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Date Sat, 27 Aug 2011 11:53:47 +0300

Follonsby Miners Lodge banner at the Durham Miners Gala Saturday 9th July.. Details here.http://www.freedompress.org.uk/news/2011/07/05/127th-durham-miners-gala-sat-9th/ At first glance one might ask why anarchists and syndicalists would take more than a passing interest in what looks like a Stalinist icon. The question and to some extent the answer is tied up with the revolutionary movement as it emerged into the 20th century.--Contrary to revisions of history, the ‘anarchists’ were a crucial and integral part of the world communist movement. Marx was an elemental conclusion on the state but was still in contest with ideas of Proudhon, Bakunin, and Blanqui and later Kropotkin. His notion of ‘the state’ was in any case nothing like modern understandings of that structure. His vision of ‘the withering away of the state’ was in terms of days, not decades of an iron monolith as it developed in the USSR, so called.

Those on the anarchist wing of the world workers movement particularly in the USA and important parts of Russia, Britain and elsewhere were central parts of the overall movement. It was in the maelstrom of ideology and the fire of debates on tactic and principles rooted in the actual experience of class struggle worldwide that such distinctions were fought out. There was no room for any self exclusionary ghetto or academic anaemic abstract criticisms from studious armchairs.

The formation of the Industrial Workers of the World in Chicago in 1905 brought together for a time the anarchists, anarcho syndicalists and the revolutionary Marxists. In this vision of the world wide industrial union, uniting all workers, many seen the vehicle which would not only fight for the bigger loaf in the here and now, but form the frame for seizing and running the bakery. Staying with the struggle to the other side of an anti capitalist revolution forming the democratic structure on which workers would administer society. They were in essence ‘soviets’ around the time the soviets as such were developing in Russia. Marxists inside the IWW of the period saw the workers councils, committees and industrial unions as the instrument for workers power rather than their own party or central committee.

Later with what in the first flush of the successful ‘soviet revolution’ seen to be the first substantial achievement of this vision, anarchists and communist workers were at once won to that cause while arguments for direction and control still raged. Anarchist members of the IWW rushed to Russia to support the revolution and help build the soviets and direct workers power. As we now know, but few realized then, soviet democracy was deliberately crippled within three years of the revolution. The last stand for the soviet revolution was probably at Kronstadt in 1921 as the Bolsheviks took power from the workers councils and increasingly concentrated it into the Central Committee then in turn its General Secretary.

So the inspiration of this banner is directly tied into this history and our history is tied up with it. The central cameo of course illustrates V.I.Lenin as he centrally assumed control of the world communist movement, his vision of uniform Communist Parties across the world, extinguished hundreds of other irons in a thousand fires. Many who had cut their teeth on anarcho syndicalist and anarchist communist ideas were won to what at that time seemed practical workable models of workers power.

James Connolly, founder member of the IWW, later founder of the Irish Transport and General Workers Union and the Irish Citizen Army, died leading the Irish 1916 rebellion in the middle of an imperialist world war. Their aim was a democratic socialist republican Ireland north and south, protestant and catholic based on small farmers and workers councils.

George Harvey, one of the leaders of the Ruskin College strike of 1909, a founder member of the Plebs League and Industrial Union of Britain, became a leading light in the revolutionary miner’s movement following the Miners Next Step and the great coalfield debates on Industrial Unionism, syndicalism, anarchism and later Bolshevism.

Arthur Cook, the President of the Miners Federation of Great Britain during its most testing time in 1926 the general strike and great lock out which followed. The ruling class feared insurrection and the newly formed CPGB drew back for fear of losing control, leaving the TUC to betray the miners and crush the revolutionary momentum.

Keir Hardy, a man christened the founder of the British Labour Movement, the first independent working class member of the parliament and founder of the Independent Labour Party. A lifelong socialist-pacifist campaigned tirelessly against the pointless slaughter of world war one, when erstwhile comrades to his left like Peter Kropotkin supported its aims.

What is so strikingly unique about this banner is its encapsulation of the three major revolutionary ideologies and movements of the period, Social Democracy, Syndicalism and Bolshevism. Here the options of the ballot box, the bullet, Parliament and /or the general strike, its motto a call to revolutionary struggle to death if needs be. Proclaiming the union of the peasantry and proletariat inspired by the hammer and sickle while a new dawn brings in a brighter day.

First commissioned in 1928 it died in a blaze ten years later which nearly claimed the lives of Harvey and his wife. It was recommissioned but had little enough time to bask in any glory as moderate forces painted it over not many years later.

So it gives me great pleasure, as a third generation Follonsby miner, member of the IWW and syndicalist, to be able to invite readers of Freedom to attend at our relaunch on 18th June 2011. This is our history too, the arguments are still being engaged in, not simply about then but more importantly now. This banner provides a valuable illustration to that debate and political struggle within the workers movement, what lessons we have learned from that long bitter road, which are as vital now as they were then.

Dave Douglass

The Banner was unveiled at Wardley Legion Club, Sunderland Road, Gateshead. 10-30 am 18th June 2011.
A specially commissioned history of the Lodge and its banners, The hero’s on the silk will be freely available at the launch. After that time they are available at £10 each post paid from djdouglass@hotmail.co.uk proceeds to the Follonsby Miners Lodge, Band and Gala fund.

» Durham Miners Gala – Sat 9th July
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