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(en) Britain, Anarchist Federation Organise #67 - twentieth anniversary, Organise! magazine- the second decade

Date Fri, 08 Dec 2006 06:53:12 +0200


In 1996, in the 10th anniversary edition of Organise! (no.42), we printed our first
retrospective article `Organise! Onwards' saying: "Organise! has occupied a unique
position amongst the many anarchist papers which have arisen in Britain by its
consistent format and level of analysis. It has always been intended to sit between
the agitational `in your face' rag and the heavier theoretical journal. It is aimed
at the reader who doesn't need to be convinced how bad our life is under capitalism
and the state, who is looking for more information and a closer view of the class
struggle." We have tried to remain true to this aim, although with a few significant
changes. One change has resulted from our aim to increase the participation in
Organise! by soliciting views from outside the AF, using interviews and by the
commissioning of articles by comrades who are close to us politically, especially
from other countries. Secondly, at the end of 1998, we launched our monthly bulletin
Resistance and since then have published Organise! less often but with more pages,
accompanied by a shift towards more in-depth analysis and less immediate news
reporting. If this has worked, it has partly been due to longer-term themes that have
emerged during the last decade: continuous war-mongering by the Western states,
massive uprisings in Latin America, the ongoing consequences of European expansion,
welfare and public sector attacks and fightback by workers, growth of a wider
anti-capitalist movement, and activism against environmental destruction. We will
examine these themes in the following paragraphs with reference to back issues of
Organise!

Three Strikes and You're Out!

If you're on the dole at the moment or receiving any of the welfare benefits that are
still remaining in Britain, you could be forgiven for thinking you have been
forgotten about. Not so in Organise! where we have devoted many pages of news and
analysis to work and unemployment issues. In 1997 the Conservative's Job Seekers
Allowance (JSA) and workfare scheme Project Work became part of Labour's New Deal.
Since before JSA started in 1996, Organise! was reporting on the likely effects of
the New Deal and clearly saw that a change in government would mean little difference
in the attack on benefits. In addition a controversial area for anarchists was the
role of dole-office workers who were suffering from a pay-squeeze themselves but were
on the front-line of imposing the benefits regime changes on claimants. The use of
`Job Club' (forcing you to apply for shit jobs every week at the threat of getting
benefits cut) and the various types of compulsory work-for-dole schemes in the New
Deal meant that harassment of claimants was on the increase. Benefits workers would
have to fight for claimants as well as themselves and voluntary organisations would
need to be challenged about their contracts with the Job Centre to provide placement
for claimants in the guise of `voluntary' work. As part of this fightback, members of
the AF participated in the Groundswell anti-JSA network. In Organise! we analysed and
supported the `Three Strikes' idea initiated by claimants' groups that was designed
to confront individual `over-zealous' dole-office employees. See issues 42 to 50 for
coverage of the full story from 1996 onwards. Attacks on the unemployed from the New
Deal (which followed job cuts in many 'traditional' industries) have now given way to
a widespread attack on public sector workers through creeping privatisation of health
and education services, introduction of performance-related-pay schemes, and a
pensions `crisis' that is being blamed on longer-living workers but in reality has
much more to do with the outrageous market speculations of pension fund managers. The
gap between rich and poor is widening as the middle classes benefit from their
ability to borrow huge sums by remortgaging or securing loans on their houses, that
has resulted from national expansion of the southern property boom. In addition, the
opening up of individual shareholding under the Tories has meant that the middle
class is also benefiting from the profits of huge `investment' (read exploitation of
workers) of the UK into China, for example. Organise! has endeavoured to expose the
other side of this money machine in articles such as `New China, New Blood' (issue
65). Exploitation in Britain will also continue, and this is likely to fall sharply
on migrant workers and those on incapacity benefits who are the next targets of the
New Deal. Britain is awash with casual and 'flexible' working (covered in Organise!
64). Younger people continue to suffer from no longer being allowed to get
unemployment money if aged 16 or 17 and from the shift from student grants to loans
and fees, forcing them to do low-paid jobs. So as well as supporting the casualities
of job cuts and those still in work who are fighting for their livelihoods, it will
surely become necessary to challenge once again the role of some public sector
workers, including dole-office staff and Home Office civil servants, who are
implementing government attacks on the marginalised sections of our class.

Kicked in the Balkans

In issue 45 (Spring 1997) we began to analyse the continuing break up of the former
Yugoslavia in the aftermath of the Bosnian war. We looked at the pro-democracy
movement Zajedno that was attempting to bring down Milosevic's government and the
continued extreme nationalism in Croatia. At the same time, post-Cold War imposition
of market economies was having devastating effects on the living conditions of
working class people in Bulgaria and Albania, some losing everything to
hyper-inflation, others to pyramid selling schemes. Now that the workers had been
nicely softened up for full-scale market 'reforms', the old Communist Parties were no
longer needed. We predicted that pro-democracy mobilisations in Bulgaria and Serbia
would mean no more than a removal of old style Stalinists from office and their
replacement by fully fledged disciples of the market. In Serbia's case, for the West
at least, it wasn't soon enough. Milosevic's nationalist adventure in Kosovo/Kosova
was all the excuse needed for NATO armed forces to come in aid of what was portrayed
as a `humanitarian' intervention, but was in reality about a strategic speed-up of
reorganisation in the region. Unfortunately, many groups on the Left and even some
anarchists fell for it and ended up siding with Albanian nationalism and NATO
bombings rather than maintaining a `No War but the Class War' stance. We are now
reaping the reward of unfettered military interventions which are justified either by
humanitarian intent or anti-terrorism. Confusion over Kosovo/a as something other
than `business as usual' for militarised states is perhaps one reason why the Left
has been so ineffective in fighting against the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan
and the US initiated `war on terror' that is now being used to justify all manner of
bloody offensives whether by Israel in Gaza and Lebanon, or by Russia on its borders.

International Connections

We continue to adjust to the expansion of the European bloc from the Baltic and East
and the negative effects of the rules governing monetary union that some EU member
states have entered into. Rules to keep public spending down have meant that States
have tried again and again to impose austerity measures but there has been continued
resistance, notably in France. We have attempted to get first hand accounts from
anarchists in those countries by means of interviews, by translating articles, and by
asking for those comrades to write articles for us. We have also become much closer
to our comrades in Eastern Europe, notably in Belarus and the Czech Republic.
Northern Ireland continues to simmer since deals were made to bring Sinn Fein into
government and we have continued to analyse the situation there, in conjunction with
our comrades in `Organise! Ireland'. Across the Atlantic, uprisings in Latin America
have suffered from lack of reporting from a libertarian perspective, with much of the
Left being unable to say anything that is not a simplistic support of leftist
governments against US imperialism. We have published reports by and about anarchist
groups and individuals in Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Mexico and Venezuela.
In recent issues we have also attempted to make up for a paucity of reporting from
Australia and Africa. Please expect more in the future.

Identity Crisis

We have experienced an increasingly authoritarian Labour government since its
election in 1997, which has brought in wave after wave of new repressive laws,
culminating with the ID Cards Act of March this year. Articles about identity schemes
in Organise! have concentrated on understanding Labour's motivations and the
strategies to oppose it. We maintain that ID databases are to do with economic
control of the working class and that scare stories about crime and terrorism are
merely bogus justifications, worse still it has encouraged anti-immigrant attitudes.
Ex-Home Secretary David Blunkett's idea of an `entitlement card' is just that - a way
for the state to manage how taxes and welfare monies are spent. It is all the more
scary that this power is going to be enabled by a raft of private companies who will
run information databases and set-up biometric `interrogation centres' on the
government's behalf. We are also at pains to help remember that the Tories tried to
introduce ID in the mid-1990s, and to realise that the ID Cards Act is just one part
of State legislation that goes back at least to the Criminal Justice Act that
anarchists were fighting before, and is not just the initiative of a particular
party. In Britain, the AF has been supportive of resurrecting Defy-ID, a network of
local groups that was begun several years ago but has suffered from a loss of
enthusiasm; perhaps inevitable given the time taken for the legislation to go
through. Further to this, the European paranoia about border control will greatly
influence the introduction rate of biometric passports and identity schemes, and some
kind of international coordination is badly needed.

Green Anarchy?

Recognition of the threat of environmental catastrophe from industrial growth and its
unsustainable fuels and infrastructures has become more widespread amongst liberals.
The anarchist movement responded much earlier and has been involved in many
environmental actions as well as in more generalised anti-capitalist initiatives from
J18 to the Scotland G8 which have been reported on and analysed in depth within the
pages of Organise! over the last decade. In the aftermath of the dissolving of Class
War Federation in 1997 much soul-searching went on and a conference in Bradford in
1998 was initiated by some of the ex-CWF comrades who were inviting others to look at
the way forward for anarchism in Britain (see Organise! 47 and 49). Members of the
Anarchist Communist Federation - as we were then known (see Organise! 52 for an
explanation of the name change) - agreed to take part in organising the conference
which succeeded in attracting 250 people. By far the biggest surprise of the event
was the engagement of environmental activists, including people involved with Earth
First!, who were calling themselves anarchists for the first time. A true meeting of
anti-capitalist minds was perhaps helped by the ACF having published Organise!
articles taking a positive stance towards environmental activism such as land
occupations and road protests. We analysed green issues from an anarchist communist
perspective that have since been collected in our pamphlet `Ecology and Class: where
there's brass, there's muck'. On the other hand we were critical of the potential for
elitism in direct action groups if they are not connected to a wider class struggle,
and of deep ecology or primitivist perspectives - whilst recognising that the
destructive economic growth inherent in capitalism is partly fuelled by demands for
technologies, and that these technologies are not neutral with respect to the power
relationships we are forced to accept under the present system.

Myths, Legends & Portraits

After we continued our `Aspects of Anarchism' series to its conclusion (now an AF
pamphlet) we introduced two new ones. Starting at issue 46 the `Myths and Legends'
short series took the hatchet to popular icons such as Che Guevara, Gandhi, Haile
Selassie and Evita. Following this we set things straight by recounting the lives of
lesser known anarchists and libertarian socialists in the ongoing series
`Revolutionary Portraits', which are complemented by the importance given in
Organise! to obituaries of comrades who have left us more recently. Articles from
these series and obituaries have since been reproduced as part of the Libcom.org
online library. In addition to the regular series we have also published several
serial articles, notably `In the Tradition' which charted the political influences of
the Anarchist Federation over five issues, and `The Union makes us Strong?' - an
in-depth look at anarcho-syndicalism and its approach to workplace struggle, in three
parts. All this is in addition to our continued coverage in Organise! of anarchist
history and culture in the form of feature articles and reviews of new books and
pamphlets, and support of anarchist prisoners through regular articles, printing of
their letters and by sending out free copies.

The Future

The future of anarchist printed magazines in Britain is uncertain. Not for the first
time have we heard that an issue of Black Flag might be the last, or that there are
too many magazines saying similar things, whilst internet media seems to be more and
more attractive not least in terms of cost, and the number of radical bookshops have
been decimated. True enough, more people will read Organise! articles on our website
or through one of the online newswires like A-infos, but the AF believes there is
still a need for a printed magazine such as Organise! The growth of the social
centres phenomenon means there are once again places you can go and find anarchist
literature in printed form. Prison copies are read and passed around. If you can help
with cash Organise! is always in need of contributions to its press fund. No amount
is too small. But more importantly, keep reading Organise! and when you have, write
us letter and tell us what you think. Thanks for your support!
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