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(en) Britain, Anarchist Federation Magazine Organise #69 - CONTENTS + Introduction

Date Thu, 01 Nov 2007 20:01:53 +0200

----ORGANISE! for revolutionary anarchism Winter 2007-2008 Organise! readers please note: there are no pictures in this version, but these are available in the printed version. --- CONTENTS ---- ARTICLES ---- EDITORIAL - a summer of issent. ---- CREATING COMMON GROUND - struggle for a community garden in Reading. ---- DEFY-ID & NO BORDERS - identity cards and immigration control are a combined attack on our liberty. ---- BUILDING SCHOOLS FOR THE FUTURE - social control, reduced choice, and the new academy schools. ---- THE PRICE OF GREEN CAPITALISM - increased surveillance at home and in the street. ---- GRASSROOTS ENVIONMENTALISM - stories and lessons from struggles of the 1970's in Europe, and in USA. ---- NEW YORK CITY ANARCHIST BOOKFAIR - eye-witness report, interview and obituary.
* CULTURE – the life of Margaret Michaelis, photographer of the Spanish Revolution.
* PRISONER REQUEST - books needed for an anarchist prison library in USA.
* PRESS FUND APPEAL - if you like Organise! please send us loads of money (or a little donation, thanks).
* BOOK REVIEWS - What's Left: how the liberals lost their way (Nick Cohen), Bakunin: the creative passion (Mark Leier), Remembering Spain: Italian anarchist volunteers in the Spanish Civil War (Umberto Marzocchi).

Editorial: A Summer of Dissent

At the time of writing, Gordon Brown is rallying the faithful at Bournemouth with talk of ‘British jobs for British workers’. We know what this coded message really means. It means drawing a line between those who the ruling class want to keep happy (included in ‘democratic’ decision making; entitled to state support and protection; generating wealth etc.) and, by implication, those who at best don’t count for anything and at worst are a danger to the rest of ‘us’. That means outsiders, for example people on benefits, and the ‘outsiders within’; asylum seekers, prisoners, migrant workers, people asking for more benefits or fighting cuts, workers fighting for security in the face of ever more casualised jobs, Islamic youth (in fact youth in general!) and so on. Simplistically structuralist as this may sound, it nonetheless describes what must surely be the conscious social programme of this increasingly authoritarian government.

This programme is successful in many ways. Labour still strikes a chord with many ordinary people, to the extent that they might win yet another election by promising to protect ordinary people from the undeserving poor and the trouble-makers who supposedly threaten this romanticised British way of life. But anarchists still fervently believe that it is through the same ordinary people that change has to come. This has three implications for us in the very immediate term. Firstly, we have to undermine, expose and challenge the image of ‘the enemy within’ painted by the state and perpetrated in the media, so that people realise that they have been taken in. We have to prove that when it comes to those ‘other’ people that ‘we’, the hard-working British, are supposed to be afraid of, there is in fact no dangerous ‘them’, just a global ‘us’ that an alliance of capitalism and the state sets up boundaries between.

Secondly, we have to encourage people to actually fight the mechanisms of repression that allow the state to control and manipulate whilst supposedly protecting ‘us’. The most obvious example of this is the interrelated introduction of data collection for both British citizens and ‘foreigners’, as addressed previously in Organise!, through new RFID chipped passports, DNA collection, databases like the NHS one and, most insidiously, identity cards ‘for all’. They allow state officials to determine who is included, entitled and deserving versus those who are excluded, in brutal practice as well as symbolically. As an equally symbolic and also practical part of this, we have to target the new technologies involved; ubiquitous CCTV cameras, law enforcers’ helmet cameras, tagging, mobile fingerprinting etc.

Thirdly, we have to offer alternatives to the futility of trying change society by working within ‘democratic’ structures where the ruling class make the rules. We need to create and support autonomous spaces where we can practice forms of organising ourselves and of taking actions that build and reinforce simultaneously social equality and personal freedom; that challenge the boundaries between us that capitalist alienation creates; that promote active participation in decision making; that don’t simply impact minimally on the environment but take action to force a retreat in capitalist destruction of the planet; that explicitly exclude the cops and are willing to defend the autonomy of people using them; and which, unsurprisingly, function better on a human level than state-run spaces!

This is what this Summer of Dissent has been about, be it the amazing Climate Camp at Heathrow and No Borders Camp at Gatwick and their associated actions, blockades against the nuclear war machine at Faslane in Scotland, numerous autonomous education initiatives which deserve a future Organise! article in their own right, and also movements that are addressed here, including the Common Ground occupied community garden in Reading and libertarian responses to City Academies. Awareness of the lies spun by capitalism and the state are apparent in the anti-militarist, anti-ID and anti-capitalist environmentalism reflected of these struggles.

There is always a danger of course that these movements could become exclusive rather than inclusive, by becoming ghettos (albeit mobile ones!) of professional counter-culture. In the 1980s and 1990s (for which see our retrospective on the European anti-nuclear movement) this arguably occurred. Class-struggle anarchism in Britain emerged, after all, largely in reaction to essentially middle-class peace, environmental and feminist movements that didn’t give a damn about deliberate state offensives against ordinary people. But this decade feels very different. Many of the criticisms that class-orientated anarchists in organisation like the Anarchist Federation might otherwise level at this emerging new counter-culture are already being addressed by the movement itself in a deliberately structured and on-going policy of reflexive social activism, and concrete attempts to engage local communities. Indeed, the crimes of the system are felt so strongly by people of many social backgrounds that old divisions between ‘middle class’ reformism and ‘working class’ radicalism, and between people of different genders, sexual orientations and skin colour are being broken down in resistance to them. There is still further to go… much, much further… this is undoubtedly a Culture of Resistance!

Indeed, those movements that have failed to result in change, such as the Postal Workers’ strike, the movement against the war in Iraq, or the mainstream Green movement are those wedded essentially to redundant hierarchical and reformist modes of organising. Of course anarchists should still be involved in these struggles, initiating and supporting autonomous thought & direct action within them, but no trade union, tame politician or petition is going to change things for the better. This is why these new movements which emphasise ‘anarchist’ forms of organising are so important, but it is also why we need to learn inspirational and cautionary lessons from past movements such as those discussed in this issue. As Winter forces us from the autonomous Campsite into our Social Centres, let’s get as many people in there with us as possible!
To order a printed copy, see Organise! main page. For links to all Anarchist Federation publications, visit http://www.afed.org.uk
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