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(en) DA #29 - Social Democracy & Other Myths - Reviews:

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>
Date Fri, 27 Feb 2004 08:49:56 +0100 (CET)


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A* Day Mournful And Overcast - by an ‘uncontrollable’ from the Iron Column
Anarchist Library Series; 21 pages; priced £3 from KSL
Contact KSL, BM Hurricane, London, WC1N 3XX for orders and titles:
www.katesharpleylibrary.org
In these booklets KSL has served up two more gems from the
anarchist past. The first is an anonymous look at the
‘militarisation’ of the revolutionary anarchist militias in
Spain 1937. The second is Emile Pouget’s ‘classic
statement of revolutionary syndicalism’ from 1937.

The defeat, across half of Spain, of the July 1936 attempted fascist
coup d’état heralded the Spanish Revolution. Among the
first actions of the anarchist militias was to open the gates of the
prisons. The author of ‘A Day Mournful And Overcast’, a
liberated prisoner himself, joined the most famous militia of them
all, the Iron Column. For the best part of a year the militias spread
the revolution and held the fascists at bay. Based on the
non-hierarchical principle of elected delegates, rather than
appointed officers, they reflected the very revolution they were
defending. Until, that is, the Republican government was able to
impose ‘militarisation’ on the militias. ‘A Day
Mournful And Overcast’ is a bitter-sweet reflection on the
coming of ‘militarisation’, on the happiness of anarchist
comradeship, and on the brutality of barrack life which recalls the
author’s former life in prison:

‘We used to live happily in the trenches… and everyone was
content. Why? Because none of us was superior to the other.’
‘A Day Mournful And Overcast’ first appeared in
Nosotros, the daily newspaper of the Iron Column in Valencia, in
March 1937.
------------------

* Under The Yoke of the State

Selected Anarchist Responses to Prisons and Crime vol.1, 1886-1929
Edited by the Dawn Collective
Published by Kate Sharpley Library, 2003, ISBN 1-873605-48-X

Right from the off, the Dawn Collective tell it like it is - anarchists
always come into conflict with whatever makes up the state. They
are the state’s biggest enemy.

They were also among the first to see the futility and malignancy
of prisons.

Since capitalist society is so rotten, so exploitative, and so
self-consciously driven to make money at the expense of everyone
else, then prisoners in capitalism’s jails, no matter what their
crime, can never be vilified or forgotten. This is a world where
economic success is the primary goal, where greed is sanctified by
the term “hard working” and where those who don’t
become a “success” are essentially left to fend for
themselves. And so it goes on. For a small pamphlet it crams a lot
in, from personal reflections by anarchists that have spent time in
prison to First World War internment camps.

There are complete essays by Peter Kropotkin, Emma Goldman,
Alexander Berkman and many more, plus personal accounts, for
example, by Louise Michel, who was on the barricades during the
Paris Commune. It is also illustrated, including Frans
Masereel’s woodcuts dating back to 1919.

Ideal for dipping into, such a wide selection of writers and contexts
make this a treasure chest of literary insight in to prisons and the
prison system. The theme which binds these disparate elements
together is a consistent critiques of the prison system and the
failure of society. Simple truths emanate from the pages - the Law
is made to protect the wealthy and punish the poor; if prison is for
reforming people, why is it all about punishment and the
consequent removal of humanity from both prisoner and guards?
Or, as Emma Goldman eloquently puts it in Between Jails,
“How can they understand the black despair and bitter hatred
of the offender against the world which first drives him to crime,
and then sends him to a living grave”

Jail is a cancerous growth of a capitalist society that should be cut
off quick. Within these pages lie the reasons behind them and the
inspiration to oppose them.
------------------------

* Direct Action (by Emile Pouget)

Anarchist Library Series; 19 pages;
priced £3 from KSL

Contact KSL, BM Hurricane, London, WC1N 3XX for orders and
titles:
www.katesharpleylibrary.org

Thirty years earlier, L’Action Directe was penned by Emile
Pouget, an anarcho-syndicalist member of the CGT
(Confédération Générale du Travail), regarded as the
world’s first revolutionary union confederation. For Pouget,
‘direct action is… an ongoing attack upon capitalism’,
and ‘the revolution is the handiwork of day-to-day action’.
And these ideas remain as relevant as ever almost a century later.
For present day anarcho-syndicalists, just as for Pouget, direct
action is the key to revolutionary activity.

Ranging from denying (bourgeois) democracy to anticipating
capitalist resistance to revolutionary change, from posing will
power in place of passivity to debunking the many objections to the
direct actionist approach, and much more besides, Pouget writes
with power, clarity and brilliance. This pamphlet does more than
simply explain why we anarcho-syndicalists reject social
democracy and the parliamentary path to social, political and
economic change. It makes the case for direct action as the
necessity that underpins all revolutionary activity. Whether
you’re a long standing activist or a newcomer to the
movement, you will find this pamphlet a worthwhile read.

For more on the CGT and the events in France around the time
when Pouget wrote L’Action Directe, see Unit 4 of the SF
SelfEd Collective’s History of Anarcho-Syndicalism –
available from www.selfed.org.uk or contact:
selfed@selfed.org.uk; SelfEd, PO Box 1095, Sheffield, S2 4YR.

------------------

* Streetcore

December marks a year since we said our final goodbye to Joe
Strummer - the most honest and well respected musician of the
punk era. He had been enjoying a resurgence in creativity and
popularity since putting together a new band, the Mescaleros, in
the late 1990s.

Of course, he is still best remembered from his days in the Clash
but, with his two albums, Rock Art & the X-ray Style and the
world music flavoured Global a Go-Go, he had shown that he still
had the energy, the passion, the words and the tunes to reach a
new audience. With typical modesty, he had wondered before
starting out again after an absence of nearly ten years, would
anyone even turn up to see him? People did, and his shows with the
Mescaleros just got better and better,culminating in his benefit
show for the striking firefighters in November 2002. Here, his
co-writer in the Clash, Mick Jones joined him on stage for the first
time in 20 years. This gig has already entered folklore as
Strummer’s last (although that was actually at Liverpool a few
days later).

It is typical though of the man who liked to walk the talk, still
showing the commitment he had from the punk days, always
asking questions but never telling people how to think. The sticker
he had on his battered Telecaster for years carried the declaration
“Ignore Alien Orders”. Asked why he never recorded or
toured in the nineties, he replied that he didn’t have anything to
say that he thought was worth listening to, so he concentrated on
movie soundtracks and bringing up his new family.

He was working on his new album when he died, and the result,
Streetcore, is proof that Strummer could still rock with the best of
them (those who saw him live never doubted it), and the
Mescaleros, with their killer rhythms and over-the-red-line guitar
and keyboard lines are as tight and tough as they come.

Unlike the previous Mescaleros outings, which were rooted in
various world and folk music with a rock undercurrent, Streetcore
anchors itself in rock & roll and lethal heavy reggae. “Coma
Girl”, the album’s opening track, is a fusion of garage band
rock and rocksteady basslines.
“Get Down Moses” follows on and, with dubbed-out bass
and crunchy reggae guitars and lyrics about the sellout of the world
wholesale, listeners can hear Strummer laughing in the face of all
the darkness multinationalism can muster. “Long Shadow”
is pure Americana played in a rambling style. It was written for
Johnny Cash, but could just as easily be about Strummer himself.
Its character crosses deserts and rivers; he haunts the places of
desolation in order to speak with the voice of the storyteller. The
song’s style and spirit evokes the ghost of Woody Guthrie as
Strummer sings: “Well, I’ll tell you one thing that I
know/You don’t face your demons down, you gotta grapple
with ‘em, Jack/And pin ‘em to the ground”, and it ends
with the prophetic; “And I hear punks talk of anarchy/I hear
hobos on the railroads/I hear mutterings on the chain gangs/It was
those men who built the roads/And if you put it all together/You
didn’t even once relent/You cast a long shadow/And that is
your testament/Somewhere in my soul/There’s always rock&
roll”.

Other tracks are as catchy as anything out there, as anthemic and
raucous, funky and memorable as Strummer ever wrote. The
rocking “Arms Aloft”, the searing “All In A Day”,
with its razor-wire guitar stomp, and the medium to slow heaviness
of “Burnin’ Streets”. The one disappointing track is
“Midnight Jam”, which was obviously put together after
Strummer’s death and takes samples of his voice from his
World Service radio show.

There are two covers on Streetcore. First is a deeply moving
reading of Bob Marley’s “Redemption Song” played
acoustically by Strummer. This is the only track that the
Mescaleros don’t appear on, as, originally, it wasn’t
recorded for this set but is included by Luce (Strummer’s
widow) and the band, and it works magnificently.

The other is the last track, a cover of the Bobby Charles’
classic, “Before I Grow Too Old”, re-titled here as
“Silver And Gold”. It’s a barroom song played in
melancholic, alt.country style, reminding me of the Waco Brothers.
Strummer’s last line in the song is, “I’ve got to hurry up
before I grow too old”, before he speaks to us in his distinctive
voice, “OK, that’s a take”. It’s almost as
unbearable as it is memorable.

Streetcore is the sound of Joe Strummer at his peak, with his own
band and on his own terms both lyrically and musically. The fact
that this is a final album for Strummer is beside the point; this is
one of the best rock & roll albums of 2003. To use his own words
heard after the firefighters gig as he was leaving the stage, “I
fucking enjoyed that!"
==============================================
Direct Action is published by Solidarity Federation, the British section
of the International Workers’ Association
DA is the Solidarity Federation magazine which is about getting
real change with anarcho-syndicalism.


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