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(en) Britain, Class War, British anarchism and the Miners' Strike Capital & Class, Autumn 2005 by Benjamin Franks - I. (1/2)

Date Wed, 25 Jan 2006 10:13:07 +0200

That much disputed of terms, 'ideology', is defined in terms of the
analyses of power, programmes for change and identification of
agents capable of transforming social relations, as Marc Stears
suggests (Stears, 1998: 293), and these correspond to distinctive
institutions and organisational practices, then it is essential to talk of
'anarchisms' rather than 'anarchism'. As this paper demonstrates,
although there are a number of shared characteristics between
individualist (or lifestyle) anarchism on the one side and social (class
struggle) anarchism on the other, the differences between them
become pronounced in response to critical events, such as the
miners' strike 1984-5. While anarchisms that prioritised liberation
from class domination were the dominant forms of libertarianism in
Britain at the end of the nineteenth and the start of the twentieth
century, by the early 198s5, versions of anarchism based on liberal
concepts of agency had come to the fore in Anglo-American circles.

This paper demonstrates how social anarchism developed practices
that enabled it to regain prominence in the wider libertarian milieu,
partly as a result of the use of its methods in support of the miners'
strike. Latterly, however, this division between liberal and class
struggle anarchism has weakened, as those formerly categorised as
lifestyle anarchists have begun to contest capitalist social relations,
while class struggle libertarians have become aware of the class
nature of many of the forms of action formerly dismissed as 'liberal'.
This paper is based on contemporary textual accounts of the conflict
in the coalfields; and, as such, it tends to concentrate on the national
organisations and journals, whose archives are publicly available.1
One result of this is that certain texts are undated, and thus an
estimated publication date has been used (indicated by an italicised
'e'). I would also like to thank my friends, colleagues and comrades,
who have assisted with anecdotes from this period and helped to
inform the direction of the argument.

Divisions in anarchisms

A distinctive set of groups, ideas and practices identifies class
struggle (or social) anarchisms. They share a professed commitment
to four criteria: a complete rejection of capitalism and the market
economy, which demarcates anarchism from reformist politics; an
egalitarian concern for the interests and freedoms of others as part of
the creation of non-hierarchical social relations; and a rejection of
State power and other quasi-State mediating forces. The final
criterion is that the means of social transformation must prefigure
the desired ends. These four criteria, especially the last, are relevant
to the designation of the agent of change to which a consistent
anarchism should appeal (Quail, 1978: x; Franks, 2003: 18-20).
These four principles recognise that capitalism is a hierarchical
power structure, and also that the oppressed themselves, rather than
a mediating agency, have primacy in overthrowing their oppression.
Thus they conform to the formula proposed for the First
International by Marx, and reaffirmed by libertarian socialists like
Socialisme ou Barbarie and the Situationist International, that 'the
emancipation of the proletariat will be the work of the proletariat
itself (Marx, 1992: 82; Socialisme ou Barbarie, 2004; Gray, 1974:

Individualist anarchism, by contrast, appeals to the rational,
self-interested and abstract subject derived from liberalism. For
individualists, it is the abstract, rational subject, as identified in
Kantian liberal political philosophy, that is the ultimate source of
authority. Individualism, as a result, fails to take into account the
hierarchical power relations embodied in contracts made between
those with existing power (say, ownership of capital) and those who
require paid employment in order to survive.3 As Frank H. Brooks
notes of American individualist anarchism, this egoism leads to the
elitist implication that concentration on the individual's own
self-emancipation leaves the unenlightened to remain exploited
(Brooks, 1996: 85), and thus there is little that differentiates this
form of anarchism from minimal state capitalism.4

Murray Bookchin argued that there is an 'unbridgeable chasm'
between social or class struggle anarchists on the one hand and
individualists (or those who Bookchin referred to as 'lifestyle'
anarchists) on the other. His schema creates two separate anarchist
camps. In the first are the individualists who, as in Brooks's account,
privilege personal liberation such as 'psychotherapeutic, New Age,
self-orientated lifestyles' (Bookchin, 1995: 10). Bookchin, more
problematically, also associates 'post-modernism' with lifestyle,
individualist anarchism (ibid: 19). On the other side, in Bookchin's
model, are the social anarchists who emphasise organised
Opposition to the existing social order' and the struggle against
capitalist class relations, often related to formal workplace
organisation (ibid: 6, 59).

Among the most famous adherents to the individualism that
Bookchin criticises are Max Stirner (1993) and Benjamin Tucker,5
and more recently, RobertWolff (1976) and L. Susan Brown (2003).
It should be noted that Brown, who is one of the main targets of
Bookchin's polemic, claims a distinction for her 'existential
individualism', which she considers to be compatible with anarchist
communism (Brown, 2003: 11-12, 125-8). But Brown's essentialism
is not only epistemologically suspect: it also raises the criticism,
derived from Rosi Braidotti, that such claims to neutral,
decontextualised equalities ignore, and therefore acquiesce to,
gender, race and class oppressions (Braidotti, 1993: 49-52.).

There is much to criticise in Bookchin's account of this division,6
and the latter part of this paper will explore some of the ways in
which groupings that Bookchin associates with lifestyle anarchism
are often consistent with a coherent anarchism that foregrounds
economic oppression. New social movements, like the
environmental, anti-nuclear and women's movements, often
eschewed identifying themselves with the discourse of the Left
because it attempted to reduce their struggles to epiphenomena of
the battle between employer and employee. However, the works of
Harry Cleaver (1979), Maria Dalla Costa (1975), Michael Hardt and
Toni Negri (2001) and John Holloway (2002) have attempted to
reinsert the concerns raised by these movements into a more
heterodox class analysis. Bookchin's division provides a useful
heuristic device as a guide to the debates and separations within
anarchism, as it rightly recognises the importance of the identity of
the agent who brings change (Bookchin, 1995: 12-19).

Anarchist histories

From Michael Bakunin's involvement in the First International in
the late-1860s, through Rudolf Rocker's efforts to organise
immigrant workers in East London into revolutionary unions at the
turn of the twentieth century, to the revolutionary anti-State
syndicalists of the current era,7 anarchism8 has been a part of
workers' movements. As such, anarchism has developed critiques of
capitalism that support class analyses.9 Rocker's book
Anarcho-syndicalism, for instance, demonstrates a commitment to
the primacy of the industrial worker, the product of the new
technology of capitalism, as the agent capable of bringing about
libertarian social change (Rocker, 19916: 54).

Rocker's vision is of the subjugated themselves negating the forces
of domination, and thus being the primary agents in the act of
liberation. This is one of the key elements of anarchism. In Marxist
terms, the class becomes for itself through conscious efforts to
subvert and overcome the dictates of capital (Cleaver, 1979; Class
War, 198423: 2). In this respect, Rocker quotes his predecessor
Bakunin, who identifies the overthrow of capitalism by the oppressed
classes as fundamental to anarchism (Rocker, 19916: 45).
Nonsyndicalists like Errico Malatesta and Peter Kropotkin, who had
been misrepresented as a pacific, saint-like idealist opposed to
class-based revolutionary change (Woodcock, 1975: 171-2), were
advocates of workplace organisation and supported the struggle of
living labour over capital (Malatesta, 1984: 113-6; Kropotkin, 19976
[1908]: 26-7).

Even in the nineteenth century, there was a significant division
between class struggle (social) anarchisms and the alternative,
individualist version of libertarianism. In the UK context, this latter
branch of anarchism was associated with Henry Seymour, a
'disciple' of Tucker (Woodcock, 1975: 419). Seymour, who has the
disputed claim to have edited the first anarchist newspaper in
Britain, The Anarchist (1885), briefly collaborated with Kropotkin,
but such was the difference between individualism and mainstream
socialist versions that the partnership lasted for just one issue.
Kropotkin departed to set up his own anti-capitalist anarchist

Kropotkin's Freedom supported Rocker's group, and by 1907 was
producing its own syndicalist journal, The Voice of Labour, edited
by the shop steward John Turner, a former colleague of William
Morris (Solidarity Federation, 2001: 17; Baird & Baird et al., 1994:
20). At the same time, there was a considerable increase in agitation
in British industry that took a syndicalist direction.

This intensified militancy did not originate from
anarchist-syndicalists, but did confirm the relevance of such tactics
(Dangerfield, 1997: 191; White, 1990: 104-5). The extent of
syndicalist thinking in the more mainstream workers' movement
was demonstrated by the document produced by members of the
unofficial rank-and-file committee of the Miners' Federation of
Britain (a forerunner of the National Union of Mineworkers). This
plan, The Miners' Next Step, was a lucid proposal of federal
organisation in order to wage effective class warfare (United Reform
Committee, 19942 [1912]: 19). Even after the rise of Leninism in the
Welsh coalfields, Albert Meltzer, a later class struggle anarchist,
noted with pleasure that a small pocket of syndicalism continued
there for decades (Meltzer, 1996: 309-10).

However, after the Bolshevik revolution, state communism began to
dominate the non-social democratic wings of the labour movement
at the expense of more heterodox forms of socialism. The apparent
vindication of Lenin's centralised and 'disciplined' methods in the
October Revolution (Lenin, 1975: 6), along with the use of Russia's
financial reserves to provide a competitive advantage to
revolutionaries who conformed to Lenin's strategy (Kendall, 1969:
249), marginalised alternative radical movements (Quail, 1978: 287).
As Leninism and Stalinism dominated, the discourse of Marxism
came to be associated with the increasingly odious rationalisations
for totalitarian governance. Consequently, Glyn Rhys, an anarchist
writing in the 1980s, commented, 'The more talk of class struggle
the more Stalinist' (Rhys, 1988e: 26).

This is not to say that anarchism rejected the discourse and analysis
of class; but there was recognition that, by the 1970s and '80s, this
form of discussion was tainted with authoritarian connotations,
which restricted its adoption and reception. However, there were
anarchists, like Rhys, who regarded the struggle of the economically
subjugated against their oppressors as being either the sole
determinant, or at least a fundamental feature of, almost all forms of
domination. Despite the hegemony of Leninism over the use of
Marxist terminology, there had been a consistent, recognisable
section of British anarchists that retained an insistence on identifying
with the economically oppressed class. From the Second World War
up until the 19808, these tended to be, but were not exclusively,
from syndicalist or quasi-syndicalist Sections of anarchism, which,
as a result, placed priority on radical action at the point of

This consistent syndicalist strand can be traced through the
revolutionary industrial unionist section of the Anarchist Federation
of Britain, which created the Syndicalist Workers' Federation in
1948. This became the Direct Action Movement (DAM) in 1979,
and is now known as the Solidarity Federation (SolFed). There were
(and are) other class struggle groups whose orientation was not
confined to the syndicalist strategy of developing structures for
waging industrial warfare at the point of production. Among the
longest-running of these were Black Flag (1960-), Solidarity
(1960-1992), Class War (1983-) and the Anarchist Communist
Federation, now simply known as the Anarchist Federation (1986-).

Nonetheless, by the mid-1960s, class struggle anarchists were
deploring the increasingly liberal dominance of the anarchist
movement. According to the working class militant Stuart Christie,
the rise of the counterculture, with its pacifist leanings, meant that
anarchism was 'side-tracked by the new left, anti-bomb,
militant-liberal-conscience element away from being a revolutionary
working class movement' (Christie, 1980: 31). By the time of the
miners' strike in 1984, anarchism had minimal influence on-and
in-working-class structures of resistance. The experience of the
miners' strike, however, played an influential role in resurrecting
class struggle anarchism in Britain. The main anarchist groups, as a
result, developed a more robust and coherent conception of the
agency for libertarian social change, and helped to create social
structures more consistent with the anti-hierarchical principles of

Despite the differences between social and individualist anarchists,
by the late-1970s and early 1980s, the iconography and targets of the
two traditions were the same: both rejected the State; both used the
language of 'resistance', self-activity and the symbols of revolt.
Hence there appeared to be room for consolidation and cooperation.
The coalescence could be viewed in one of the main anarchist
newspapers of the time, Freedom, the product of the Freedom
Editorial Collective. Freedom lays claim to being the linear successor
to Kropotkin's paper of the same name; and indeed, a year after the
miners' strike, it produced an edition celebrating the 'first century'
(Freedom centenary edition, 1986, vol. 47, no. 9:3).11 It pursued a
line, along with its regular contributor Donald Rooum, similar to that
espoused by Brown: that individualism and social anarchism were
'not in disagreement' (Rooum, 2001: 14).12 Freedom, as a result,
included articles from both individualist and class struggle trends,
although it continued to be associated with the former and viewed
with some suspicion by many from the latter (Meltzer, 1996: 311;
Class War, 198523: 4). However, with the miners' strike, the
division between the two groups concerning the nature of the agent
of change became increasingly prominent.

Locating anarchisms in the miners' strike

Although the miners' strike had a marked influence on libertarian
movements, anarchist involvement had little overall impact on the
direction of the dispute. The poster for a recent conference on the
miners' strike13 well illustrates that alongside the miners, their
partners and families, the dominant political players were
unconnected with anarchism: namely, the trade union leadership, as
represented by Arthur Scargill; the left wing of parliamentary social
democracy, as represented by Dennis Skinner MP; and the Leninist
tradition, as characterised by the Socialist Workers Party (SWP)
banners. Many of the most important texts on the miners' strike,
such as Alex Callinicos and Mike Simmons's The Great Strike,
Raphael Samuel, Barbara Bloomfield and Guy Boanas's collection
The Enemy Within, Jonathan and Ruth Winterton's Coal, Crisis and
Conflict, and Martin Adeney and John Lloyd's Miners' Strike, make
no mention of anything that could be labelled 'anarchist
involvement'. While Leninist political movements are
acknowledged-albeit not always flatteringly-such as the
Revolutionary Communist Group and the aforementioned SWP
(Patton, 1986: 218; Winterton & Winterton, 1989: 83), anarchism,
by contrast, almost entirely escapes comment but for one notable
exception. In an odd paragraph in his autobiography, the chairman
of the National Coal Board (NCB), Ian MacGregor, reports that:

Right across the central coalfield the pickets' numbers were swelled
by hundreds who had caused further trouble. A sinister mob of
almost-uniformed anarchists-led by a woman-appeared at one stage
and caused a great deal of damage in Yorkshire.

But at the core of most of the trouble was a hardened group of
miners who had obviously been trained well in advance in the
techniques required to force dissenters into line. We had reports of
these cadres, mainly young miners based in the Doncaster area,
being created and trained-but we did not realize how effective they
could be until the battle for Nottingham was in earnest. (MacGregor,
1986: 199)

There are two features of this quotation that are pertinent here. The
first is that MacGregor is associating the picketline direct action with
the arrival of a shadowy group of anarchists; and second, that this is
in turn concurrently placed next to the autonomous actions of
miners, referred to as the 'hit squads'.

These tactics, of which MacGregor disapproved, involved the use of
force aimed specifically at those whose actions imposed the power of
capital and the State. Tactics of resistance were supported by, and
consistent with, class struggle anarchism, but were largely rejected
by the individualist tradition, as they would involve coercion against
other, albeit more powerful, 'individuals'.

While overt formal anarchist influence on the strike was minor, an
alternative way of envisioning 'anarchism' is not through its
self-identifying institutions, but by its principles and form of tactics.
Here, as Meltzer notes, there are clear parallels between the
supportive structures built by the strikers, their families and their
supporters, and the methods extolled by class struggle anarchists.

Yet, as he explains, although the strikers and support groups were
organised on principles consistent with anarchosyndicalism, this was
not the result of a collective memory of past, syndicalist-structured
struggles in the coalfields, nor was it due to the 'amount of help we
could give' (Meltzer, 1996:310).

The coalfields' women's groups exemplify some of the principles of
class struggle anarchism, in which oppressed subjects create
anti-hierarchical social practices. These allowed greater
opportunities for women to develop new skills (Bloomfield, 1986:

As the women involved explain, they began to take the lead in their
communities where, previously, they had played a more subservient
role (Q. Currie in Brogden, 1986: 188), creating, as the journalist
Jean Stead reported, not just support services such as soup kitchens,
but also forming the picket lines and representing the strikers and
their wider aims to outside audiences (Stead, 1987: 59, 62; Samuel,
1986: 29).

The links developed between support groups often went beyond the
formally isolated villages and provided new forms of contact and
communication (Knight, 1986: 125; Hume, 1986: 133). As the
NUM paper The Miner noted late on in the strike, 'a major feature of
the strike is the constant link-up of causes as people identify with
each other's struggles'.14

New links were formed, such as those between oppressed minorities
(both in terms of ethnicity, citizenship and sexual orientation) and
the striking miners. The women's groups' actions also illustrated
that the traditional view of the revolutionary agent-as the fixed,
objectively identifiable (white, male) working class at the point of
production-was too restrictive.

The miners' strike of 1984-5 not only highlighted some of the
developments that would enliven British anarchism in the
subsequent two decades, but also illustrated the divisions in British
anarchism at the time.

The primary split was on the different conceptions of the agent for
change. On the one hand were the largely individualist groupings
around Green Anarchist, Peace News and Freedom that were largely
apathetic or antipathetic to the struggles in mining areas; and on the
other were the class struggle groups, in particular Black Flag, Direct
Action and the then only recently set up Class War, which were
largely supportive, although in often different ways.

Individualist anarchism in the miners' strike

For individualist anarchists, the decontextualised rational egoist's
autonomous choices take priority, and thus individual contractual
relationships are the guarantor of sovereignty (Wolff, 1976: 12-14,
72). As a result, individualists had an ambivalent response to the
miners' struggles. Unsurprisingly, Peace News covered, in depth,
the anti-nuclear campaigns, Stop the City (when groups would meet
up to harass totems of commercial power through direct action),
anti-apartheid protests, and the oppression of Papuans by
Indonesian troops. It did not, however, have its first article on the
strike itself until the end of May 1984, at least five issues after the
start of the strike (Curtis, 1984: 10-11). Even an essay on Margaret
Thatcher by David Ratovisky in the previous issue failed to mention
the miners (Ratovisky, 1984:12). By July and August, however,
articles started to appear covering fundraising for women's
strike-support groups, and generally promoting financial assistance
for the miners' struggles (Peace News, 1984: 18; G. Crass, 1984: 13;
Platt, 1984: 10-11). These items were brief, and were met with
hostility by some of the readership who, for instance, deplored the
miners' 'violence' and the pollution caused by mining (Lowe, 1984:
17; Haslam, 1984: 17). 'Violence' was often conceived of in liberal
terms, where the disciplining of a workforce through redundancy
and pay-cuts was considered uncoercive and 'non-violent', but
resisting such managerial authority was cast pejoratively as 'violent'.
Thus, pacifism and individualism often went hand-in-hand. Support
from Peace News was largely restricted to fundraising for the
charitable good cause of the suffering miners-a form of social action
little different from 'ethical consumption', adding credence to
Samuel's hypothesis that the miners were viewed as victims in need
of sympathy, rather than as models of resistance (Samuel, 1986: 35).

Green Anarchist had a similar degree of ambivalence to the miners.
In comparison with social anarchists and even the mainstream press,
it barely covered the miners' strike. This was at a time when The
Sun, not a newspaper noted for its news coverage, carried at least
two stories a day on the strike - and often on the front cover.15 Even
the show-business stories were given an anti-striker, pro-scab
spin.16 This is not to say that Green Anarchist completely ignored
the strike. By August 1984, it referred to the miners' strike as being
an example of 'growing pockets of resistance' (Green Anarchist,
19843: 2), and by the third issue in November 1984, its editorial also
backed the miners, in particular expressing sympathy for the strikers
who had died. There was, however, no mention of what substantive
form this support should take (1984b: 2). Here, as in Peace News,
the strikers were not inspiring figures but subjects requiring
paternalistic, charitable support. Direct action, while it was covered
in Green Anarchist in relation to other campaigns, was not
connected to the miners' struggle (1984c: 4; 19850: 5).

The exceptions in Green Anarchist were the explicitly
classconscious articles by Tarquin in issue 3, and by a member of
the Class War 'newspaper collective' in issue 4. Tarquin describes
the attacks on the unions as a method to further subjugate the
economically oppressed, and extols the readers to support the
miners and their families, whose struggle is a way of resisting NCB
and government control (Tarquin, 1984: 3).

The member of the Class War collective considered many of the
miners' methods to be inspirational and consistent with anarchism
(member of Class War, 1985: 6-7). These articles, however, were in
the minority in Green Anarchist. Even these 'social anarchist'
authors acknowledge Green Anarchist's 'doubts [about ...] Marxist
theories of class' (Tarquin, 1984: 3) and its 'pathetic' liberal
reformism (member of Class War, 1985: 6). These criticisms against
the periodical were supplemented by other social anarchists, who
claimed that Green Anarchist 'ignores class' and 'ignores the miners'
strike'; one letter-writer bitterly asked, 'Where are the Green
anarchists when it comes to giving support to workers on strike?'
(Campbell, 1984: 18).17

Few articles by individualists voiced any support for the miners, and
the individualist economic analysis of Richard Hunt, one of Green
Anarchist's editors, indicates one of the reasons why. It advocates
the Thatcherite policy of 'cutting taxes', on the grounds that it
'redistributes wealth from the rich to the poor' and allows small
business to prosper (Hunt, 1984: 8). Hunt's version of anarchism is
aligned with economic liberalism. This places primacy on capital's
law of value over those values created by the oppressed themselves.
Two years later, another Green Anarchist editor, Alan Albon,
cemented this maintenance of managerial propriety by opposing
support for strikers at the print-works at Wapping, on the grounds
that the newspapers they printed were 'racist' (Albon, 1996 [1986]:
73), thus leaving Rupert Murdoch, who had ordered and profited
from this racism, in an even stronger position.

A similar pattern was discernible in Freedom. While class struggle
anarchists writing for the paper promoted 'practical solidarity and
increased militancy in resistance to the state' (Denis the Menace,
1984: 3), the individualists (some of whom were on the paper's
Editorial Collective) were more hesitant, using their criticisms of
Arthur Scargill's politics, the bureaucratic structure of trade unions
and a newly-discovered belief in majoritarian democracy in order to
equivocate (Freedom Editorial Collective, 1984: 1; Brown, 1984: 3;
Stuart, 1984: 3). Colin Johnson, a member of the five-person
Editorial Collective (Stuart, 1984: 3), went so far as to argue that
anarchists should completely reject supporting the strikers or anyone
associated with Scargill. In addition, he proposed that increased
militancy would help the capitalist class, since it would 'do very
nicely from a good shake up in the stock market' (Johnson, 1984: 1).
In short, Johnson's individualism regards the strikers as impotent to
bring about change and no longer sovereign in their actions, since
they are under Scargill's leadership. This is in contrast with class
struggle anarchism, which places an emphasis on the revolutionary
class's/classes' power to alter social conditions.

A cartoon by Rooum, a regular contributor to Freedom, has his
comic-strip character, Wildcat,18 celebrating the fact that miners
will be losing their jobs, telling a caricatured Scargill, 'pits are
difficult, dangerous, unhealthy ...You don't really want to work in
such places' (Rooum, 1984: 8). This was a point shared by a Peace
News correspondent (Fettes, 1984: 20), and by Johnson: 'Anarchists
should question the validity of supporting a man [Scargill] whose
vision is limited to ensuring that the children and grandchildren of
his members are condemned to working down the mine' (Johnson,
1984: 1). Rooum and Johnson seem to suggest that miners were
unaware of the dangers and unpleasantness of their job - ignoring
the perhaps more obvious (and less patronising) reasons for the
collective action of the miners. As Geoff Ingarfield, a critic of
Freedom's editorial line, recognised, the strikers were resisting the
government's and employers' power to decide and control the rate of
exploitation, and to discipline the workforce (and local community)
through poverty and redundancy (Ingarfield, 1984: 5). Further, the
strike's failure did not mean that no one worked in 'unhealthy,
dangerous pits', but on the contrary, that coal production was
dispersed to such places as Eastern Europe or China, where there
are, as Slavoj Zizek notes 'no strikes, little safety, tied labour and
miserable wages' (Zizek, 2000: 40). The individualist,
decontextualised view of agency led to acquiescence to dominant
power relations.

Class struggle anarchisms and the miners' strike

Class struggle anarchists were-and remain-critical of union
hierarchy and ScargilPs ideological commitment to authoritarian
forms of government. However, they recognised, contra both the
individualists and Bookchin, that radical acts are not formally
democratic (Short, 1984: 5), and that strikers were directly engaged
in contesting hierarchical power, regardless of Scargill's personal
views or the bureaucratic nature of trade unions (Ingarfield, 1984: 5).
This was a view underlined by a Direct Action Movement (DAM)
member from Hull, who lambasted Freedom for living in an 'ivory
tower', and failing to 'affirm basic anarchist principles: solidarity,
class struggle and the battle against the state' (Hull DAM/IWA,
1984: 7).

By contrast, the social anarchists' publications were much more fully
committed to the strikers. During the conflict, more than half of the
pages of several issues of Direct Action, the newspaper of the
anarcho-syndicalist DAM, covered the strike (for instance, Direct
Action, no. 19, October 1984; Direct Action, no. 22, February 1985;
and Direct Action, no. 23, March 1985). While anarchists had
disagreements with Scargill's politics (Meltzer, 1996:310; DAM,
1984c: 4), they recognised that miners and their supporters were
largely in control of the strike, which was a conflict about reasserting
some power over their lives.

The strike was not the work of NUM Generals, but was built by rank
and file miners and has been sustained by ordinary miners and their
families up and down the country ... This isn't Arthur Scargill's war.
This is a fight by the miners and their families to protect their
livelihood and communities. (DAM, 1984b: 1)

DAM was involved in raising funds and providing resources for
miners' support groups (DAM, 19846, 2; Andrew, 1985: 7), joining
the picket lines and organising a congress and other events aimed at
encouraging wider industrial action in support of the miners (DAM,
1985: 1; Rochdale DAM, 1985: 4).

Class War, which is the eponymous newspaper of a non-syndicalist
class struggle anarchist grouping, was also uncompromising in its
active support for workers in struggle, even if it, too, had criticisms
of formal union structures and its leadership (Class War, 1984eb:
3-5). It promoted a range of activities, including the direct action
methods of the hit squads that targeted the police, the NCB and
scabs. These autonomously structured groups were beyond the
traditional control of the trade union (although their activities were
carried out by trade unionists) (Class War, 1984eb: 1, 3). A further
tactic advanced by Class War was 'open[ing] up a second front in the
cities to back the miners' (Class War, 1984ec: 3), stretching the sites
of resistance from coalfields to the general control of social and
community life, and thereby invoking a wider view of the agent for
(potential) change. For Class War, the strikers were not innocent
objects of pity, as Freedom and Green Anarchist portrayed them, but
active subjects of resistance who succeeded in wounding the agents
of the state.19 As such, the alliances, organisational forms and
innovative tactics used by the strikers and their wider communities
provided examples that anarchists considered to be inspirational and
consistent with their principles (Class War, 1984ec: 3).

Among the tiny section of those miners who self-identified as class
struggle anarchists was Dave Douglass, who was a member of DAM
at the time of the strike, and later become involved with Class War
(Class War, 1997). Douglass was also one of the Doncaster miners
who were involved in the hit squads so detested by MacGregor.20
Douglass has been critical of some revolutionary socialists, including
a number of class struggle libertarians,21 for mistaking the
leadership of a union for the way workers (especially strikers)
manipulate and use the organisation in order to meet their collective
needs (Douglass, 1991: 11), and for the defeatism implicit in their
accounts of what both unions and miners can achieve (Douglass,
1999: 81; Douglass, 1992: 2). Instead, Douglass stresses the links
between anarchism and workers' struggles, and promotes workplace
concerns to the wider anarchist milieu. At the time of the strike, he
was one of the main movers in organising 'the biggest industrial
gathering initiated by direct actionists since the industrial rank and
file movement of the early 19603', which met to 'improve the
effectiveness of the miners' strike' (Rochdale DAM, 1984: 4).

Its physical as well as financial support for the strikers resulted in
class struggle anarchism receiving a warm reception in coalfield
communities: this, in turn, gave anarchists an enormous lift in
confidence. In a slightly rose-tinted account, Class War reported:

The miners' strike started in 1984 and the paper and its followers
reacted swiftly ... and called for direct physical support for the
miners. ClassWar alone supported the direct action of the strikers.
Readership soared not least in mining areas ... miners queued 20 or
more for the paper at the big Mansfield demonstration in 1984. Class
War was now a paper with readers and supporters well beyond the
wildest expectations of its first producers. (Class War, 1991: 3-4)

Although Class War was one of few groups to unhesitatingly support
direct action by the miners, and even with readership 'soaring' in a
few mining areas, it was still barely noticeable. Nonetheless, the
strike increased Class War's self-belief, as its members believed that
it confirmed the pertinence of a number of key features of anarchism
that differentiated it from individualism and orthodox Marxism.

For individualists, the strike and its eventual failure spelt the end of
social anarchism (Stuart, 1985: 6-7), and further retreat from
agitational politics. For instance, the direct action assaults in
Bedford, November 1984 (PNR, 1985: 5; PNK, 19856: 7) and
Edinburgh, December 1984 (Class War, 1985eb: 7), which had
involved targeting institutions relevant to the miners' struggle, were
criticised by John L. Broom in Freedom. He wrote, 'The idiots who
went on the rampage in Edinburgh on December 20th ... probably
did more damage to the cause of anarchism in that one day than all
its enemies managed to accomplish in a year' (Broom, 1985: 3).
Freedom's editors agreed-'we are beginning to feel you are right'-and
as a result, Freedom began to disassociate itself from such disruptive
activities, and thus its prominence within the anarchist movement
declined, to the advantage of the more consistent class struggle
groupings. The Edinburgh protest, in contrast with Freedom's
assessment of it, was criticised by Class War not for aggression, but
for being too pacific: 'a pantomime' with 'the dismal spectacle of a
"die in"'. Class War, instead, sought more aggressive tactics in the
style of the miners at Orgreave (Class War, 1985eb: 7).

The additional confidence given to class struggle anarchism was a
result of the new types of alliance and forms of struggle that were
consistent with libertarianism, but usually rejected by Leninism.
Leninism, as Todd May explains, takes a largely strategic and
positivist approach to understanding the class struggle, in which the
correct political leadership could objectively identify the
revolutionary agents and therefore the appropriate places to seek
alliances (May, 1994: 20-1).

Hence, the Leninist tradition regards the formal trade unions and
organised labour as constituting the prime site for solidarity. Thus
Scargill's initial strategy was to seek support primarily from within
the Trades Union Congress.22 This was a stratagem that Callinicos
and Simons still affirmed in their analysis of the strike (Callinicos &
Simons, 1986: 253).

By contrast, consistent anarchisms recognise that repressive
practices exist far more widely than in the workplace, and thus that
the potential agent for liberation is not confined solely to the point of
production, but is more fluid, including partners, families and the
wider communities.23 These diverse and fluid revolutionary subjects
change in reaction to capital's efforts to neutralise opposition and
assert its control, consistent with the view of agency implicit in the
anti-hierarchical principles of class struggle anarchism and
heterodox Marxism.


Those who were active in the strike found new areas for
self-expression, including editing strike bulletins, developing
strategies, engaging in public speaking or performing at various
benefits or social clubs (Samuel, 1986: 29).24 Strikers who did not
formally participate found new outlets for their energies, such as
gardening and fishing: as Samuel notes, 'the pleasure principle did
not disappear even in the harshest of winter' (ibid: 12). The strike,
despite its numerous extreme hardships,25 provided a glimpse of
wider anti-hierarchical and liberatory social moments (ibid: 32-3). It
is here that some correspondence between some forms of lifestyle
and social anarchism can be found.

The creation of values and forms of practice that reject the standards
of capitalism and other forms of control can create a recognisable
lifestyle which is clearly antagonistic to dominant power structures.
As Douglass explains, for many of the strikers, their experiences of
resistance in the struggle against management, and the enjoyment of
life away from the dictates of work, made it difficult, and in some
cases impossible, for them to return to the pit. Partly in jest,
Douglass talks of them taking on the 'alternative lifestyle' of the
new-age travellers (Douglass, 1999: 55)-a form of nomadism that
would be rejected by Bookchin as individualist.

Nonetheless, their resistance to the capitalist imperative to perform
paid employment, and their example of alternative forms of living
distinct from those of the dominant ideology, made the new-age
travellers targets for severe oppression (Douglass, 1992: 11).The
savage police attack on the 'hippie convoy' in 1985, which
culminated in the 'Battle of the Beanfield', drew analogies with the
previous assaults on striking miners (Green Anarchist, 1985: 1).

Transport became an increasingly resonant arena for struggle in the
19805 and 19905.The control and function of roads in the capitalist
economy became a site of conflict. Government saw the roads as
being primarily a means to transport commodities, especially coal to
the power stations, thereby bypassing the unionised rail network.

The State's ability to control the movement of dissent along the
same highways was one of the key characteristics of the strike. A
special issue of The Miner highlighted the liberty of protestors to
travel as one of the fundamental rights that the 'Freedom March to
Nottingham' was to secure.26

The growth of the anti-road struggles continued to contest this
prioritisation of commodity transportation over public space. As the
critical Marxist magazine Auftieben explains, rather than being
tangential to class conflict, the anti-road campaigners of the 19905
were another facet of class struggle. Anti-road protestors, through
their 'creation of autonomy, disobedience and resistance', were
interfering with the dictates of capital and the State (Aufheben, 1998:
107). Such actions shifted the location and identity of the class
conflict from the immediate point of production and the industrial
proletariat to other locations and other subject identities.

Further, the categories of anarchist that Bookchin decried for
'lifestylism' began to recognise the importance of the struggle
against capital. The neo-situationists and those influenced by
post-modernism and critiques of technology (Bookchin, 1995: 19),
who appeared in groups such as Reclaim the Streets (RTS) and the
British sections of the radical ecology movement Earth First! (EFI),
were prominent in developing links with workers in struggle. 27

These activists, as Seumas Milne notes, could identify with the
miners' resistance from a decade (and more) earlier (Milne, 2004:
21). They did so without trying to position one form of struggle as
having greater importance than another, or as being more central to
a strategy of liberation. This autonomous form of network-building
was adopted in relation to the striking Liverpool dockers and London
Underground employees, who rather than leave it to the TUC
bureaucracy, built up alliances with RTS and EF! as well as with
autonomist and libertarian Marxists.

In these movements, anarchists were no longer peripheral as they
had been at the height of the Leninist ascendancy; rather, they were
now a distinctive part of anti-capitalist networks. One example was
the March for Social Justice in April 1997, in which 20,000 people
participated, which was based on groupings autonomously creating
networks of support, with no group or form of oppression taking
priority (Do or Die, 2003: 23).

This form of organisation has been more largely evidenced in the
large-scale alternative globalisation protests in which anarchist
groups have been prominent. These alliances include groups that,
prior to the miners' strike, would have been associated with
pacific-liberal lifestyle politics, such as environmentalism,
anti-nuclear and countercultural civil rights.

However, the provocative events in the City of London on 18 June
1999 (known as JiS) and in the Mayday protests in London 2000-3,
have seen members of such groups assault the structures of
corporate finance as well as the State, challenging the dictates of the
law of value in ways that were anathema to Freedom by the end of
miners' strike.
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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