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(en) Britain, Class War, British anarchism and the Miners' Strike Capital & Class, Autumn 2005 by Benjamin Franks - II. (2/2)

Date Wed, 25 Jan 2006 10:14:28 +0200

Since the miners' strike, liberal anarchism has declined, while class
struggle anarchism with a commitment to anticapitalism has,
concomitantly, risen. This can be seen not only in the provocative
targets of the anarchist sections of the alternative globalisation
movements, but also in the extent to which Freedom has altered
both in terms of its editorial board and its content. The newspaper is
now more consistent with class struggle (or social)
anarchism-despite the continued involvement of Rooum and his
Wildcat cartoon.28 The reengagement of anarchism with industrial
struggles has had a marked influence on the interests and forms of
political activity of British anarchist groups. Libertarians gained
greater confidence to search out routes of solidarity. The eventual
defeat of the miners also put in place a reconsideration of agency and
organisation within libertarian movements, which has had a
noticeable impact on the tactics and structures employed and
endorsed by consistent libertarians. Although liberal anarchism has
largely declined, this is partly due to the recognition by those
formerly categorised as such that contesting capitalist social relations
is a dominant factor in their forms of resistance. Similarly, class
struggle libertarians have become aware of the class nature of many
of the forms of action formerly dismissed as 'liberal'.


1. The British Library (Kings Cross), the British Newspaper Library
(Colindale), and the National Library of Scotland (Edinburgh).

2. I would like to acknowledge and thank Trevor Bark, Ian Bone,
Lesley Stevenson, Mark Ward and Rowan Wilson for their
assistance in the writing of this paper, either in providing data, in
correcting some of my grammatical solecisms, or in indicating areas
for greater structural cohesion.

3. For an ethical critique of this form of liberal contractmaking, see
G. A. Cohen (2002).

4. See, for instance,Tucker's arguments on the beneficence of free
markets in 'Capital profits and interest'. For a wider discussion, see
Brooks (1996: 76, 79-82).

5. Brooks describes Tucker's newspaper Liberty as 'probably the
most significant individualist anarchist journal in the world' (Brooks,
1996: 75).

6. Bookchin, for instance, identifies direct democratic
decision-making with social anarchism, while he equates consensus
and/or the rejection of organisational structures with egoism
(Bookchin, 1995: 17, 60). However, many tactics consistent with
social anarchism do not utilise such formalised organisation. Bob
Black (1997) has written a lengthy, and occasionally contradictory,
polemical study that draws out some of the inconsistencies in
Bookchin's approach. see also Brown (2004).

7. See the International Workers Association, online at

8. For the sake of convenience, I will be including autonomous
Marxism and libertarian communism under the title 'anarchist'. See,
too, Cleaver (1994). In an act of self-promotion-and for a fuller
discussion of the main characteristics of class struggle anarchism,
see Franks (2005).

9. The centrality of Marxist analysis to anarchism has also been
recognised by others including Sean Sheehan (2003: 57-72) and
Stuart Christie and Albert Meltzer (1984).

10. For examples of the importance of prefiguration, the means
reflecting the ends, see the quote by Guillaume in Kenafick (1984:
7); Avrich (1987: 7-8, 29); and Organise! (1992) no. 26, April-June,
p. 20.

11. Some, like Black Flag, cast doubts on Freedom's claim, pointing
to the hiatus in production of more than a decade, from 1933-44,
and the change in editorial policy away from anarchist communism
(Black Flag supplement no. 3, [undated 1986R] p. 2).

12. Note, too, that Freedom's definition of anarchism (January 1983:
1) makes no explicit reference to opposition to capitalism or
advocacy of class struggle. This is in contrast to anarcho-syndicalists
such as Christie and Meltzer (1984: 21) and DAM (19843: 9).

13. 'The Miners' Strike Twenty Years On: Challenges and Changes'
conference, Northumbria University, 11-13 July 2004.

14. The Miner, 7 February 1985, p. 4.

15. 'Pit War', The Sun, 13 March 1984, p. 1.

16. See, for instance, the profile of Paul Shane, who played Ted
Bovis in a popular TV 'comedy' Hi-de-Hi!, who was quoted as
saying he wanted a strike ballot, The Sun, 1 April 1984, p. 8.

17. Accusations of insufficient support for the miners appear to be
employed as a way of dismissing opponents, since the same author
accuses Class War (a rival class-struggle grouping) of the same
thing. The group's publication, Class War, although lax at the start
of the strike, perhaps due to a long run-in time before publication,
later dedicated around half of each issue to the miners' struggle, so
this allegation against them seems illjudged.

18. No relation to the British libertarian Marxists who also use this

19. See Class War, 'Victory to the Hit Squads' edition, undated, p. 4:

Have you ever noticed how in Leftie papers they only ever print
pictures of miners being beaten up by the police. They never use
pictures which would cheer us up of the police being given a good
kicking ... They always portray us as passive victims of police
violence ... Just occasionally they will say that people fought back
against the coppers-but this is only when they've been attacked first
and had to use self-defence.

By contrast, the editors of Freedom saw little to celebrate in the
actions of the miners. They rejected a query asking for images of
successful resistance: 'Images of us winning? Do you want us to
bury our heads in the sand?' The editors, Letters Page (1985)
Freedom, vol. 45, no. 5, p. 3, May.

20. The Miners' Strike (2004) BBC2 television programme, 27

21. For instance, the Anarchist Communist Federation, and
especially the British group Wildcat: see Wildcat, 1992.

22. See, for instance, The Miner, October 1983, p. 7; see, too, the
NUM (1984) 'fact sheet'. In the last two decades, the NUM had
given and received support from other unions during industrial
disputes (Taylor, 1984: 273, 282, 310).

23. For a wider discussion of this from an autonomist Marxist
perspective, see Bowring, 2004; Cleaver, 1979; Hardt & Negri, 2001;
Witheford, 1994.

24. The Wintertons suggest that the number of
independently-produced strike bulletins was surprisingly small, and
this might have had an adverse effect on maintaining solidarity
(Winterton & Winterton, 1989: 142).

25. See, for instance, Coulter, Miller & Walker (1984) for a detailed
account of state oppression, and Sutcliffe & Hill (1985) for
information on the assault on the economic welfare of miners and
their families.

26. The Miner, special issue (1984) 16 April, p. 2.

27. See, for instance, the RTS report on the link-up with the
Underground workers and the Liverpool dock strike, online at ,
accessed 2 July 2004.

28. A discussion about Freedom, which included some of its current
editors, on the Urbany5 online bulletin board, largely confirms this
turn; see 'The future of Freedom, fortnightly anarchist newspaper' at
, accessed July 4, 2004.


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Benjamin Franks is a lecturer in Social & Political Philosophy at the
University of Glasgow's Crichton campus in Dumfries. His book
Rebel Alliances: The Means and Ends of British Anarchisms is due
to be published by AK Press and Dark Star at the end of this year.
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