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(en) Britain, Solidarity [anarcho-syndicalist] Federation, Direct Action - DA-SF-IWA #37 · Autumn/Winter 2006-'07 II. (2/2)

Date Wed, 22 Nov 2006 09:50:15 +0200

becoming human
Anarchism, however, puts forward a very different view of human development, one
that sees humans as a product of society, without which they could not exist.
Anarchists contend that humans only emerged from a state of brutality through
collective organisation and labour, by which they were able to create the
conditions that allowed their mutual emancipation. In other words, humans were
only humanised and emancipated by forming a society. Humanity was therefore
created by society and it is only in society that we become human.
Placed outside of society we would not be human – alone, able to speak and
think, but conscious only of (one)self. Humans only become conscious of their
humanity within society and only by the collective action of the whole of
society. We are freed from the burden of external nature only by collective and
social labour, which alone can transform our environment to be suitable to the
development of humanity. Education and training are pre-eminently social.
Isolated individuals cannot possibly become conscious of their freedom.

The idea that social revolution could come about through state control relied
heavily on the Marxist doctrine of economic determinism. This is based on the
premise that the nature of an economic system determines the nature of society
as a whole. As such, political and social conditions are determined by the
economy. To change the latter one has only to change the former and so the very
act of the workers abolishing capitalism and taking control of the economy would
automatically end exploitation and bring about social and political equality.

Determinism also extended to Marxist theories of the state. The state was seen
as the agent of the dominant economic class, administering society on its
behalf. Once capitalism was abolished and the economy was under collective
ownership, the state would become the tool of the workers, and could begin to
administer the economy on their behalf. A further Marxist argument was that the
economy would have to come under state control initially, as workers did not
have the expertise to run society. They saw this ‘dictatorship of the
proletariat’ as purely a ‘transitional period’, during which workers would be
trained to take over the running of society. The state under socialism would
eventually become redundant and ‘wither away’.

worst fears confirmed

Marxist ideas on the state have developed over the years from the crude
determinism of the 19th Century that led the German Social Democratic Party to
state in their programme, ‘the conquest of political power was the indispensable
condition for the economic emancipation of the proletariat’. They have had to
develop, especially after the Russian Revolution brought about the conquest of
state power by a highly organised Marxist political party. What happened then
simply confirmed all the worst fears of the anarchists as a totalitarian state
was established that eventually collapsed due to its own internal contradictions.

This has led Marxist theorists to come up with all kinds of variations and
qualifications to the original Marxist idea. From Lenin right through to modern
thinkers they have tried to square the circle and explain how in the future it
could not happen again. But the basis of their ideas is still the unshakeable
concept that state power needs to be gained one way or another. And for this a
political party is needed.


As an alternative to the political party and gaining state power, and contrary
to the criticism that anarchism has proposed no viable alternative,
anarcho-syndicalists developed the idea of building an alternative movement
based on the same principles of solidarity, equality and freedom that were
envisaged in a future society. The state and capitalism needed challenging but
this was to be done through an organisation that combined, not separated, the
economic and political struggle.

In an anarchist society, the full development of the individual would depend on
the collective provision of the necessary means, and on full social and economic
equality. However, the continuation and development of the collective society
would depend on the individual being able to participate in it fully and
equally, with the aim of developing their full potential. Without individual
liberty, social equality would be unattainable, and without social equality,
there could not be individual liberty. Anarchists have sought a form of society
where the conditions are continuously being created for every individual to
reach their full potential. In reaching their full potential, they would expand
the sum of human knowledge which would, in turn, expand the potential of the

workers control

Anarcho-syndicalism therefore proposes that the revolutionary union should be
the basic organisation of struggle. Within the union the working class would
develop the ideas and means of bringing about change. It would confront the
state and capitalism head on in a continuing economic and political struggle. At
the same time it would allow its members to operate in an alternative cultural
and social formation in which the ideas of the new society are fermented.

For the anarchists the starting point from which conditions of equality could be
created was the overthrow of capitalism. From the initial onset of the
revolution, society had to be run on democratic principles with the aim of
seeking social equality. Rather than the revolution leading to state control
based on inequality, the working class themselves should take over the practical
running of society.
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An Issue of Justice
Origins of the Israel/ Palestine Conflict
by Normal Finkelstein – CD – £14.98

In this thoughtful and illuminating talk, Finkelstein, the son of two Holocaust
survivors, focuses on the ideologies Israel has adopted during its history to
justify its policy in Palestine. Like a razor, he cuts through the heated
rhetoric and political murk surrounding the conflict to focus on the facts: an
ill-conceived policy of Arab expulsion in Israel’s early years that developed,
with support from Britain and the US, into an apartheid-like occupation of
Palestine. While his criticism of Israeli policy and US complicity is as cutting
as ever, Finkelstein strongly advocates an abandonment of divisive
anti-Zionist/pro-Palestinian rhetoric, championing instead the courageous words
and deeds of those who struggle to bring Justice to Palestine.
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Dreams of Freedom
a Ricardo Flores Magón reader
edited by Richard Chaz Bufe & Mitchell Cowen Verter – 420 pages – £12.00

Along with such figures as Pancho Villa and Emiliano Zapata, Ricardo Flores
Magón was one of the primary forces behind the Mexican Revolution. Born in 1874,
Magón was a tireless activist and journalist under the Diaz military regime.
Through his widely read newspaper Regeneración, which suffered continuous
government suppression, he boldly criticised the injustices of the country’s
dictatorship and worked to build the popular movement which would eventually
overthrow it. Exiled to the US, Flores Magón remained one of the most
influential agitators for the Mexican Revolution. Both governments responded
with harsh repression and Leaven-worth Penitentiary finally murdered him in 1922.

This book presents Magón’s passionate, revolutionary writings in English for the
first time. It includes a lengthy biographical sketch that places his work in
historical context, a comprehensive chronology, bibliography, and an
introduction by Benjamin Maldonado.
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the Modern School Movement: Anarchism and Education in the United States
by Paul Avrich – 434 pages – £13.95

In 1901 Francisco Ferrer founded La Escuela Moderna with a curriculum based on
the natural sciences and moral rationalism, freed of all religious dogma and
political bias. Although students received systematic instruction, there were no
marks, exams or prizes, indeed no atmosphere of competition, coercion, or
humiliation. The classes were guided by the solidarity and equality. For this he
was executed in 1909.
Outraged by Ferrer’s execution and influenced by his teaching methods,
anarchists and others carried on his work. Up to 1960 anarchists across the US
established more than twenty schools where children might study in an atmosphere
of freedom and self-reliance in contrast to the formality and discipline of the
traditional classroom. These ‘Modern Schools’ sought to abolish all forms of
authority, political and economic as well as educational, and to usher in a new
society based on the voluntary cooperation of free individuals. Their object,
during an era of war, social ferment, and government repression, was to create
not only a new type of school, but also a new culture, a new life, a new world.

Among the participants in the Modern School Movement were anarchists Emma
Goldman and Alexander Berkman, feminist Margaret Sanger, authors Will and Ariel
Durant, and ground breaking artists Robert Henri, George Bellows, and Man Ray.
Based on extensive interviews with former pupils and teachers, this book is a
seminal and important investigation into the potential of educational alternatives.
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Rebel Alliances: the means & ends of contemporary British anarchisms
by Benjamin Franks – 473 pages – £15.00

Rebel Alliances offers an applied philosophical perspective on contemporary
class struggle anarchism in Britain. It identifies the main principles
distinguishing this tradition from competing Leninist, liberal and social
democratic groupings. From these key characteristics, Franks constructs a
consistent anarchism, which both shares characteristics with politically engaged
post structuralisms and has a distinctive ethic. The theory and practice of
contemporary groups are then assessed against this ideal-type anarchism. Many of
the central themes of anarchism are consequently subject to original scrutiny:
the nature of the revolutionary subject; workplace and community organising;
violence and pacifism; the meaning of direct action; and propaganda by word and
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Anarchist Voices: an Oral History of Anarchism in America
by Paul Avrich – 574 pages – £16.00

Through his many books on the history of anarchism, Paul Avrich has done much to
dispel the public’s conception of anarchists as terrorists. This book contains
180 interviews conducted by Avrich over a period of thirty years, interviews
that protray the human dimensions of a movement much maligned by the authorities
and contemporary journalists. Most of the interviewees were active during the
heyday of the movement, between the 1880s and 1930s. They represent all schools
of anarchism and include both famous figures and minor ones. Their stories
provide a wealth of personal detail about such anarchist luminaries as Emma
Goldman, Rudolf Rocker, Sacco and Vanzetti, and those involved with anarchist
Modern Schools and Free Colonies.

The interviews are grouped in six sections organised around individuals or major
aspects of the movement. Each section begins with an explanatory essay, and each
interview with a biographical note. This book is an invaluable resource not only
for anyone interested in anarchism but also for those with an interest in
immigration, ethnic politics, the history of education, and legal and labour

to order any of these titles or for a complete AK catalogue contact:
AK Press, PO Box 12766, Edinburgh, EH8 9YE;
or visit: www.akuk.com
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Prejudice & the Working Class

Prejudice is said to occur when people cast judgements and opinions on others,
which are biased and have no real foundation in fact. This might be at the level
of calling people ‘sad bastards’ because of a particular pastime or hobby.* But
this is only name-calling. The reality of prejudice often means discrimination
against some people, while others are hounded, injured and even killed.
The most obvious form of prejudice is racism. Even though there’s a variety of
skin colours across the world; even though the supposed differences were
invented hundreds of years ago; even though it’s been proven time and again that
there is as little genetic difference between black and white people as there is
between people with the same skin colour, some cretins still cling blindly to
this prejudice.

For example, Christians are supposed to believe that God made us all in ‘his’
own image, so no one is inferior or superior. But when Europeans started taking
over bits of the planet, robbing and killing the natives and using Africans as
slaves they justified their exploitation by re-interpreting the bible.

redneck rubbish

Apparently Noah’s son, Ham, took the piss out of Noah when he saw him bollock
naked after a night on the razzle. So Noah kicked him off the ark and all
descendants of Ham were said to be black and bad. Where he set foot when
everything was supposed to be flooded is hard to imagine, but that’s the logic
of prejudice for you. Again, Cain was kicked off the ark too and all his
descendants are supposed to be black and bad as well. This kind of nonsense was
spouted in the mind-warping popular press and pulpit of the time and hey presto,
you get loads of people willing to go killing and enslaving ‘blackamoors’. It
became part of the psyche, common sense, so that even now, ‘rednecks’ of all
descriptions spout this rubbish and God becomes white and black becomes evil.

By the nineteenth century, the enlightenment, rationality and the appliance of
science had backed all this up. Darwin’s evolution stuff showed forever that
some species are more evolved than others, so some people applied this to the
idea of race. Blokes like Herbert Spencer came out with the term ‘survival of
the fittest’ to justify white superiority. Others ‘scientifically proved’ (i.e.
they made it up) there were three races, Caucasoid, Mongoloid and Negroid –
white, yellow and black – each genetically different from the other, each with a
different value to the world. White on top, yellow in the middle and black on
the bottom, they all had different origins and were totally separate ‘races’.

This is racism and it was pushed in the new schools of the time, in boy’s
comics, and in storybooks, including Enid Blyton’s ‘golliwogs’. The idea that
blacks were on the planet to serve whites, that Europeans had a duty to suppress
and tame ‘the savages’ became part of the psyche too. It’s the sort of stuff
that was used to justify the ‘scramble for Africa’ from the 1870’s onward. It’s
the same stuff Hitler used to justify mass murder of and part of the reason why
many Germans went along with it.

couldn’t happen here

Just in case you’re thinking this couldn’t happen now with that nice,
professional, middle class, ‘Big Toe’ Blair running the show – well, it could. I
say this not only because he and the ‘Bush Baby’ are pushing christian and
liberal capitalist values throughout the world on pain of death, but also
because ‘scientific’ racism is still with us.

A bloke called Rushton peddled it in the 1980’s when he measured brain and
genital sizes, worked out how many kids people had, along with loads of other
things. He divided these into categories based on the same old black/
white/yellow division and again, hey presto, black people fall into a less
evolved ‘r’ category, whites are in a superior ‘k’ category, with yellow/brown
people in the middle.

In the 1990’s two more maniacs, Charles Murray and Richard Herrnstein, wrote a
book called The Bell Curve, that ‘proved’ black people have the lowest IQ’s in
the world. Murray was one of Maggie Thatcher’s darlings and still gets articles
in the Times, but I’ll come back to that.

In the meantime you might say that all this explains racism among the people
that fall for it, but what about the prejudice between white and white, black
and black, pink and pink, ‘Manc’ and ‘Scouse’?

You’ve only got to look at the northern bit of Ireland to see prejudice at work.
Then there’s the Balkans, Indonesia, Rwanda and a host of other places, many of
them suffering the effects of attempted genocide and ethnic ‘cleansing’. It all
makes the rivalry between both ends of the East Lancs Road look soft and tame.


The argument about why all this happens and why some people say ‘I’m not racist
but I wish all those foreigners would bugger off’ is based on culture. When
‘scientific racism’ was defeated by science and reason and when it was found
that all human beings have the same origins (the ‘Eve theory’), people looked to
culture to explain divisions between different groups. They argued that people
develop different ways of life depending on the climate, available food and
resources and so on. Sometimes different religions emerge, different laws (e.g.
polygamy v monogamy etc), languages, dress codes, eating habits and loads of
other things that seem to make one culture, or ethnicity, alien to another.
This doesn’t seem to matter that much until there’s migration. According to the
argument people forget that beneath the superficial differences of dress, food,
etc, we have similar behaviour patterns (or cultural universals) as each other –
we laugh, cry, quarrel and make up, among loads of other things, in similar
ways. People forget, or don’t notice, because of the everyday battle for survival.

saris, samosas & steel bands

When there’s a scarcity of jobs, houses, benefits and health, immigration brings
a ‘culture clash’ which is fuelled by the popular press. To combat this you get
the better off middle class, who aren’t affected as much, advocating
‘multiculturalism’. This is the idea that if we all learned about other cultures
it would make us all more tolerant, as they are. So we get ‘saris, samosas and
steel bands’ in the education system along with Diwali and Eid.

The problem is that all over Europe, America and other places, multiculturalism
is getting a negative reaction. In this country (helped by nationalism latching
on to the world cup) there’s the rise of the likes of the England First party
and the idea that ‘our’ culture is being swamped. Politicians of all ilks read
the Daily Hate Mail and latch on to ‘popular’, unfounded sentiments to look
tough and gain votes. There’s Tory talk of banning Scottish MP’s from voting in
the ‘English’ parliament, while Blair is talking tough about Muslims and
advocating tests for ‘Englishness’ in schools. What this actually is doesn’t
really matter, it panders to people’s prejudices just like Tebbit’s old chestnut
about all immigrants having to pass the so-called ‘cricket test’ (i.e. people of
Pakistani descent having to stick up for England). So, the multicultural thing
backfires and people become antagonistic to ‘political correctness’, it becomes
a dirty word soundbite.

a tendency to lie

Others would argue that all this is because some of the middle classes have a
tendency to ‘withhold the truth’ from the lower orders, in order to maintain
their position in the middle. We aren’t told that immigration is encouraged by
Blairs of all descriptions to undercut wages and make up for the shortfall in
‘respectable’ people having kids – they’d rather have more foreign holidays and
bigger cars. We aren’t told that many of the problems in Africa and elsewhere
that people are escaping from, are caused by the West putting maniacs in power
and training them to keep supplying cheap resources and cheap labour. We aren’t
told that our minds are being manipulated to support wars here and there that
secure certain ‘interests’, such as the supply of raw materials and sources of
wealth. We aren’t told that there’s been a history of ‘divide and rule’ that’s
fed through schools and, now, through mind-numbing TV. The poor whites are ‘only
a pawn in their game’ as Bob Dylan used to sing.

socially excluded

Their game is power and they play it by controlling the limits of our thoughts
through any method they can. Which brings us back to Charles Murray who I
mentioned earlier. Not only are divisions fostered between black and white,
between one culture and another or one religion and another, people like Murray
also foster divisions among the working class. He wrote in the Times earlier
this year, advocating physical separation between what he calls the ‘underclass’
and the rest of us fine upstanding citizens. This means separate housing and
other facilities. His idea that these people are products of a ‘disease’ due to
interbreeding between people with low IQs who are prone to misusing drugs,
getting pregnant, committing crime, not working and generally looking a mess,
has caught on. Now people are routinely called ‘socially excluded’ and dismissed
as ‘thick scrotes’, and council estates are seen as dens of iniquity.

Other reasons for this state of affairs, like the Thatcher years of mass
unemployment to keep inflation down and cheap ‘smack’ to keep the riff raff from
thinking, are totally dismissed in today’s ‘understand a little less, condemn a
little more’ way of thinking.

More than this, prejudice, in the form of ‘classism’, is promoted and seen as
the way ‘forward’. Old prejudices against the working class are again coming to
the fore, just as with the nineteenth century, teetotal puritans. Legislation
banning tabs in pubs, standing around having a natter in ‘gangs’ of more than
two, standing up and singing at football matches, falling over drunk, farting
and laughing – anything these classist bastards don’t like – will have a law
against it.

The ‘citizenship’ and ‘English-ness’ that are being promoted, is only done so on
the basis that there’s a ‘high’, acceptable culture and that ‘low’, working
class, culture should be dumped. This could be because we are now all supposed
to be consumers rather than producers, and there’s a blurring of class
distinctions. Which means that ‘rough types’ might end up in the same Bistro,
drinking the same red wine and getting pissed and laughing instead of sipping it
and spitting it out in a bucket while talking about it’s ‘nose’, ‘bouquet’ and
their next big pay rise.

In the meantime this form of prejudice goes unnoticed and will continue to do so
while the ‘lower orders’ are encouraged to believe in IQ’s and dick size and to
blame ‘Johnny Foreigner’ for the shit they’re in. The task for anarchists is to
cut through all this bullshit.
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Direct Action is published by Solidarity Federation, British section of the
International Workers Association (IWA). DA is edited and laid out by the DA
Collective, and printed by Clydeside Press.

Views stated in these pages are not necessarily those of the Direct Action
Collective or the Solidarity Federation. We do not publish contributors’ names.
Please contact us if you want to know more.

(for 4 issues – see page 13)
Supporters – £10
Basic – £5
(Europe – £10; rest of the world – £15)

cheques payable to ‘Direct Action’ –
return form to: DA, PO Box 29, SW PDO, Manchester, M15 5HW

If you would like to help out or contribute articles or photos, work is entirely
voluntary. We welcome articles of between 500 and 1,500 words on industrial,
social/community and international issues; on working class history; and on
anarchist/anarchosyndicalist theory and history.

Articles may be sent as hard copy, on a disk or by email, and can only be
returned if accompanied by a request (and SAE if appropriate).

Contact us
DA Collective, PO Box 29, South West PDO, Manchester, M15 5HW
079 84 67 52 81

Bulk Orders
AK Distribution, PO Box 12766, Edinburgh, EH8 9YE, Scotland
0131 555 5165
or direct from the DA Collective
ISSN 0261-8753
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Aims of the Solidarity Federation

The Solidarity Federation is an organisation of workers which seeks to destroy
capitalism and the state. Capitalism because it exploits, oppresses and kills
people, and wrecks the environment for profit worldwide. The state because it
can only maintain hierarchy and privelege for the classes who control it and
their servants; it cannot be used to fight the oppression and exploitation that
are the consequences of hierarchy and source of privilege. In their place we
want a society based on workers’ self-management, solidarity, mutual aid and
libertarian communism.

That society can only be achieved by working class organisation based on the
same principles – revolutionary unions. These are not Trades Unions only
concerned with ‘bread and butter’ issues like pay and conditions. Revolutionary
unions are means for working people to organise and fight all the issues – both
in the workplace and outside – which arise from our oppression. We recognise
that not all oppression is economic, but can be based on gender, race,
sexuality, or anything our rulers find useful. Unless we organise in this way,
politicians – some claiming to be revolutionary – will be able to exploit us for
their own ends.

The Solidarity Federation consists of locals which support the formation of
future revolutionary unions and are centres for working class struggle on a
local level. Our activities are based on direct action – action by workers
ourselves, not through intermediaries like politicians or union officials – our
decisions are made through participation of the membership. We welcome all
working people who agree with our aims and principles, and who will spread
propaganda for social revolution and revolutionary unions. We recognise that the
class struggle is worldwide, and are affiliated to the International Workers
Association, whose ‘Principles of Revolutionary Unionism’ we share.
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Solidarity Federation – International Workers Association

national contact point
PO Box 29, South West PDO, Manchester, M15 5HW; 079 84 67 52 81;
solfed@solfed.org.uk; www.solfed.org.uk

Birmingham SolFed – c/o Northampton (below); 077 76 11 51 97; brumsf@solfed.org.uk
Solidarity Bristol – c/o SF contact point (above); solidaritybristol@solfed.org.uk
Edinburgh SolFed – c/o 17 West Montgomery Place, Edinburgh, EH7 5HA; 078 96 62
13 13; edinburghsf@solfed.org.uk
Manchester SolFed – PO Box 29, SW PDO, Manchester, M15 5HW; 079 84 67 52 81;
manchestersf@solfed.org.uk; www.manchestersf.org.uk; email list:
Northampton SolFed – c/o The Blackcurrent Centre, 24 St Michael Avenue,
Northampton, NN1 4JQ; northamptonsf@solfed.org.uk
North & East London SolFed – PO Box 1681, London, N8 7LE; nelsf@solfed.org.uk
Preston SolFed – PO Box 469, Preston, PR1 8XF; 077 07 25 66 82;
prestonsf@solfed.org.uk; prestonsolfed.mysite.wanadoo-members.co.uk
South Herts SolFed – PO Box 493, St Albans, AL1 5TW
South London SolFed – PO Box 17773, London, SE8 4WX; southlondonsf@solfed.org.uk
South West Solidarity – c/o SF contact point (above); sws@solfed.org.uk
Yorkshire SolFed – PO Box 75, Hebden Bridge, HX7 8WB

Catalyst (freesheet) – c/o The Blackcurrent Centre, 24 St Michael Avenue,
Northampton, NN1 4JQ; 077 76 11 51 97; catalyst@solfed.org.uk
Education Workers Network – c/o News From Nowhere, 96 Bold St, Liverpool, L1
4HY; ewn@ewn.org.uk; www.ewn.org.uk; email list: ewn@lists.riseup.net
Public Service Workers Network – c/o Solidarity Bristol
SelfEd Collective – c/o Preston; selfed@selfed.org.uk; www.selfed.org.uk

SelfEd Collective
‘A History of Anarcho-syndicalism’ – 24 pamphlets, downloadable FREE from

SolFed freesheet – issue 15 out now – for single copies or bundles see contact
details above

The Stuff Your Boss does not want you to know - Leaflet
know your rights at work; updated version now available online – bundles from
the SF contact point (see above) for free/donation. Stuff Your Boss Mugs – £3
including post & packing; contact Preston SF (see above)

Manchester SF
discussion meetings
8.30 pm, 1st Wed each month – upstairs Hare & Hounds, Shude Hill, central Manchester
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Friends & neighbours
to get listed here contact DA – see inside front cover for contact details

56a Infoshop – bookshop, records, library, archive, social/meeting space; 56a
Crampton St, London, SE17 3AE; open Thur 2-8, Fri 3-7, Sat 2-6.
AK Press – anarcho books and merchandise of every description; PO Box 12766,
Edinburgh, EH8 9YE; 0131 555 265; ak@akedin.demon.co.uk; www.akuk.com
the Basement – café, bookshop, library, computers, meeting space; 24 Lever St,
Manchester; 0161 237 1832;
Freedom – anarchist fortnightly; 84b Whitechapel High St, London, E1 7QX;
www.libcom.org – online libertarian community and organising resource for
activists in Britain
Organise! – Working Class Resistance freesheet/info; PO Box 505, Belfast, BT12 6BQ
Resistance – Anarchist Federation freesheet; c/o 84b Whitechapel High Street,
London, E1 7QX; www.afed.org.uk
Stuff your Boss – anti-casualisation campaign in NW England;
SYB, c/o PO Box 29, SW PDO, Manchester, M15 5HW
ToxCat – exposing polluters, pollution and cover-ups; £2 from PO Box 29,
Ellesmere Port, CH66 3TX

Kate Sharpley Library
full catalogue: BM Hurricane, London, WC1N 3XX; www.katesharpleylibrary.net

Elias Manzanera – the Iron Column: testament of a revolutionary – 30 pages – £3
Martyn Everett – War and Revolution: the Hungarian anarchist movement in
world war 1 and the Budapest Commune (1919) – 28 pages – £3
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