Anarchists start investigation into dangerous police extremists

Gang violence is rife amongst these neon-jacketed thugs!

Bristol Anarchist Federation

Around 20 local anarchists, friends & badgers visited the HQ of the Bristol CID & Special Investigations at Sir Kenneth Steele House on Feeder Road in Bristol last Saturday 15th November. Officers operating from there have recently been visiting people’s homes and workplaces, harassing and putting pressure on local activists, musicians and their friends to become informants for the police. As a response, it was decided to turn the tables and start asking some questions of our own.

Armed with police style spotter cards displaying some of the ugly faces of Big Brother, our investigations began in the car park as decidedly nervous looking CID operatives arrived for their dirty work. Our unannounced presence seemed to produce a sort of mild panic for the first officer on the scene.

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I found a script for Doctor Who.

Another angry woman

Untitled document - Google Drive


I mean I know I’m not Moff’s biggest fan, but that was an unmitigated pile of shite, yes?

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Children of the Commune

This short piece investigating what life could be like for children in a communist society first appeared in Organise! #81.

“You must understand that once we have property in common, and establish on a solid moral and material base the principle of social solidarity, the maintenance of the children will be the concern of the community, and their education will be the care and responsibility of everyone.

Probably all men and all women will love all the children; and if, as I believe is certain, parents have a special affection for their own children, they can only be delighted to know that the future of their children is secure, having for their maintenance and their education the cooperation of the whole society.”

– Errico Malatesta, At the Cafe.

This piece will be a very brief glance through squinted eyes at what early life could look like in an anarchist utopia. While we may seem a long way from communal life, it is important to have some conception of the ideals we are trying to prefigure in our lives hear and now. Speculation on the early stages of someone’s life in a society led by anarchist communist principals, far from being a waste of time, can help make our groups more accessible to those with a duty of care today. Many instances of communal childcare and alternatives to early life exist to point the way towards a better world.

The Kibbutz
A kibbutz (plural kibbutzim, originally meaning a cluster or gathering) is the name for what was traditionally a Jewish communal community. While it is imposable to sum up the history of hundreds of settlements formed over a hundred years in a neat package, the first kibbutzim were established early in the twentieth century, primarily as farming communes that aimed towards the agricultural settlement of the land of Israel. While in recent history most have changed their ideology towards one of capitalist individuality and nationalism, many of the initial pioneers did not want to recreate the old order of settlements where Jews acted as bosses and Arabs were brought in as workers but instead sought to forge new paths in the Zionist movement based on a utopian socialist programme.

Part of this drive led to the tasks of childrearing, both social and economic, being seen as a responsibility of the whole kibbutz. As such the all children were given the same opportunities and options without the economic situation of the parents giving rise to bias towards one child or another. Children would live collectively in a separate building to the parents, share the same meals and enjoy the lifestyle.

After being weaned a child would be assigned to a nanny who’s job was not only to watch over a small group of children, but to also teach them the social skills of co-operation, mutual support and compassion. The nanny would also support visiting family members in learning essential parenting skills “on the job”. The nanny would be joined in helping the children by a formal teacher when the children turned 7, and this group would stay together up until teenhood. After this point the youngsters would move into larger dormitories, visiting home several times per week, while the nanny and teacher would separate from the group and a new wave of teachers would take responsibility for the group’s development.

Children would become responsible for maintaining elements of their environment such as their living space, vegetable gardens and even assistants to young nanny groups. A multidisciplinary approach to education was offered so that everyone would pick up some practical skills while at the same time nurturing those with a particular aptitude to excel in their chosen field.

While this method of child-rearing has ended in the kibbutzim, echoes of this method can be seen in modern speculative fiction such as Embassaytown by China Mieville.

File:Nurse with kibbutz children.jpg

Alternate Education
There are many alternatives to the current mainstream option for education. While it is outwith the scope of this piece to give a comprehensive list of all possible options, or to even go into any great depth on any one, it is worth mentioning a few of the different modes developed that have elements more suited to anarchist communism.

Unschooling / Autonomous Education
This method of home-schooling assumes that children have a natural disposition to wanting to learn. It also works on the basis that as each child will have their own preference on how to search for and digest information and so it is the child themselves who should pick the methods by which they undertake this task. Youngsters are encouraged to peruse subjects they have an interest in, with parents sharing in the task of looking into areas of enquiry with them and helping the student find the information they seek. Parents provide resources, make suggestions, provide text and create learning plans, though as the child gets older the parents pass more and more of the responsibility of these tasks onto their child.

Sudbury Schools
These are schools where the staff and the pupils are all part of the same directly democratic learning establishment and have an equal say in how it is organised. It is assumed that children already posses the main behaviours needed to advance in society and so by engaging in directly democratic methods of organisation the child will find the best way for them to be part of a directly democratic society. While there are no formal rules to begin with and rooms of these schools are not designated for particular tasks, weekly collective meetings allow for new rules to be introduced, learning programmes started or altered, areas of the school designated to certain activities, complaints heard out and staff hired or fired.

Montessori Education
This mode of education looks to guide children along a certain developmental paths. This is done by having a “prepared environment” that has features that are of interest to most people in the specific age band as well as features specifically introduced to suit those learning in the space with an eye to bringing forward the qualities that the community wish to foster in their youth. Lessons are presented by teaching staff however it is the students who pick which topics of enquiry to follow up upon, and student-led trips outside the classroom to find new information (known as “going out”) is a key element of this style of education.

Becoming a Grown-up
A final question that has to be asked of communal society is at what point are you considered to have full responsibilities as a member of the commune? Even more fundamentally are the ideas of grading personal responsibility by age overly arbitrary or proscriptive? At what point does a duty of care impinge on another’s freedom of choice?

Concepts of free association would suggest that any individual should be free to apply to join or leave a community or workplace as they feel inclined to do so, or the community to associate or dissociate from individual as it sees fit. Extending this logic to the youngest members of our society they are in a position where they are subject in many ways to the communities choices until either party decide otherwise.

At this point someone may call for the ward of the community to be emancipated and free to be a full part of commune life, perhaps mainly considered after a certain period of learning. Conversely if a person felt that their freedoms were being hampered in one community they would always be free to leave and join another.

Living the Dream
All this utopian thinking leaves a lot for the anarchist groups to act on in the here and now. We can’t just wait for a member of the group to pop out a sprog or hope that parents will fit social revolution around the childcare. Instead we should make our groups seem inviting and supportive of those with children, starting our drives for social change with the social groups closest to us. The examples of support from the kibbutz can be taken not only to offer childcare in meetings, but to offer support to carers at other times when they need some space. We must understand that even out closest comrades now have a whole new focus in life when they take on the duty of care to a young life. They require us to undertake self-education and skill-sharing rather than shirking at the idea of children being near to us.

We must also look at the question of at which point the children have a say in decisions that will effect their lives and can take on responsibilities as part of our groups, because if we cannot show our wards the same respect we would show a stranger then what hope do we have of them taking forward ideas of social change in their lives? The children of today are revolutionaries of tomorrow. If we are serious about future generations growing up in an anarchist communist world then we have to prefigure that outcome today.

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Remember the Mutineers

Glasgow Anarchist Federation

Here’s a black poppy for this Remembrance Day.

This goes out to those who who died in, and all those who resisted and continue to resist, the capitalists’ wars. To those who mutinied, went on strike, shirked, refused to kill. For all those they executed for deserting. No more “future soldiers” or sycophantic, slavish patriotism.

Let’s take the fight to the bosses! For disobedience and class war!

Some resources:
Mutinies 1917-1920 – Dave Lamb
How Non-violence Protects the State – Peter Gelderloos
Pacifism and Violence, a Study in Bourgeois Ethics – Christopher Cauldwell

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Grangemouth and the need for rank-and-file solidarity

This article first appeared in the Autonomy Freesheet #3:


There has been a lot of speculation about how ready and willing workers at Grangemouth have been to take industrial action. Looking at the actions of the Ineos bosses, Unite the Union, and the politicians we can start to see how much of these three groups vested interests are tied up in making sure workers on the ground are given the thin edge of the wedge.

First, Ineos themselves – as expected from the bosses – have been lying through their teeth. On one hand they have claimed the site is making a loss, though when the economic analyst Richard Murphy looked through their books he was stunned to find they were £7million in the black while at the same time the costs to the company for site assets and a public loan they were paying back have been written off. Money from the site is also being moved into an offshore tax haven. All of this makes the future of Grangemouth look hugely profitable. The only other way Ineos can squeeze more money out of the plant would be to cut staffing costs and benefits, and that is just what they are doing.

Michael Connarty, the Labour MP who covers Grangemouth, claimed on the BBC’s Daily Politics show that Unite had been “conned” and that it was “quite clear [Ineos] prepared for this conflict quite well”. However, the workers of Grangemouth have not been outsmarted by their bosses as much as they have been ill-represented by the Unite bureaucracy and their tired and predictable way of reacting to negotiations. The union’s willingness to keep the peace by giving a three year no-strike deal means the bosses can do what they want for that time with no real way for workers to come back at them; that is unless the workers take the decision to act outside of Unite’s hands and back into their own.

Some have claimed that rank-and-file action may not have been possible, but if that’s the case then it raises the question of how the workforce got into that state, and what was the union’s role in creating this situation? Back in 2000, workers at Grangemouth were striking in solidarity with truckers blockading the plant as part of the fuel price protests, then again in 2009 hundreds of Grangemouth workers took wildcat strike action to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with striking oil refinery workers at Lindsey. Have they really given up this strong will to fight in just four short years? Or have Unite (and the other trade unions) been quick to dampen any militancy in an attempt to show the bosses that they are in control  to keep their own slice of the pie?

However, The Scotsman reported that 665 workers did not sign the survival plan agreement, indicating that workers on the shop floor are still up for a fight. How has Ineos reacted? They are going to sack these workers and have them rehired as new employees, putting them on contracts with lower pensions than those who where forced into giving in. Those who did sign the contract will also get a “sweetener” of between £2,500 and £15,000. Unite, rather than fighting this blatant attack to divide the workforce, had already tied their hands in preparation by signing that no-strike agreement and are complicit in worsening conditions for its members and breaking the bonds of solidarity between different workers. It is clear that they have no interest in protecting the working class, just so long as they get their place at the bosses table.

Over in Holyrood, the SNP have been only too willing to play into the hands of the bosses, giving Ineos support in the calls for compromise to be reached. The thought that a Scottish government (either further devolved or fully independent of Westminster) will be any friendlier to workers, the unemployed or anyone else is an assertion without any backing. The state will always behave in the interests of the state. Holding hope that someone else can fix things for us is only going to lead to half-measures and disappointment. It is only by building up our ability to take action together at the heart of the problem that will give us any real measure control of our lives.

The way in which the unions and the politicians have behaved is not the victory for common sense that is being billed; it is a stitch-up against all of us as a class. Bosses are pitting worker against worker while the trade unions and politicians are only too happy for this to happen as long as their power remains intact. The people on the shop floor know their business better than anyone else. We should learn the lessons from past fights such as the 2009 Lindsey strikes where worker stood in solidarity with worker and won the reinstatement of 698 workers and an agreement of no retaliation from the bosses: a victory through shared struggle. By helping to empower one another by showing support when action is called for we can take a degree of power for ourselves, and to hell with the bosses, union bureaucrats and politicians who stand in our way.

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Edinburgh dayschool: building working class resistance to capitalism and racism

AFed Scotland

[Postponed to 2014]

novemberdayschoolEdinburgh Anarchist Federation invite you to a day of discussion on contemporary anarchist and communist strategy and organisation. Focusing on practical experience of organising above abstract theory we want as many people as possible to come together on November 30th.

In the aftermath of the largest economic crisis in decades and the collapse across the world of the legitimacy and membership of social-democratic parties, the opportunity should exist for a re-emergence of the communist movement. Despite this, we remain marginal, disorganised and lacking in strategic direction. The left remains in thrall to outdated ideas and tactics unable to adapt to current conditions, to offer any effective opposition to neoliberal attacks or build the organisations necessary for working class power and autonomy.

Too often self-described revolutionaries and communists meet only to discuss abstract theories or to analyse historical events, divorced from any material relation to current struggles in the…

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“I come to you like the beggar man…”

A review of Ursula Le Guin’s The Dispossessed which first appeared in Organise! #81.

When I first sat down to write this review all I could think of saying was along the lines of “The Dispossessed is about two worlds divided by a wall, and what it means to be a beggar on either side of this divide. Go read it!” Unfortunately that isn’t much of a review, but with that in mind…

The Dispossessed is a work of speculative science fiction exploring two different societies living in orbit to one another:

Urras. The Blue-Green world of plenty. A word of class. A word of division. The place where the rich are rich and the poor are poor. Where a workers takes the brunt from the bosses wars and wants, no matter if the boss claims to be a capitalist or a communist. Our world presented to us in another name.

Anarres. A moon colony of idealistic anarchists in exile. Now several generations old, it sits in isolation from the rest of humanity and the worlds beyond. Life here is tough and resources are scarce. When crops fail or disaster strikes the hardships leave deep scars against the egalitarian psyche. Although the ideals of anarchism are spoken of the local conditions are helping the world sleepwalk into bureaucratic syndicalism that sacrifices individual will to the collective.

Each is presented in a spiral of oppressive behaviours, each holding the redemptive key to the other’s doom. The spirit of Anarres shows what can be achieved if society is reordered along the principles of horizontal organisation, free association, solidarity and mutual aid. The resources of Urras can break the bane of economic scarcity that is choking anarchism to death in the name of collective survival.

The opening of the book presents to us a wall.

The wall keeps one world in. The same wall keeps the other world out. This applies no matter which side of the divide you look from and it is this wall – constructed not of stone but of the material conditions of the two societies – that is examined in great detail. Le Guin does not present this in dry terms however. Her deft characterisation of Shevek, our ideal anarchist cypher and lead character, is able to explore and reveal to us the words as they are lived, rather than simply providing us with dry exposition or simple narrator-descriptions which could be read but not felt. Alien planets beyond the entwined orbit of Anarres and Urras give brief glimpses, warnings, of other possible futures. Terra has been destroyed by self-created environmental catastrophe. Hain shows a disinterested world dying in spirit due to a lack of creative passion. The wall that separates and acts as the doom of Anarres and Urras is shown to also be the foundation to the downfall of these not-so-distant places.

A special note must be made towards the use of of language to convey the morals, philosophy, thought and behaviours of the people of Anarres. Their language sets up what they can or can’t put into words and communicate and commonly conceive. These altered boundaries of consciousness let us understand for ourselves in the way their society behaves, and in doing so invites the reader to think in a different way, one that goes out-with those presented in the mainstream of our day-to-day lives. In short, it is consciousness raising.

Like the anarchist ideals the book so deftly explores, the story itself does not leave us with an ending so much as a staging point for our own journey. To use the ideas of the books, it comes to you like a beggar man, relying on you for all that it requires and leaving you enriched by realising you would be better with nothing but what you carry as long as all needs are met. By the end of reading it I was stood at the wall between two worlds with the choice over whether I help to dismantle it, and by choosing to do so build a greater whole.

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Privilege, Intersectionality, and the Class Struggle

Before reading this piece I highly recommend reading A Class Struggle Analysis of Privelege Theory from the woman’s caucus of the Anarchist Federation, as the discussions that led up to it being written and that have happened since informed this blog post. 


I have recently been involved in several discussions that have got me thinking more deeply upon how the concepts of oppression/privilege and the those of intersectionality fit into a class struggle analysis of society. I have seen these terms being rejected out-0f-hand as part of an often well-founded rejection of wider identity politics. This usually comes down to the conception that notions of privilege and intersectionality provide a means to measure or chart one another in an “oppression olympics”, adding points here, taking away points there, then seeing who trumps who, then breaking us down into different points on an intersectional chart separated by our genders, sexualities, race or ethnicities, nationalities, abilities, etc. Rather than oppression being something external that is done to you and causes the material conditions by which you are oppressed it becomes something that used as self-description by the “in group” who inadvertently segregate themselves (and their identity)

In a liberal analysis this could, and does, occur all too often. More than once I’ve heard this referred to as tumblr politics, in reference to the shallow and reactionary views that find fertile soil in that particular blogging site.

In a class struggle analysis of privilege there is never any accounting undertaken and it is not our fault if we are part of a group that is systemically privileged or oppressed. Privilege is not something intrinsic to us, it is something done to us and something we have to struggle against in the same way we struggle against oppression. There is no accounting, we are just are in the position we are in.

In simple terms, when taken from a class struggle perspective, intersectionality helps to explain how these various privileges and oppressions come together for each person and show that while in one area we may share an experience of oppression with one another (say two people sharing the systemic oppression faced for being a different gender to that assigned to them by others), in another area we may be in a position where we are afforded some small privilege that the other person does not experience (say because one of those people is white & native to the dominant culture while the other is black & an asylum seeker).

Intersectionality does not try to chart or plot anything. It is simply an acknowledgement of the fact that we all experience privilege/oppression (or advantage/disadvantage if you prefer) differently. It does not try to relate one to another. The document from the AF Woman’s Caucus I link above is built as an expantion on part of the AF aims and principles where it states:

In order to be effective in our various struggles against oppression, both within society and within the working class, we at times need to organise independently as people who are oppressed according to gender, sexuality, ethnicity or ability. We do this as working class people, as cross-class movements hide real class differences and achieve little for us.”

Intersectionality and privilege are tools of thought that help us in this task by allowing us to have a better picture of how privilege/oppression divides us so we can build practical solidarity between different parts of the working classes who become conscious of their situation and take up the class struggle. This in turn will help people raise class conciousness across the board with specific fights against oppression/privilege being informed by those who are subjected to them. That is why, to my mind, these ideas are an important part of the class struggle.

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Activist Burnout Part II: Gender.



This piece has been, if anything, harder to write than the last, as it is introspective: I’m talking about things we do to one another that make people drop out or cause people to expend all of their energy deflecting personal attack, and fighting for internal change – distracting from whatever ideal it was we joined the movement to oppose.

I can only write as a white, cis-female, relatively middle class and highly educated, activist. I have tried my hardest to be properly intersectional – if I need helping out with anything, please call me on it.

Gloss for those unfamiliar with the term: to be “cis-gendered” means to broadly identify with the gender that you were assigned at birth.

I’m not a sociologist or an anthropologist, so I don’t have any statistics to offer in…

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Activist Burnout I: An Anatomy.


[TRIGGER WARNING: Discussion of suicide, police violence, mental breakdown.]

“its hard to beat the Black Bloc
but I’ve seen them beaten down.”
– Decca Muldowney

A note here on context: over the last – suddenly ten and more – years I’ve been involved in various campaigns around climate change, education, immigration, the rights of women and trans* people, and against war, and probably other things that have slid from my mind just now. For the purpose of this particular post, I am drawing primarily from my experiences in the student and anti-cuts movement which began in 2010 and was characterised by a series of beautiful and hopeful occupations and a series of clashes with the police. Subsequent posts in this mini-series will address different movements and different aspects of burnout. The next post will be on burnout and gender, which is an important and frequently overlooked conversation.

I’ve been writing…

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