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(en) Britain, Direct Action #36 Spring/Summer 2006 II. (2/3)

Date Wed, 27 Sep 2006 10:29:02 +0300

plods, camera...direct action
We’ve all seen them on TV – ‘Police, Camera, Action’,
‘World’s Wildest Police Video’s, ‘Rail Cops’ ad
infinitum. The chances are that some of us have also heard sections of the
so-called ‘moral majority’ sounding off about how awful it is for us
to be shown crime as entertainment and for the community at large to
wallow in the misery of others.

There are a number of reasons for this televisual trash. It is cheap to make,
high on unthinking action and thus easily marketed. It costs little to film as
most footage comes from police cars, helicopters and CCTV footage. All
that’s needed is some editing, a roll of credits at the beginning and end
plus a cheesy ex-plod presenter to drive home the show’s hidden
messages. A simple equation: cheap show + high ratings = increased profit
for shareholders.

The ‘moral majority’ purport to abhor such shows, their reasons
varying according to political opinion. The right see them as affording
criminals and yobs free publicity and an ego-boost at the expense of their
victims. The left see them as a form of ‘name and shame’
retribution, an offence against the human rights of the hooligans pictured.
Not that the average delinquent minds public exposure.

As usual, and perhaps deliberately, both sides are missing the point. In
reality, these shows serve a far darker purpose than providing cheap thrills
for insomniacs and vicarious pleasure for voyeurs of human misery. They
serve to drip-feed a number of myths into the public consciousness that
offer a view of how sophisticated State propaganda has now become.

unopposed image

The real purposes of these shows are many and varied. Firstly, they provide
an image, totally unopposed and often unfounded, of an apparently
infallible and invincible police force. No ‘criminal’ escapes their
clutches. All are caught and all are punished. A constant subtext of ‘we
always win in the end so don’t even consider rebelling’ runs
through each and every episode. There is a subliminal attempt to convince
us of the absolute inevitability of our being defeated regardless of what we
try to achieve or how we try to achieve it.

Another purpose is to manipule public opinion. These shows are usually, if
not always, shown from the point of view of the State and its servants.
Never is dissent, informed or otherwise, hinted at, much less explored. The
plods are always the hard-pressed public servants, grimly holding back the
tide of criminality in the face of few resources and an often-ungrateful
public. The public is shown as either the bad guys or pathetically
co-operative bystanders, only too eager to lend a hand to the brave
guardians of law and order. Never do we see any hint of racism or
corruption, incompetence or persecution, police brutality or deliberate
attempts to frame people with ‘inconvenient’ politics. To believe
the image presented to us is to believe that Rodney King, the Birmingham
Six et al never even existed. And if plods do like a spot of hippie-bashing,
who cares anyway?

A good example of this tactic is the 1984-5 Miners’ Strike. Most of the
footage shown was shot from the point of view of the police lines. Miners
were shown striking at plods with fists, feet, boots and makeshift weapons.
Burnt-out barricades and streets littered with debris were shown as an awful
foretaste of things to come if the miners had their way. The flames of Cold
War paranoia were fanned to burning point to influence public opinion
against the miners and their cause. Stories of hit squads, of SWP influence
were accorded banner headlines in the mainstream media. Plods on the
other hand were portrayed as the bold defenders of freedom and democracy,
while the fact that many were actually squaddies in police uniform without
ID numbers didn’t even come out until a couple of years ago.

state-sponsored terror

We also see a very subtle use of the ‘stick and carrot’ approach.
The plods are shown to be caring and polite with the public at large, even
those they arrest, only using force when no other option is left. Again, this
is bullshit. Anyone who experienced the Battle of the Beanfield knows that
not only is state-sponsored terror not only a last resort, but also frequently a
first option, especially when no journalists happen to be around.

Even when the press do attend there is no guarantee of free and fair
coverage. It is standard police practice to confiscate or smash the cameras
of any press or legal observers present if they attempt to photograph or film
an arrest involving the use of force. At one May Day demo in Ireland in
2002, Indymedia reporters were arrested and members of the corporate
press had digital camera batteries confiscated. At an anti-war demo in
Brighton pepper spray and batons were used on people simply for sitting
down in the road. Yet little or nothing was reported outside of the Schnews
weekly newsletter.

In an older episode of ‘Rail Cops’ a police baton instructor is seen
to admonish ‘over-enthusiastic’ trainees by listing the possible
consequences – loss of job, possible jail sentence, etc. He even
sickeningly mentions the Rodney King case as an example of what not to
do. The fact that there is a vast disparity between the number of complaints
made and officers disciplined or even investigated is simply not reported. In
a real and highly Orwellian sense, and if you believe these shows as they
are presented to you, dissent doesn’t exist; it never existed. There is
only law and order triumphing over the evildoers, in black and white with
no middle ground.
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Education, the State & the Working Class

The argument that the state helps maintain the right climate for the few to
exploit the many is not new. Kropotkin and others have argued that this is
the state’s ‘historic role’ – violence against the oppressed is
‘legalised’; tributes and taxes are demanded; a few have exclusive
‘rights’ to what was once the property of all. The result, in
Tolstoy’s words, is ‘slavery’ and ‘the irregular distribution
of wealth’. ‘Slavery’ may seem too harsh a word, what with
‘nice Mr Blair’ leading us to the promised land, but for many
‘employment’ is merely ‘wage slavery’.

This ‘historic role’ of the state is especially clear when there are
changes in the productive process and in social relations – the change
from feudalism to capitalism, for instance. The state serves to
‘legalise’ violence and backs this up with force.

Nor is it new to argue that smoothing these transitions and maintaining
exploitative relations requires the majority to believe the oppression of the
many by the few ‘to be a natural condition of human life’. Tolstoy
added that it was not surprising to him (an aristocrat) that ‘slave owners
sometimes sincerely think that they are emancipating their slaves by
loosening one screw when another is already screwed tight’. Not
surprising, that is, because they are ‘accustomed’ to believe it. The
‘loosening of screws’ is reform which, as Tolstoy realised, while
seemingly liberating one aspect of life for the oppressed, closes off another.

eternal principles

Taking education as an example of reform, during the rapid spread of state
schooling in late 19th century Britain Marx pleaded that ‘eternal
principles should be violated’ if people sent their children to state
schools. Such principles, like mutual aid and resistance don’t fit the
capitalist need for a compliant, flexible labour force looking out for
themselves, rather than supporting each other. So the role of state
education was to legitimisein the minds of the ‘slaves’ the legalised
robbery by the ruling class, and to develop ‘skills’ for wage slavery
and the temperament to work to instructions and to the clock. This was
dubbed by Hodgskin as ‘the training of cattle that are broken to the

So a seemingly liberating reform, state provision of education, has tightened
the screw elsewhere, maintaining ‘hegemony’, inducing a
dominant capitalist culture; and introducing a ‘hidden curriculum’
that serves the needs of capitalism.

Paolo Freire argued that education is not neutral. It is either an instrument
for the integration of younger generations into the present system or it
becomes the ‘practice of freedom’ – the means by which we
deal critically and creatively with reality and discover how to participate in
transforming the world around us.

The present market based policy results from the 1970’s ‘great
debate’ on the nature of education – should it be about training for
the labour market, or educating for good citizenship? The
‘marketeers’ won and their whims are now shot through the
compulsory schooling that Marx dreaded, through adult, further and
community education and are now spreading into the lower reaches of
higher education.

really useful knowledge

The ‘great debate’ goes back further than Callaghan’s 1976
speech. When the ‘Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge’
was set up in the early 19th century, some working class people set up their
own societies for the diffusion of ‘Really Useful Know-ledge’. The
first was for a market led, skills based education; the latter was about how
this leads to exploitation and how to fight it. In other words this reflects a
debate about what education is, and who decides what any
‘curriculum’ should contain.

There is also a debate about process, for example how is the curriculum to
be delivered? By what Freire calls the ‘banking method’ of top
down delivery? Or by the more democratic method of using
‘dialogue’ to solve problems where an ‘organic
intellectual’ is just as prepared to be the ‘educatee’ as the

Much depends on how we believe people learn best. On one hand, there are
those who believe that people are motivated ‘extrinsically’, from
the outside – the need for a job, or fear of failure, or just a ‘sound
thrashing’ – and respond best to a formal ‘schooling’ set
up, where ‘right answers’ are committed to memory and teachers
are the gods of knowledge. Such people also tend to believe that there are
different types, or classes, of people. The ‘leaders’ get one sort of
education, the ‘soldiers’ of the state another, and the workers yet
another. Each type of education is related to a ‘natural’ role and is
given separately, as any intermixing is ‘injurious to the state‘.

On the other hand are those who believe in ‘lighting lamps’ and
encouraging a desire in people to learn whatever they want to learn. This is
‘intrinsic’ motivation. It is not achieved through schooling, but
through much more informal methods, similar in fact to how the working
class has always learnt – the most natural method on earth. The state
doesn’t use intrinsic learning methods because they might encourage
us to think for ourselves. Radicals realise this and have tended to adopt the
methods of the oppressed to educate themselves. As Godwin put it: ‘let
the most oppressed people under heaven once change their mode of
thinking, and they are free’.

State education crushes our ‘eternal principles’ and replaces them
with a slave-like stupor, preventing us thinking for ourselves. It is an act of
class war waged by the ‘soldiers of the state’ on behalf of the
‘slave masters’. And too many of us are ‘accustomed’ to
believe that this is the natural condition of human life.

A longer version of this article is available on the Education Workers
Network website at: www.ewn.org.uk
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Collectives in the Spanish Revolution

a glimpse of what can be achieved by the working class free of state control

Seventy years ago, in July 1936 General Franco moved against the
Republican Government in Spain. The initial failure of his coup is down to
the General Strike and the resistance of the working class who took to the
streets. While much has been written about the events in Spain between
1936 and 1939, we concentrate here on the positive achievements of the
revolution – the collectives established by the anarcho-syndicalist
union, the CNT.

The collectives remain a striking example of the possibilities of collective
organisation and economy. The scale and pace of collective development
were remarkable, as were the confidence and zeal with which it was
embraced. While the achievements of this period were short-lived, seventy
years on, collective organisation based on workers self-management along
the lines of Spain 1936 remains a real and modern alternative to capitalist
and Marxist state-run economic models.

The collectives, built across many areas of Spain, were the means by which
the CNT organised production and consumption of goods and services.
Building the new society within the shell of the old, a core principle of
anarcho-syndicalism, served the CNT well in 1936. Democratic ideas and
methods had been developed over a long period within the CNT, and these
were swiftly applied to the Spanish economy and wider society. Thus, the
transition from capitalism to workers’ control was quick and orderly.

republican opposition

There were problems given that the CNT did not inherit a self-contained
national economy since many areas were in fascist hands. Even in the
non-fascist zone, since the country had not functioned properly for years,
there was a need for massive overhaul and investment. Added to that,
where the republican government maintained control, they could not be
relied on for support. In fact, the Republican movement vehemently
opposed bringing the economy under workers’ control and did all it
could to sabotage the collectivist movement.

While facing these problems, the CNT also fought off the threat of fascism
and attempted to liberate areas the fascists controlled. In the immediate
aftermath of the coup, CNT militias, having defeated fascism in their own
areas, marched to Aragon to liberate it from fascism. Lacking modern
weaponry, the assault became bogged down, leading to a front line being
established across Aragon, where anarcho-syndicalists and fascists
confronted each other. Fearing an anarcho-syndicalist victory, the
Republican government cut off supplies to the militias. This meant that the
areas under self-management now had to carry the burden of supplying the
militias with clothes, food and even arms.

Collectivisation took place in both the industrial and agrarian economy.
Within Catalonia alone, textiles, construction and engineering industries,
bakeries, public utilities, trains, buses and taxis, health services, theatres,
cinemas, beauty parlours, hotels, restaurants, and many other workplaces
were all collectivised under workers’ control.

Each workplace held an assembly to elect a committee to co-ordinate
production. Thereafter, regular workplace assemblies were held and
through them, committees were recallable and answerable to all workers.
The workplace assembly could remove the whole committee or any of its
members at any time. The committee was there to carry out the decisions
made at the assembly, and was controlled directly by it.

In each local area, all the collectivised workplaces in the same industry
formed a local workplace federation, which coordinated local production.
This meant, instead of competing and duplicating production as in capitalist
times, far greater efficiency was achieved by this local federal system of
co-ordinated production. In addition, all the workplace federations in a local
area formed a Local Economic Council (LEC). Since all production and
service facilities were represented here, co-ordination of all work in the
locality was possible. In turn, the local workplace federations and LECs
were organised into regional and national Confederations of Industry and a
National Economic Confederation.

food distribution

This integrated collective system was not the result of a master plan
imposed from outside. It came about by the workers themselves putting the
ideas and methods of anarcho-syndicalism into practice. Even while
fighting was still going on in Barcelona, the CNT began to organise food
distribution. Food committees were established in the city’s
neighbourhoods. These collected and stored provisions in large
warehouses, which acted as distribution points. Markets reopened under
workers’ control. Mobile committees went into the surrounding
countryside to collect freely donated food to supply the markets. No
compulsion was used, and since many Catalan farmers were CNT
members, or at least sympathised with its aims, solidarity between town
and country was easily established.

The food committees worked with the CNT workplace organisations in the
food, catering and hotel industries to establish local communal feeding
halls. Within a few weeks, these food halls were feeding upwards of
120,000 people per day. This soon began to evolve into a democratically
controlled food distribution system.

Once started, collectivisation spread rapidly. For example, the Barcelona
transport system, critical to the life and productivity of the city, was quick to
reap the benefits of workers’ control. The most important form of
transport in Barcelona was the tram system, with over 60 routes
criss-crossing the city. It was privately owned, employing 7,000 workers,
6,500 of them in the CNT. After the fascists were evicted from Barcelona,
the CNT transport section requested members of the Militia to accompany
them to the Barcelona Transport Company.

But the management had already fled, taking all available funds with them.
The workers quickly got the tram system functioning again. Not only that,
they began to improve on the outdated and worn out infrastructure.

Safety was the priority, as power cars replaced old and dangerous trailer
cars, and poor sections of track were re-laid. Repair shops, which before the
Revolution had been restricted to general maintenance and emergency
repairs, were transformed. Improved productivity allowed repairs and
maintenance to be completed faster. They also began to replace the old
power supply system and to build new tram units designed by the workers
themselves, which were lighter, safer, and able to carry more passengers.
New machines meant less workshop space was needed, and sections were
converted to arms production. Before long, the workers at the repair shops
were building howitzers and rockets too.

Fares were also revolutionised. A low fare, which was the same for all
journeys, was introduced. Many, including the old and young, travelled
free. Passenger numbers increased as efficiency rose dramatically. Working
conditions for tram workers improved, wages were equalised, the working
week was reduced to 35 hours, and the retirement age was reduced to 60 on
full pay. Despite this the tram system still made a surplus. The extra money
subsidised the bus system and other less prosperous collectives. Similarly to
the trams, the privately owned regional railways were also quickly

Defeating fascism was the main concern of the collective movement. The
prime problem was the shortage of modern arms and equipment and the
main culprit was the increasingly Communist dominated Republican
government, which feared workers winning their battle on the Aragon front
even more than it feared fascism. In response the collectives in Catalonia
had built from scratch a munitions industry of 80,000 workers. The workers
themselves designed and built the machinery needed to produce arms and
keep the front supplied.

the health system

Despite the war effort against fascism the CNT was able to put into practice
some of the basic principles it had long argued for. One of the most
important achievements was the collectivised health system established
within the anarcho-syndicalist areas.

The general health of the Spanish working class was appalling. Infant
mortality rates were the highest in Europe, and diseases like tuberculosis
were endemic. The CNT had a record of fighting for improvements in
health provision, as well as in general living and working conditions. They
also targeted sexual health and education, both as part of a wider campaign
for women’s equality, and specifically against sexually transmitted
diseases, which were also widespread across Spain.

The massive efforts put into developing health care started to pay off
immediately. Indeed, the achievement of the collectivised health service
remains truly a triumph of the Revolution. Within a year, every isolated
village had free access to health care. Stately homes were taken over and
new hospitals began to be built within weeks of the Revolution starting.

As already mentioned the industries in each locality came together to form
a Local Economic Council (LEC) and in August 1937 these federated into a
National Economic Council at an economic congress of workers’
organisations held in Valencia. As with all anarcho-syndicalist
organisations, the economic councils were democratically controlled, being
run on the system of recallable delegates.

Finance for investments considered by the Economic Councils came from
the collectives themselves. Surpluses from collectives were pooled into the
non-profit making Central Labour Bank in Barcelona. Through the work of
the Economic Councils, the Bank was able to direct resources to where
they were most useful, and redistribute funds from rich collectives to poor
ones. In many urban areas, money remained the main method of exchange
on a daily basis, particularly between the non-collectivised economy and the
collectivised one.

agricultural collectives

Around 1,700 agricultural collectives were established during the
Revolution, involving some 3,200,000 workers. The scale and intensity of
the agricultural collective movement was huge by any measure. So much so
that it went much further towards a completely collective socio-economic
system based on libertarian communist principles.

In many ways, the agricultural collectives represented a new phenomenon
in human relations. This was a huge, and hugely successful,
socio-economic experiment, pioneering a new way of living based on
mutual aid and solidarity. Indeed, the fact that this movement appeared in
rural Spain at all puts paid to the myth that apparently ‘backward’
rural farmers are incapable of understanding highly progressive ideas.

As in the cities, the peasantry moved quickly to collectivise land vacated by
the fleeing landlords and press it into the service of the workers. Again the
method of collectivisation was governed by deep-rooted anarcho-syndicalist
culture which had evolved over the previous decades. Firstly, land was
collectivised on a purely voluntary basis. Secondly, those who wished to
join agreed that all but three personal possessions would be pooled into
collective ownership. Thirdly, special provision was made for those who did
not want to join. Marxists had long agonised over what to do about
peasants who did not wish to collectivise. They ended up forcing them to do
so, bringing tyranny and famine. The anarcho-syndicalist solution was
simple. Those who wished to stay out of the collectives were allocated land
and allowed to farm it, so long as they did not employ labour. The
agricultural collectives themselves were run in a similar manner to the
urban ones. Regular mass assemblies were held, normally centred on the
village or town. All members of the collective were welcome, and all had
equal speaking and voting rights.

rising productivity

Typically, land was divided according to cultivation type. Workers were
then recruited to each sector, and these elected delegates. The delegates
would work alongside their fellow members by day, and meet at the end of
each day in their own time to co-ordinate production. As in the urban
collectives, economies of scale and eradication of profits and absentee
landowners led to increased production and greater yields. Surpluses were
ploughed back into newer agricultural machinery, to continue the rising
productivity cycle.

Keen to use scientific knowledge, many collectives set aside areas to
experiment with new and improved crops, and consulted experts on all
areas of agro-research. Agricultural schools were set up in all regions to
further foster the culture of modernisation and development.

Here, we begin to see what it was that lay at the heart of collective life.
Though the mass assemblies formed the basis of the democratic structure,
it was the social interaction and cultural spirit of freedom and
experimentation that made the collectives so attractive. Workers had time,
interest and the knowledge that they would all benefit from dealing with
practical realities facing them. The result was a continuous process of
improvement and refinement.

Striving for constant improvement is a feature of the collectives, and is hard
evidence that innovation and motivation are not intrinsically linked to the
capitalist profit motive. In fact, getting rid of this actually led to an
explosion of these precious attributes in the collective movement.

Most agricultural collectives abandoned the internal use of money
completely. Some established warehouses, where members took what they
needed, with records of what was taken kept for planning production. Some
agreed a set amount of goods for each family. Many established their own
coupon system based on the family wage, with the amount varying with
family size. All introduced rationing if goods became scarce, when those in
most need (children, the elderly, pregnant women, etc.) took priority.

Facilities in towns and villages were upgraded, with investments made in
local collective industries such as bakeries, construction and carpentry,
ironwork, etc. As in the towns and cities, free health care and education
were introduced. Great importance was attached by anarcho-syndicalism to
culture and knowledge both as liberating forces and as instruments of
struggle. Every collective introduced schools and nurseries for children
– most also provided free education for children from outside the
collective system – and many went well beyond this basic provision.

Tragically, the Spanish collectives were smashed by Republican troops
under communist command. In many cases, they had existed for barely a
year. However, in this short time, not only did they prove that an alternative
to capitalism and the state-run economic system is possible, they also
brought to light the amazing creativity of people when they are suddenly
freed from the drudgery of wage slavery.

The collectives were a huge economic, social and cultural experiment,
based on anarcho-syndicalist ideas. They remain a brief but telling glimpse
into a world free from the twin evils of capitalist and state oppression.

In the event, the theory worked in practice almost perfectly, despite the
problems of war, shortage and opposition from all sides. We could do a lot
worse than to update and learn from the Spanish collectives in developing a
modern anarcho-syndicalist strategy for re-creating the society of the
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Anarchism in Southern Africa

Twelve years have passed since the fall of the apartheid government. The
end of the white minority rule was greeted with optimism and hope by the
South African working class. Despite socialist rhetoric in the initial days,
the ANC-led coalition government, together with its partners the South
African Communist Party (SACP) and the Congress of South African
Trade Unions (COSATU), continue to implement neo-liberal economic
and social policies.

To their credit the ANC government have carried out massive anti-poverty
initiatives and housing programmes, but the neo-liberal free market policies
are more than negating any progress. In the last years of apartheid
unemployment hovered around 25%. It is now around 40%. The number of
people living in informal squatter camps and shanty towns has rocketed to
more than 50% since the apartheid years.

The reason for this is simple to see. Privatisation of key industries, from
water and electricity to mining and services, has resulted in hundreds of
thousands of lost jobs. At the same time the agriculture sector is becoming
more capital intensive, when previously the trade blockade made machinery
and new technologies hard to get - again this has left hundreds of
thousands jobless. As a result the gap between rich and poor is wider than
twelve years ago.

The ride hasn't been rough for some though. The ANC's Black Economic
Empowerment policies, aimed at addressing the racial imbalance in
education, jobs and income, is also used to install already wealthy and
privileged members of the black upper class into prime positions in the
newly privatised industries creating an growing black capitalist class.

Previously South African socialists thought that capitalism couldn't survive
without apartheid, and the SACP, for instance, still continues to argue for a
'two stage revolution'. More and more working class militants in the trade
unions, civic groups, political parties and miscellaneous activist groups are
coming to the realisation that it is a question of class, not race, and the
anti-ANC mood is growing, especially in the shanty towns. Last year there
were close to 900 demonstrations stemming from conditions in shanty
towns - over 50 of these turned violent. The South African media has
dubbed these conflicts 'ANC vs. ANC' as core ANC voters turn against the
new political elite.

an anarchist alternative

Libertarian criticism of a strategy that leaves the emancipation of our class
in the hands of professional politicians is striking a chord in South Africa.
There are anti-voting elements in many anti-privatisation, community, land
struggle and AIDS activist groups, and horizontal organising methods are
being attempted.

South Africa has one national anarchist organisation, the Zabalaza
Anarchist Communist Federation of Southern Africa (ZACF). There are
also some smaller anarchist collectives, mainly associated with various
counter culture issues.

Zabalaza has consistently argued that the 'two stage revolution' of first
doing away with apartheid and then moving to socialism, as argued for by
the SACP, will fail like so many similar schemes around the world before.
Instead Zabalaza aims to agitate among the working class for
empowerment, self-organisation and autonomy.

Zabalaza operates in the 'platformist' (see below) anarchist tradition, but
with a firm belief in syndicalism. It organises mainly among the urban poor,
people living in so called 'informal settlements' or squatter camps. Most of
the Zabalaza organisers from poor black backgrounds are from these
settlements and are essentially unemployed. This has caused the
federation's focus to be placed firmly on community organising instead of
workplace and union issues.

Zabalaza started in 2001 when several existing local or anarchist groups and
collectives federated into one organisation. These groups included Zabalaza
Books, Anarchist Black Cross, Bikisha Media Collective, Zabalaza Action
group from Durban/Umlazi and two anarchist groups from Soweto - Black
Action Group from Motsoaledi and Shesha Action Group from Dlamini.
Over time most of these groups have fallen apart or changed for reasons
such as migrant worker members moving away. The general hardship of
the lives of the comrades living in these conditions takes its toll as well.

For more information about Zabalaza, see www.zabalaza.net
previous top next

Platformism and Anarchosyndicalism

The 'Platform' - full title 'the Organisational Platform of the Libertarian
Communists' - was written in 1926 by a group of exiled Russian anarchists
based on their experiences of the 1917 Russian revolution and its
replacement by Lenin's dictatorship. This document calls on anarchists to
organise according to 'ideological and tactical unity', 'collective action and
discipline' and 'federalism'.

To summarise the difference between 'platformism' and
anarchosyndicalism, the following from the 'Anarchist Platform' website is

'We work within the trade unions as the major focus of our activity where
this is a possibility. We therefore reject views that dismiss activity in the
unions. Within them we fight for the democratic structures typical of
anarcho-syndicalist unions like the 1930's CNT. However the unions no
matter how revolutionary cannot replace the need for anarchist political

For anarchosyndicalists, the type of union we seek to create is not restricted
in scope like 'trade unions' - that is, an anarchosyndicalist union doesn't
organise only in the workplace or in the 'economic sphere'.
Anarchosyndicalist activity embraces the 'political' as well as the
'economic' seeing no artificial divide between them such as that embodied
in the historically discredited notion of the 'revolutionary party'. In other
words, the 'anarchist political organisation' and the anarchosyndicalist
union are one and the same.
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Anarchism in Swaziland

Swaziland is a small impoverished nation of 1.2 million people ruled under
the monarchist dictatorship of King Mswati. Unemployment runs at 40%
and the country has the unfortunate status of leading the HIV/AIDS
prevalence rates, with 38.8% of the adult population being infected.

Swaziland does not have a revolutionary history and the left is relatively
weak. Zabalaza members have now established a base there among the
rural poor. Anarchist and libertarian ideas are striking a chord with the
young radicals who want to do away with the oppressive monarchy and
better their lot.

While there are some reformist anti-monarchy groups in the country,
anarchism is the only revolutionary alternative. Other leftist tendencies like
trotskyism do not have a presence. While reformist groups push for the end
of monarchy and the establishment of a two party alliance government,
anarchists argue that one set of rulers should not be replaced with another,
citing the failure of the South African government to provide for the poor.

The organising conditions could not be much worse. The state forces are
ruthless and the living conditions of the anarchist comrades on the ground
are dire. Like so many Swazi people, many of the anarchists rely on UN/US
food aid programs and are without an income.

While the number of comrades identifying themselves as anarchists runs
only to a couple of dozen at the moment, the situation may change rapidly.
Practical solidarity in terms of sending political and other support material
is being planned. For further information contact myllyjp@yahoo.com
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Red and Black Forums

One key organising, propaganda and recruiting tool for Zabalaza is the Red
and Black forum. Essentially these are public talks on a specific subject
from an anarchist viewpoint. The Red and Black forum is requested and
often organised by local radicals and a couple of comrades from the
federation will then do the talk.

Forums also work as an educational tool for militants who identify
themselves as anarchists. As Zabalaza is a 'platformist' organization,
recruitment is done carefully and often a potential member takes part in
several forums and other educational events before joining the Federation.

Red and Black Forums have successfully advanced anarchist ideas in the
communities. For instance the Working Class Crisis Committee in a part of
Soweto invited Zabalaza to hold two Red and Black forums in 2005 with
60-70 people attending each. Others are planned for 2006.
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