Fascism and Antifascism. Part three. Populist fascism: perpetual counter-revolution.

From ‘The Authority of the Boot-maker’ by Mal Content.

“What is this liberal rubbish?
Are you some kind of mug?
Don’t talk to me of ‘free speech’
For murdering fascist thugs

We remember Mosley
And how Cable Street folk fought him
When we see the fash
We let the boots do the talking”

– Oi Polloi

Now I started writing this chapter in 2012, then I paused it to see what would happen, and quite a lot has happened since. Ten years on, Britain has the most explicitly right-wing authoritarian government in its history, suppressing dissent by any means at its disposal. It is supported by computerised surveillance and detection, a police force as brutal, sexist and racist as ever, tamed media and a judiciary who mostly went to the same schools as the executive. The entire island is in counter-insurgency mode.

We’ve seen the rise and fall of the English Defence League and the United Kingdom Independence Party, the election of far-right governments around the world. The United States elected a reactionary-comic television presenter as its 45th President, who clowned around for five years making his office even more of a laughing stock while we wondered if anyone had the sense to disconnect the nuclear button.

In 1945, after six years of war against Nazism, a British labour government permitted the fascists detained under Regulation 18b to resume their activities, and gave them a police escort wherever they went, as unsurprisingly they had no popular constituency whatsoever. They were joined by Axis prisoners of war who were supposedly being rehabilitated. Some of those returned to Germany and maintaining their British contacts, plotted a fourth Reich, under cover of a crank spiritualist group called Ostara. Recently demobbed British Jews reacted with disbelief:

“I had been in the merchant navy, survived two torpedo attacks on the Atlantic convoys, and I came back home to Amhurst Road, Hackney to hugs and kisses. My mother went out to make some tea and my dad said, The bastards are back – Mosley and his Blackshirts

– Morris Beckman, antifascist: to ‘The Guardian’ 2009.

Apart from Spain and Portugal, which retained fascist governments, the only country in Europe where it was legal to glorify Hitler and the holocaust was Britain. Mosley took advantage of this to publish a German-language paper and antisemitic propaganda for distribution by right-wing British service personnel in the occupation zone. After three years of that, Mosley again combined the splinters into the Union Movement, and embarked on an electoral campaign.

“Going from a cinema showing newsreel of piles of Jewish men, women and children being bulldozed into lime pits in the concentration camps, and then passing an outdoor fascist meeting or seeing swastikas whitewashed on the walls of Jewish homes and synagogues affected these ex-servicemen with emotion ranging from choleric anger to a cold hard desire to kill the perpetrators.”

– Morris Beckman: ‘The 43 Group’

The conflict in the British Working Class was inflamed on the one hand, by newsreels of the holocaust, and on the other, by the civil war in Palestine that preceded the establishment of the state of Israel.

“Above all, it was the unfolding extent of the concentration camp horrors that really unhinged us all. It imbued every ex servicemen with a sick sense of shame that no action had ever been taken to try to save the camp inmates. Air crews had no doubt that specialised attacks could have taken out gas chambers, furnaces and SS barracks. Ex-paratroopers and Special Forces veterans argued that drops into and around the camps could have saved many, but nothing was ever attempted, …”

                (ibid.)

You have to keep in mind that Churchill had been an anti-Semite when Hitler was still in short trousers, and so was post-war foreign secretary Ernest Bevin. Bevin was an enthusiast of the ‘Truman Doctrine’ against Soviet influence, so the pre-war squabble between socialist and Communist internationals was still playing into fascist hands. A dedicated imperialist, Bevin opposed Indian independence and set about re-establishing Dutch control in Indonesia, using British, Indian and even Japanese troops to wrest the islands from the indigenous people who had recently liberated them. He was also concerned to limit Jewish emigration to Palestine, declaring to the press on 1st March 1946: “Jews must not try to get to the head of the queue”, sparking riots in Tel Aviv that left six civilians dead, shot by British troops. Some Jewish soldiers refused to clash with their co-religionists and were quietly posted elsewhere.

“Watching the Royal Navy stop Greek and Turkish bucket ships crammed with the sick and broken survivors of the camps and the Pathé Gazette and Movietone films of these same derelicts being incarcerated behind barbed wire in Cyprus, seemed to plumb the very depths of inhumanity.”

(ibid.)

Just as they had been before the war, the fascists were driven off the streets by autonomous direct action. The ‘43 Group’,

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Comment on the question of ‘revolutionary minority’

AngryWorkers

Another fragment in AngryWorkers’ process of soul searching. If you want to read up on other texts we have written, check out this recent one on ‘What does it take to be organised politically?’ or this biographical rumination on ‘How not to be organised’.

When we first posted the article on the Revolutionary minority, I had a problem with it but didn’t say anything. I am very aware that we all have a lot of baggage and there is nothing more boring and annoying than old lefties fighting old battles. But the question of ‘the left’ or ‘the revolutionaries’ is clearly important to some of us and it keeps cropping up so now I have to say what worries me about it.

First of all we have published a few articles which state that we don’t think there is a kind of spectrum of the ‘left’ with us at one end and the Corbynites, say, at the other. Most of us agree that there is a clear gulf between us and most of the ‘left’.

But the term ‘revolutionary minority’ to describe us bothers me. In one sense who can disagree – we’re revolutionaries and there aren’t many of us compared to the ‘left’, so what’s the problem?

Well wouldn’t most people in most of the left groups think of themselves as the ‘revolutionary minority’, even if they don’t actually use those words? So its a totally subjective label and it doesn’t help to clarify why we are different. That differentiation has to be done by concretely showing the differences of outlook and practice – ie why we think the notion of the vanguard party leads to people seeing the working class as the passive subject of their work and not the real revolutionary force in society, etc etc. What we think distinguishes us has to be spelt out and not asserted by labels.

But more problematic for me is that this label, ‘revolutionary minority’, can potentially make worse an existing problem – that people who have read revolutionary books, who regard themselves as ‘revolutionaries’ make the mistake of thinking they are the moving force in revolution. This is what I was trying to write about in the piece I did for the November meeting – the ‘revolutionary’ preacher syndrome or the ‘revolutionary’ propagandist.

So strong is this attitude that I think everything has to be done to fight it and I’m worried that if we bestow upon ourselves this label then it can tend to make fuzzy the reality that the only revolutionary force is the working class in its self organised efforts to transform the mode of production.

You see, I think it’s a fair question to ask is Angry Workers a revolutionary organisation? Well in one sense obviously yes but in another sense the answer is ‘It remains to be seen’, i.e. the test is in practice. Can the group find ways to play a useful part in the rebuilding of working class revolutionary organisation? It’s not enough to have ‘good ideas’ and great aspirations. Can people turn those into activities that lead to the development of the class. The first thing by no means automatically leads to the second.

So by all means show by concrete examples where our outlook and practice lies on the other side of a deep divide from both the reformists and the vanguardists, etc. etc., but be very careful of doing/ saying anything that might tend to confuse the relationship between us, the people with revolutionary outlooks, and the class who has the potential revolutionary power to change the world.

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’.

Trans Rights is a Class Issue

Anarchist Communist Group.

On Trans Day of Remembrance (20th November 2021), we remember and honour the lives of trans and gender-diverse people reported murdered in the last 12 months. Trans people around the world face structural, institutional, societal, and direct violence. The violence that trans people face has roots in the policies, laws, and institutional practices of capitalist society.

We have long known the function of gender roles and gender inequality in capitalism, not just in dividing the working class, but also in ensuring the cultural norms that secure the provision of unpaid domestic and care work. Following from this analysis, we add trans people’s struggle against oppression to a structural understanding of oppression in modern society. Indeed, gender nonconformity poses a threat to those patriarchal structures of gender oppression, whereby capitalism benefits from unpaid work in the home that is still, to varying degrees, divided according to traditionalist gender roles.

It is clear that transgender and non-binary people’s experience of inequality, discrimination and violence cannot just be explained with reference to individual prejudice. Structural observation shows that we must also pay attention to the role of capitalist exploitation.

One in three UK employers said in a 2018 survey that they would be less likely to hire a trans person. The retail sector came out even worse, with 47 per cent of employers saying they were unlikely to employ a trans person.

Research in the US has shown that trans people are twice as likely to be living in poverty as the general population , and that work place discrimination affects more than three quarters of transgender people, who disproportionately face such issues as loss of employment due to discrimination, refusal to hire, privacy violations, and extreme levels of unemployment. Of the reported killings of trans and gender-diverse people whose profession was known, worldwide, 58 per cent were sex workers.

From this we can see that transgender people are more likely to be working class, and therefore we must conclude that trans rights is a class issue. And the violence that trans people face is a class issue.

We in the ACG are against all oppressions and inequality both because of the hardship and suffering it causes and because we need to unite as a class if we are to be effective in our struggles. The working class is composed of people of varying sexuality, people with disabilities, those who struggle against the straitjacket of gender categories, people from many ethnic backgrounds.

Divide and rule has long been used as a tool to subjugate us. We in the ACG seek to unite the working class, because our struggles are worth fighting for together, in an integrated fight to seek revolutionary social change and to create a society in which exploitation is abolished and all resources are held in common.

transrespect.org/en/tmm-update-tdor-2021/

Residents say NO to redevelopment plans: ‘We must fight for the people, the planet and our beloved Carpenters Estate’

Focus E15 Campaign

A resident of the Carpenters Estate, Stratford, Newham, London E15, speaks out: From the day I was born, I have lived on the Carpenters Estate. It was also home to my Mother, Grandfather, Grandmother and Great Grandmother, along with Aunts, Uncles, Cousins, childhood friends and so on.  It has been a special place for me and

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Scotland: SNP COUNCIL IN STRIKEBREAKING THREATS

Anarchist Communist Group.

We are sickened but not entirely surprised to learn that the SNP[Scottish National Party]-run Glasgow City Council has threatened to bring in scabs against the striking cleansing workers and is bullying the GMB union with threats of billing them with the scabbing costs.

The SNP has a reputation for talking left and acting right, but this is beyond the pale. Any party that claims to be on the side of the ordinary worker does not use scabbing tactics.

This comes after an unsavoury scramble by many online nationalists to denounce the striking workers as “talking Scotland down” or being “dupes of the Labour Party”. Such simplistic anti-worker bile is to be expected of these keyboard clowns, devoid as they are of any class solidarity, but it was hoped that the SNP itself might have been more tuned in to the reality. It is abhorrent that instead they have gone with these capitalist, anti-worker divide-and-rule tactics.

We in the ACG [Anarchist Communist Group UK] believe in working class solidarity. We support the cleansing workers in their time of need because we know that when our time of need comes, they will support us. That’s how class struggle works.

Red and Black Telly roundup.








Dastardly duke puts on pressure

Anarchist Communist Group

Back in December 2018 we reported here on Ralph Percy, the 12th Duke of Northumberland, and his foiled attempt to remove 37 allotments from next to his stately home Syon House, in Isleworth, West London, so that 119 flats and eight houses could be built there. The allotments have been there for over 100 years but Percy wants the new housing development to pay for £13 million repairs to Syon House. It seemed then that his moves had been defeated, but since then, Percy, who has an estimated family fortune of £445 million, ordered allotment holders to leave by the end of September, the period of harvest time. Faced with stiff opposition, he extended the deadline until later in the autumn.

He did this before obtaining planning permission, and with 1,000 objection letters to Hounslow Council’s planning department. This move was clearly to push the planning committee to make a decision to his benefit.

Allotment holders have been growing vegetables on the site since 1917. Many of them live in flats and will not be able to store their plants and equipment whilst they look for new allotments.

In October Percy got the backing of the planning officers who have recommended that councillors on the planning committee give the go-ahead to the dastardly Duke’s plan.

The final decision on this is due this Thursday. Here’s hoping the attempt by Percy to throw out the allotment holders fails. As we said in the previous article, “These are the sort of people owning most of the land in Britain. Speed the day when they are swept away and all land is held in common!”

Privilege (for the benefit of the privileged), identity and the Class War. By Mal Content.

“We live together, we act on, and react to, one another; but always and in all circumstances we are by ourselves. The martyrs go hand in hand into the arena; they are crucified alone.

… From family to nation, every human group is a society of island universes.”

– Aldous Huxley: ‘The Doors of Perception’.

This was always going to be a personal account, anarchism is after all an extrapolation of the particular to the general. The author is an able-bodied (at time of writing), cis-male, heterosexual*, Working Class anarchist of North European heritage, self-educated with a few engineering and craft skills, living in the South of England, I don’t need a university lecturer to tell me that’s a position of considerable privilege in the modern world, and a potentially reactionary one, yet I’ve honestly never wanted anything from this society but to witness its demise. I’m also big, ugly, and in my fifties which helps when dealing with management and cops.

* I seldom use the word ‘straight’, it implies bias, and I’m not claiming my relatively banal proclivities as a badge of community with anyone.

Early on I questioned whether I was writing primarily for people more or less like myself, and dismissed the idea. Obviously it has its limitations, it wouldn’t be of much use to someone whose interest was, for example, the development of anarchism within Chinese culture. It is intended for people new to anarchist ideas, and privilege is a concept many find utterly baffling. Like reification* it’s a hard one to get your head around because it’s woven into the fabric of perceived reality, it’s largely invisible, especially if your contacts are all drawn from a narrow social base.

* Of course, privilege is a form of reification.

Privilege in this context is an absence or mitigation of oppression, seen from the point of view of the oppressed. At first sight it’s counter-intuitive, because no one ever feels privileged,* and the colloquial use of the word is a benefit of some kind, usually earned. It sounds dangerously close to the bosses’ view that we ought to be grateful for access to work, housing, health and education. It’s a demonstrable fact that the presence of any super-exploited group, migrant labour for example, depresses pay and conditions for all workers, so how does it work? How is it a privilege not to be excluded, underpaid, sexually abused, targeted by cops or attacked by bigots?

* There’s a lesson there; not even the ruling elite feel privileged, because they’re conditioned from birth to believe they deserve a bigger slice of the pie.

The liberal would claim these as basic human rights, but they have it backwards, society is oppressive by its nature, its institutions were specifically devised to divide and exploit us, so we each become acclimatised to the level of oppression we experience, and only when these lines are crossed protest that our rights have been violated. This is the liberal trap – it’s the oppression that’s normal, not the absence of it. For many these experiences are routine, and they may indeed consider it a privilege to walk home without being harassed, to apply for a vacancy and be offered an interview, or to attend and not hear that it has just been filled.

If X walks a steeper road than Y, all things being equal, Y will make more progress in a given time for the same effort. Capitalism requires us to compete by excluding others*, so as Y is ahead of X they will have the first choice of whatever they need for the next leg of the journey, and set off feeling positive and refreshed. So on through life; Y will always be where X isn’t, and X will have to work harder than Y just to avoid being left by the wayside. Y’s setbacks will be easier to overcome and of shorter duration. Believing in equality of opportunity, Y may conclude the demoralised and resentful X isn’t trying, or they may congratulate themselves on their own industry and cunning. Meritocracy is a nasty bourgeois trap, like justice, it’s a logical fallacy.

* Housing gentrification and social cleansing is a good example of this.

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Red and Black Telly roundup.