Harold Wilson in 1964. Then quite substantial layers of young people who had been radicalised by CND and the Committee of 100 and by the examples of the civil rights movement in the USA and the struggle against apartheid, not to mention the burgeoning cultural movements, had an initial enthusiasm for the promised change from the Wilson government and were very soon bitterly disappointed. This led to an increasing radicalisation noticeably apparent from 1966 onwards. We should not discredit ourselves by dropping our criticisms of the Labour Party. It will be remembered later. Comrades in Plan C who still have doubts about the Labour Party should ponder on this and not be swept along by a euphoria that may well prove to be rash.

5. Lenin is not a libertarian.

Though only a small part of one of the statements, the reference to “Comrade Lenin” was disturbing. Since when was Lenin a comrade of the libertarian left? If Plan C is going to try and claim to be part of the libertarian left, then Leninism in all its forms must be rejected.

6. The experience of Big Flame

Since Big Flame was mentioned in one of the texts, it is worth looking at what happened to Big Flame and why. One of us joined Big Flame after leaving the SWP, and had not broken with Leninism, and the other was already a long-standing libertarian. Big Flame was in many ways like Plan C today (pluralist) with people with a variety of different views, including anarchists, Marxists, Leninists and autonomists, with a strong focus on the struggles of oppressed groups. However, in the end Big Flame fell apart. This was partly because the differing perspectives were fundamentally incompatible.

However, it was not only the libertarian/Leninist divide itself that contributed to the demise of Big Flame. An important contributing factor was the attitude towards the Labour Party, the GLC and reformism in general. Some Big Flame members got sucked into work with the GLC and others joined the Labour Party. It shows how easily it is to get demoralised when there is a Tory government in power and to look towards apparently easier options (eg electoral) than building a mass revolutionary movement.

So what to do?

We must argue the case that the new grassroots groups and organisations emerging around housing and opposition to austerity must maintain that grassroots outlook and horizontal organisation and not be distracted by the Corbyn circus and its left cheerleaders. It’s not a question of “in, against, and beyond” the Labour Party, as one Plan C statement suggests, but realising that any real social movement that has as its goals the achievement of libertarian communism must be outside and against the Labour Party which has always been the enemy of real social change, has always been the social fire brigade when the fires of unrest flare up.

Bonnie VandeSteeg, Nick Heath

Bristol Anarchist Bookfair Saturday September 16th 2017