Black Flag 212 (1997) partial


Issue of the London-based anarchist magazine Black Flag from the 1990s. Partial contents only.


  • Editorial
  • Update on the Trial of Anarchists in Italy
  • Close Campsfield!
  • Class War no. 73
  • Solidarity urgently needed !!!
  • Euromarch
  • The Dawning of a New Era: Responses to Labour election victory
  • Poles Apart: The Magnet Dispute Drags On
  • Black Autonomy
  • A short History of Polish Anarchism
  • Race Class and Organisation by SA WSF
  • Scotland Yardies (about police involvement in drugs and crime)
  • Black American Anarchist Victimised in Australia
  • Reclaiming Theatre
  • Letters
  • @ quiz


There is increasing interest in anarchist ideas throughout the world. To capitalise on this we need to be organised. But the purpose of this organisation is not to be an end in itself, but to spread our ideas to the wider working class, to encourage working class self organisation, and to fight for libertarian and revolutionary ideas within that self organisation.

So, following on from last issue, we return again to the themes of organising, this time with a lengthy contribution from a comrade from the South African Workers Solidarity Federation, dealing with separate organisation. The article on anarcho-syndicalism in our last issue attracted a fair amount of letters, which shows that this is a matter of importance to our readers. What's happening with Class War is further evidence that some of the old assumptions about organisation are being challenged.

As Blair and co break the handful of promises they made, and the Socialist Workers Party push for big lobbies of a Labour conference they know is the enemy, the task of long term work among working class communities is more and more being left to anarchists alone. The next few years will see serious fights over the destruction of welfare and benefits, and the removal of resources from working class communities. We need to be there, and so do you........…

Update on the Trial of Anarchists in Italy

The trial has now entered a phase of technical testimonies made by convicts and police officers. At this stage, what's being analysed is the episode of the so-called "Prenestino Car-bomb", which exploded in 1989 killing comrade Luigi De Blasi. There have been many police investigations and technical evaluations made in order to determine the quality, quantity and destructive potential of the explosive used, and also the motives and identities of those involved in this incident. Both top forensic scientists and professors from the university came to testify on the investigation into who the man devastated by the car-bomb was (for the prosecution, the assassin De Blasi). The prosecution's final theory was that this car-bomb must have been a reprisal to avenge some kidnappers killed by police on the hard shoulder a few days previously in Rome. So, according to the prosecution, this was the motive and De Blasi must have carried out this attack. Moreover, the professors specifically stated their certainty regarding the identity of the bomber.

The next hearing is set for the 7th and 8th of July, practically a month and a half away from the last one. There's an interest in spinning out this trial, to make sure it goes by unobserved, and in dampening the atmosphere of confict that developed in the first few hearings.

One last piece of news is that Lovecchio, who arrived in Rome a few weeks ago after being extradited from the Netherlands, found herself jailed in Rebibbia and is now under house arrest.

For more info

Close Campsfield!

The inspection report of Campsfield was finally published in April and was highly critical of the Home Office. Among the main points of the report were that detainees don't know why they are there, they have nothing to do, and Group 4, the private security company who run the centre, don't have a clue. Minister for Racist Immigration Practices Mike O'Brien and the dreaded spin doctors managed to convey to the media that the main recommendations were that more asylum seekers should be locked up! O'Brien went on to renew Group 4's contract for 3 years.

Despite the confirmation of the report's author Sir David Ramsbotham that the regime at Campsfield is probably illegal, no move has been made to drop the charges against the Campsfield 9, whose trial started in June. Already, an official has admitted that he couldn't recognise one of the detainees he named as participating.

Anarchists were among those who picketed the Crown Prosecution Service over the Campsfield 9 in April.

Source: CARF, BM Box 8784, London WC1N 3XX

Class War no. 73

If they are to be believed, this is the last issue of CW, though no doubt someone will republish it, just as all the ageing punk bands who still provide the inspiration for one half of CW always stage comebacks - welcome to the old timers, but offering nothing new.

That said, there are positive things to say about this paper. To quote, "We need to find new ways of organising ourselves that can appeal to all the working class, male and female, young and old, black and white." We wholeheartedly agree. While we could nitpick that this is not the first time this has been said, what matters is what we have in common, and what we can achieve together. So we recommend people do go along to CW's meetings, with an open mind and clear from preconceptions, just to see if there are worthwhile common projects.

There are three areas where we can work together, in the locality, in the workplace, and around issues. Here are some of our thoughts.

Working locally is the most important and most neglected. It is in the local area where you can have the greatest impact and greatest visibility. And visibility is important, it's the only reason anyone ever joins the SWP. However, local activities do have their problems. The reason many anarchists don't prioritise local activity is often, we suspect, because they don't feel connected with the locality, especially in cities like London, where many anarchists tend to ghettoise themselves in areas like Hackney and Brixton. Allied to this, it can be dull, and will take a long time. It is fair to say that concerted local work will pay back in terms of members, success and influence after 5 to ten years, depending on conditions. For young activists that is very daunting. It is also difficult at times for people to work out what to do. Fighting for a zebra crossing isn't very glamorous, is it?

A good example of what can be done locally is the Bradford 1 in 12 Club, who have the confidence in their politics and the influence (and know a lot of the local politicians and bureaucrats because they've been around as long) that they can call meetings, demand that the council sends someone to answer questions, and the Council does! This isn't to buy them off, it's because the Council has learnt the hard way the price of ignoring them. Bad examples of local activity are legion, unfortunately.

Local groups do not have to be based around a social centre, though it obviously helps. They do need to have an understanding of what's going on in their locality, and this is one of anarchism's advantages over the 57 varieties, so why don't we make more use of it? Perhaps we're afraid of people breaking up our cosy little world, or perhaps we scare people off with jargon or the promise of loads of work as the victims of burnout see new members as an opportunity to rediscover a life.

Workplace organisation is just as essential, though obviously not everyone is in a position to do it. That many who are in such a position don't is a result of confusion about unions and their role. Put simply, there is a difference between defending your rights at work and becoming general secretary of the TUC. There is not the same opportunity here as there is in local organising, but the two are complementary. If someone is victimised at work the local group can support and help out in terms of pickets, solidarity, doing stuff for organising campaigns where the workers want to remain anonymous. With the JSA and the quick succession of temporary dead end jobs many are now faced with, having a local is vital. It is worth being a shop steward or union rep, both for the knowledge and skills you will learn as well as the satisfaction of fighting the bosses at a small but meaningful level. In our opinion union positions outside the workplace, such as branch secretary and so on, while someone needs to do them, are not the best places for anarchist militants to put their effort into.

Successful workplace organisation needs two things - local support in terms of numbers and solidarity, and solidarity and advice from others in the same industry. These require both a local organisation (see above) and an industrial network of like-minded militants.

Issue based campaigns are perhaps the most problematic. We'll start with a good example, the Anarchist Black Cross (ABC). The ABC has no problems in terms of members / supporters agreeing on political principle and on what they want to do collectively (it is a voluntary organisation after all). It is also not bound by constraints of geography or circumstances, even if you are the only anarchist on Rockall you can still write to prisoners.

What get called single issues are usually not single issues. The problems associated with them include working with other people who not only do not share your politics, but are openly hostile to them, such as Trots and Stalinists.

We are clear that we are not talking about a new organisation, there is no need for one. Should one arise it must come from the bottom up, from local groups networking. Our energy is better spent in organising than in another organisation. These meetings are to be welcomed.

CW73 available from BM 5538 London WC1N 3XX for 50p

Solidarity urgently needed!!!

On July 7th anarchist militant Vaclav Jez was arrested in the Moravian town of Blansko for attempted double murder charges and "keeping illegal arms". On July 6, Vaclav had been attacked by two Nazi-skinheads while destroying some anti-anarchist slogans, sprayed by local fascists. The two Nazis attacked him brutally with the intention of heavily injuring or even killing him. In desperation, Vaclav drew the illegaly owned gun and fired in self-defense. One bonehead was hit in the shoulder and the second escaped.

Police immediately accused Vaclav of a "double murder attempt", claiming that well known Blansko nazi skinheads were just "ordinary youngsters" accidentaly passing by and that the streetfight was incited by Vaclav himself.. The district judge sentenced him to preliminary custody awaiting trial. Vaclav faces a 15 year sentence for both "murder attempts" and 5 years for his illegally-owned gun. The whole situation is complicated because Vaclav was sentenced previously to 2 years conditionally for refusing to serve "civil service" (instead of "normal" military service).

Vaclav is one of the most active militant anarchists in all Czechoslovakia and a well known antifascist activist. He has already been framed by the Special Antiextremist Secret Police, which arrested him on the May Day demonstration 1995 and accused him of "verbal assault on a Police officer". Vaclav spent 5 months in jail and was freed only due to anarchist public protest campaign. He was investigated by the policemen, who were beating him during interrogation and demanding contacts and names of Czech anarchist militant scene. The false Police interpretation of his self-defense against two armed skinheads is another attempt to silence him.

Because legal assistance is extremely expensive in the Czech Republic, we urgently ask all anarchists all over the world to help us to provide a good lawyer for Vaclav. Because he is a "recidivist" according to the law, he can be also sentenced to "extraordinary punishment", which means 25 years or more. If you want to help, please, contact the International secreatriat of CSAF

Send protest letters to your local Czech embassy demanding the dropping of the charges against Vaclav, because he acted in self-defense and expressing solidarity with this Czech revolutionary anarchist !!!



From: Kevin Brandstatter -----A report on the UK leg of the march.

Saturday 4 June about 300-400 max marchers got together in Hyde Park. I put the term loosely. The venue had been variously billed as Marble Arch, Speakers Corner, Hyde Park, and lastly Reformers Tree in Hyde Park.

I was the first to arrive, met a couple of other IWW members and waited. Members of the SPGB turned up followed by few people from Socialist Organiser and then some Spartacists who tried to "teach" me that what we needed was a Bolshevik Revolutiona along the lines of 1917!!

Two people arrived with a banner procaiming themselves the Euromarch, walked straight to the centre of the Park, set up a megaphone and started making speeches. At the time they turned the megaphones on there was no-one around to listen to them. They had gone to a completely different place to the supporters of the march. Eventually we filtered over to where they were, listened to a number of boring contributions, laced with such homilies as "fight social exclusion" [a sociologists dream slogan I think] and waited for the mass march from Hillingdon Hospital to arrive. It did - there were no more than 30 on it! We then spent another while listening to more speeches and the march assembled and set off. [It was the smallest London march I had ever been in] At Downing Street a petition or something was handed in and a delegation of 6 returned cheering as if the revolution had started!

The march then wound its way to Westminster hall and there was a small rally.

In retrospect the day was a complete waste of time although as the IWW we made a few contqacts and sold some literature. I spoke with quite a few people who came along and it seems apparent that the attempts to totally depoliticise the march itself and the Euromarch in general had been so successful that no-one actually knew what the whole event was for!!! That in itself probabaly knocked participation totally on the head.

Kevin Brandstatter

The Dawning of a New Era: Responses to Labour Election Victory

How many times since 1st May and the landslide election of Tony Blairs Labour Government have you had conversations with punch drunk lefties that begin What was your favourite memory of election night 97?. Maybe its a sign of political illiteracy that party manifestoes are so dull that no one bothers to read them anymore, but it seems that the media euphoria and the popping of champagne corks at Walworth Road have served to obscure the fact that New Labour was supported by The Sun, The Times, The Financial Times and The Economist and the New Labour Manifesto set out its aims as follows: In industrial relations we make it clear that there will be no return to flying pickets, secondary action, strikes with no ballot or the trade union laws of the 1970s.

In their book The Blair Revolution Peter Mandelson and Roger Liddle set down in detail what Labours pledges to crackdown on petty crime and neighbourhood disorder and stop the growth of an underclass in Britain will actually mean.

On crime; To improve the effectiveness of the police, so they catch more criminals....The issue is not just more bobbies on the beat but how the police best organise themselves to exploit technological advance - from genetic identification techniques to the use of video recorders, to data matching systems.

...To increase the likelihood of convictions in the courts and through reform of our criminal justice procedures, reduce the number of technical acquittals.

On the underclass; It is not right that some people should collect the dole, live on the black economy and then refuse to co-operate with societys efforts to reintegrate them into the labour market. It is dishonest and corrosive of our attempt to build a sense of mutual obligations in the community. In the circumstances where new opportunity is being offered and refused there should be no absolute entitlement to comtinued receipt of full social security benefits.

The Economist and The Sun both backed Labour because they read between the lines and anticipated what lay behind all the cheery grins and photo opportunities.

European capital cannot afford the cost of the maintenance of the welfare state. Germanys unemployment stands at 4.5 million, French unemployment is over 3 million, Britains around 3.5 million. The cost of unemployment is borne through the provision of welfare benefits. The welfare state is a drag anchor on economic growth. If European capital is to compete with the Asian economies and the US economy, it requires labour market flexibility to hold down wages so intervention by the state to msustain the labour market as a way of reducing unemployment is out. The only remaining solution is to dismantle the welfare state itself. The Financial Times, in calling for support for Blair, recognised that the party best placed politically to dismantle the welfare state is the party which gave birth to it. Blairs vision, which he has sold to the CBI, The Economist and a host of other business forums, is of a hi-tech, low wage economy. As Mandelson describes it John Major presided over a massive boost to government spending in the run up to the 1992 election. Public spending rose by 5.7% in the election year alone.... Public borrowing has too often absorbed too high a share of the countrys savings. Government policy must ensure that the ntaions savings are put to productive purposes, rather than immediate public or personal consumption.

The vote cast for Labour on 1st May was objectively a vote for the dismantling of the welfare state, slashing of public sector pay, workfare and a high tech police force to save the middle classes from the disorder likely to result. Does anyone still need to ask why Labour didnt oppose the Criminal Justice Act?

Whatever subjective intentions Labour voters had, the end result was the replacement of a weak, divided anti-working class government with a right wing anti-working class government with a massive majority!

Over the next 5 years Labour will seek to drain resources form working class communities. The closure of schools, youth clubs, libraries and playgroups, and the selling off of housing stock and chronic disrepair which are the trademark of Labour in local office will be attempted on a national scale. Unless the resistance to this responds on the basis that Labour is the class enemy in office, and opposes it as such and fights from the basis that every school, every youth club, every council home, belongs to the community in which it is based and is not the property of the grinning Rachmans of Blairism, the Labour project will succeed, and the wholesale abandonment to 3rd world levels of poverty of whole sectrions of the working class which is the legacy of Clinton in the US will be our fate here.

My favourite memory of May 1st? Well, mine was a week or so later, in Socialist Worker, with a headline We Didnt Vote for This. Tough shit, comrades, you voted for it, campaigned for it and the rest of us are now going to pay for it.


Poles Apart: The Magnet Dispute Drags On

350 workers at Magnet Kitchens' factory in Darlington were sacked 3rd September last year. They had rejected the company's proposal on wages - £35 a week cut on average, after 3 years of a pay freeze!

Last year Magnet made profits of £27 million, and gave fat cat director Marion Anonini a pay rise of £750,000. The workers response was almost unanimous industrial action, to which Magnet responded by sacking 350 workers, nearly the entire workforce. Strikers have been threatened and scabs have been hired at even lower wages and on short term contracts. As the dispute drags on, and it is obviously hurting Magnet, it is clear that it is mainly anarchists who are actively supporting the workers there, much to the shame of the left. Aside from anarchist publications covering the dispute, there were various snide comments in the stalinist Trade Union Review about a "loose collective" of supporters occupying a Magnet branch in the North East.

There are four unions involved, and their only response so far has been to call for a boycott. This is fair enough, but if, like me, you've spent a few hours picketing Magnet showrooms, you'll notice that not a lot of trade goes on. In fact, it's quite clear that the sort of consumer boycott that hits normal retail outlets won't work here. Instead what's needed is solidarity of the real kind, such as getting construction unions in Magnet's large customers (local authorities, hotel and catering businesses) to refuse to fit Magnet kitchens. This is an awful lot harder, and the biggest step is actually to talk to the workers in these places. It begs the question as to why the locked-out Magnet workers' own unions haven't done it, as it would be much easier for them to impose an industry wide boycott.

Black Autonomy

Recently, we met a member of Black Autonomy visiting London. Sister Nora is a student in Atlanta. We began by asking about the lockdown of poor black communities that occurred during the 96 Olympics in Atlanta.

Nora: During the Olympics, thousands of homeless people were evacuated out of the city, and loads more arrested for no good reason, some spending months in jail. The police were everywhere, though people in Atlanta are used to seeing them as Georgia is a police state. Most working class people had jobs, but many in the African American community set up venues in a historic part of town. The police and city council conspired to direct traffic away from them, and many were ruined.

BF: Were there any protests during the Olympics?

Nora: There was no protesting or boycotting - the police stopped it all, using anti-terrorism laws. The city returned to normal after the Olympics, but they beefed up police security, with lots of roadblocks. People in Atlanta think this is normal, they are used to it. The police are very brutal. In 1995 they killed Brother Jerry Jackson, shot him dead in cold blood. The officer who did that hasn't even been prosecuted or brought to trial.

In August 1996, Sister Olabumi Chavious was brutalised by police after someone jumped into her taxi. The police officer involved slammed her face into the pavement and refused to call a doctor despite the pleas of witnesses.

Police harassment is constant. There is little done to counter it, old organisations like the NAACP have a lot of meetings, banquets and so on, but they don't DO anything. The situation for poor people is one of high rents, high gas and electric, high reconnection fees if you're cut off.

BF: What sort of opposition is there to this?

Nora: There's very little, none really. The middle class are very afraid of the poor working class, and the poor are caught up in materialism. Many can't read, do math, and are so called third generation welfare. No one on the campuses is working with the poor, the only community oriented organisations are very middle class.

In many places the police run the communities. One particular squad, the "Red Dogs" run the drugs industry. The projects are very bad, in one a baby choked on a cockroach and died. the ghettos are starved of resources, and this is in a black run city. At my school there was no heating, and I ended up going to a white high school. The Atlanta education system is one of the worst in America.

BF: What about police involvement in the drugs trade?

Nora: They are famous for it, especially the Red Dogs who break into peoples' homes. There are some projects where it has now been proved that the government brought crack into them, because certainly no one there could afford it.

Most police are black, the whites tend to live in the suburbs. The biggest problem is the lack of education, the leftist organisations are afraid of the black working class themselves.

BF: What about the Nation of Islam and their drug programmes?

Nora: The NOI is very strong in Atlanta, and Farrakhan is a demigod to them, though they don't do anything political here. The Million Man March was well organised by the NOI but nothing came from it. Their next plan is the Million Woman March, out of Philly. The Communist Youth Brigade are active on campuses but won't touch the black working class. The NOI fill the vacuum that ought to be filled by leftist organisations with things like the breakfast programmes and drugs work. With the NOI, this tends to be individuals do this work, and the Nation rallies round, though some Ministers have been expelled where they did a lot of work with the working class. It is a good escapist organisation for people without self-discipline.

BF: Is there a way out of it?

Nora: It needs education, the kids feel there's something wrong but don't know what. There are various organisations which do literacy programmes but they don't address where people are coming from. A lot of the kids don't feel they can do anything for themselves, and there are a lot of measures against them, like curfews.

A Short History of Polish Anarchism

An anarchist movement of Narodnik ( Russian anti-capitalist democratic activists of the late 19th century) and Anarchist ideas from Russia and Western Europe came into existence at the turn of the 1th century. The ideas were by no means uniform, from the uncompromising and controversial Nieczajew [nechaev?], gallant Bakunin, anarcho-communist prince Kropotkin or Leo Tolstoy, promoter of a pacifist christian negation of statehood.

The first and most significant anarchistic group in the pre-independence Poland originated in 1903 in Bialystok and consisted in an enormous part of Jewish people. In the next years some similar centres came into being in Nieznow, Warsaw,Lodz, Siedlce, Czestochowa, Kielce and a couple of other towns.What particularly intensified activity in all centres was news from the Russian Revoluution, Bloody Sunday in St Petersburg. These groups took part in terrorist activity as well as propoganda actions such as attempts on police officers' and factory owners' lives. There were also bank robberies to gain funds. Nowadays the majority of us anarchists entirely reject such methods but to understand the motivation to act in this way it is important to realise the level of cruelty and despotism of the tsar's authority. For example in Warsaw, on Governer general Saklow's order, 16 young anarchists, (about 18 years old) were murdered by the authorities and their bodies thrown into the Vistula. Shots at demonstrating workers were not uncommon either.

At the same time material popularising the ideas of anarcho-syndicalism came pouring in. Adherents of this kind of anarchism repudiated terrorism claiming it did not contribute to an increase in society's consciousness, but on the contrary averted it from anarchism and caused disarray in the movement. That is why anarcho-syndicalists encouaraged other anarchists towards propagandistic activity and joining trade unions.

The best known theoreticians of Polish anarchism were Edward Abramowski, Waclaw Machajski and the anarcho-sydicalists Dr Jozef Zielinski and Augustyn Wroblewski. Edward Abramowski claimed to be a non-state socialist . However it should be noted that the word "socialism" at that time did not have such a limited meaning as it has nowadays and a majority of groups of liberation, leftist groups and struggles for independence identified with it. Abramowski presented his views in works such as "Ethics and Revolution", "Republic of Friends " and "A Public Collusion Against Government". As an alternative to the state system were , in his opinion, gratuitous ????? trades set up by rules of common affairs and mutual services associated in bigger co-operatives. Only they are a support of a real freedom, give welfare, order, justice and brother hood to the individual. Furthermore they are organised from the grassroots, spontaenaeously without compulsion.Existing associates should form on a specified territory a free commune without authority and police. However the lack of a supposedly indispensable repression machinery does not mean the eruption of chaos into human life art all. The reverse happens- it releases energy and fervour that were being reduced in a system so far and that make people wanting to create the surrounding reality and to find themselves in it. An example of a big growth of social consciousness in the big solidarity days and then the repression of 13/12 ?????? is the best evidence of an enormous potential in people who have realised that they can change something in their life and surroundings at last. But let's return to Abramowski's theories. An unquestionable authority of those days, Tolstoy, had a considerable influence on his views. Follwoing him he advocatied non-paymnet of taxes and refusing to join the army. At the same time as being against the church as an institution he referred to Jesus' sermons which in his opinion denied statehood and authority. In his book "A public collusion agfainst governemnt" he gave some instructions about how people should struggle with the Tsar for thier own national maintenance. it certainly did not mean promoting another dictatorship which statehood is. Abramowski was also ( as every anarchist) opposed to national socialism. He prophetically warned "The politics of modern socialism is not a politics of strengthening and extending national authority that tends not towards setting people free but towards towards authorising everything which can be authorised only in their life." ????????????

Another popular polish anarchist was Waclaw Machajski, born in 1876, an originator of a new current, so-called machajewszsczism. Originally he was a patriotic activist in the PPS party but gradulaly he came to anti-intelligentsia views. he claimed that all the greatest evil that surrounds people comes form ideas and ideologies of intellectuals. Although the consequence of that attitude was the setting aside not only of democracy and socialism but anarchism as well his ideology was closely related to this movemnt. Foretelling the constraints that follow socialism he augured an arrival of a slavish system in which bureaucratic machinery set up by intelligentsia would constrain an ordinary workman. During the interwar period syndicalist ideas had reercussions in the Union of Trade Unions ( ZZZ in Polish) this was 130000 strong and active from 1931-1939. The association presented itself to join the IWA. It is still active today and assembles anarcho-syndicalist and syndicalist trade unions. During the war the ZZZ and other organsiations formed the Polish Syndicalist Union (in polish ZSP) which actively battled against fascists. However it was not isolated from other formations and coperated with the National Army (AK) and the People's Army (AL). An illegal newsheet, the Syndiclaist, was published and ZSP detachments took part in the Warsaw Uprising.

Anarchistic ideas reappeared after the war at the same time as the Alternative Societies movementand the Sigma club which originated in the early 80s. Other groups like the Autonomous Anarchistic Federation of Lublin, Freedom and Peace, Intercity Anarchistic Federation and Orange Alternative shot up like mushrooms after that. They were all active against the communist system however as distinct from Solidarity they defended themselves with irony and humour and refusing to join the army than more traditional methods. A lot of the radical ecological activists came form these movemnts. Some still exist and there are new ones as well such as Social Activity Membership in Slupsk. Anarchist ideas of the workers movemtn found a lot of support. A group of the Anarchist Federation published a paper "Works" in Nova Huta.

An inspiration to that kind of activity was often the original Solidarity which has a lot of syndicalist features in its programme. "the only possible way to change the actual situation is to set up authentic workers' autonomies which would make the employees the real master of a factory. Our association demands a restoration of the autonomous nature of the co-operative. It is necessary to pass a new bill which will protect from administrative interference." This was passed by the National Deputies conference of NSZZ (Solidarity) in 1981. The real programme of this association is now much less radical and far from the original.

It should be said that Polish anarchist history is not as impressive as the Spanish, Italian or Russian. [ this is according to the Polish authors of this piece ] A strong desire for its own statehood after years of slavery won in Polish society. As always this situation gave independence to only a minority, to the majority only new chains. I hope the future will not bring us a sadomasochistic cult of the headman to Polish society but instead the triumph of freedom and autonomy. Long Live Anarchy.

Race Class and Organisation by SA WSF

(We recently observed a very fruitful discussion on race and class on the internet, particularly around "black" anarchism, special oppressions and the desirability of separate organisation.

One of the best and most comprehensive posts came from a member of the Workers Solidarity Federation of South Africa, an anarchist/syndicalist group with a majority African component, which while personal, reflects their politics and positions on these matters.

Interest in anarchism is growing throughout the world. There are active groups in most parts of the world, with the exception of the Indian subcontinent, Antarctica and as far as we know the Chinese dictatorship. This process will no doubt accelerate and there is a challenge for us to make our ideas accessible.

But as our South African comrades point out below, "it was the ability of anarchism to provide alternatives and to pay special attention to the specific needs of these different sections of the working class in order to unite the whole class that made the success (of the Cuban anarchists and IWW) possible" not "a revision of anarchism to accommodate nationalism".


It is claimed that Anarchism as currently constituted is unable to attract Black people, and other specially oppressed minorities. It is therefore argued that we should thus endorse separate Black-only anarchist/ community organisations that may in some (vague and unspecified) cases associate with "white" groups - "white" groups should "work among" "their own" people etc.)

These arguments are wrong or lacking in clarity.

Firstly, class struggle anarchism has historically proved quite capable of attracting massive numbers of people of colour. In fact, one could claim that historically most anarchist movements have been based in Third World countries. For example, anarchism dominated the revolutionary movement in China in the 1910s and early 1920s. In the First World, Anarchist movements historically attracted specially oppressed national minorities, for example, the IWW attracted thousands of Black workers in the USA Deep South. Even today, groups such as the WSF (SA) and the Awareness League of Nigeria have almost entirely Black memberships . The key to this success was a consistent class struggle programme that combated all manifestations of oppression. For example, the Cuban Anarchists mobilised both Afro-Cubans, creoles and Spaniards in massive integrated anarcho-syndicalist unions because they opposed racist practices like apprenticeship laws, because they supported the anti-colonial struggle against Spain and because they provided a class struggle answer to the questions facing all sections of the working class. It was not a "revision" of anarchism to accommodate nationalist paradigms that made the breakthrough- it was the ability of anarchism to provide alternatives and to pay special attention to the specific needs of these different sections of the working class in order to unite the whole class that made the success possible. Anarchists did not capitulate to nationalist ideas- they combated them- they did not organise separately, they organised as Anarchists on a class struggle basis.

Even today, the Anarchist groups emerging in Third World countries like Nigeria and South Africa base themselves on a class programme- we have seen the end results of nationalism and we oppose it (although obviously we defend peoples right to choose to believe in it, and even if we recognise grassroots nationalists as progressive fighters against racism etc.). This does not mean that we downplay imperialism or racism- on the contrary we pay specific attention to these key questions, but we subject them to class analysis and advocate class struggle strategies against them.

Black nationalism and/or separatism is not the only thing that can fight racism or attract Black people and workers to organisations. Even in South Africa, the Communist Party was the main mass organisation throughout the 1930s and 1940s and dwarfed the nationalist groups like the ANC; in the 1920s the main mass organisation (aside from the Communist Party) was the quasi-syndicalist Industrial and Commercial Workers Union. In Harlem in the USA in the 1930s, the CPUSA was able to win Black workers away from Garveyism on the basis of a consistent defence of the unity of White and Black workers.

While Anarchists should unconditionally defend the rights of specially oppressed sections of the working class to organise separately, they should not necessarily promote it except in certain conditions (see below). I think that we should separate out the issues of the right to organise separately from the issues of the usefulness of this mode of organisation. Some people have stated uncritically that we should support people's right to organise separately etc., but in a vague sense, not always clarifying or thinking through the implications of this position.

We simply cannot take it for granted that separate organisations are necessarily progressive or travelling the same road as we are. We defend the right of Blacks, women [etc.] to organise separate / special organisations where they feel this is necessary. This is because we defend the democratic right of free association.

Nonetheless, separate organisations are not necessarily progressive - in some cases they are clearly reactionary and a backward step, in others they are poor strategy.

For example, separate organisation in the workplace is not acceptable in any case where industrial unions of all workers exist. The logic of trade union organisation is to unify different categories of workers, who can only find strength in their unity. To set up a separate women's union not only weakens the existing unions, but puts the women themselves in a weak and unsustainable position due to their limited numbers, as well as in direct conflict with the existing union, thus creating a dynamic that can lead to the destruction of union organisation in the plant as a whole. Where the unions exclude categories of workers, these workers should be organised into separate unions as a transitional step, but in all cases United front action between the different union should be promoted because its strengthens struggle, and because it helps lay the basis for merger and unification. Maximum unity on a principled basis is always desirable, supported and fought for. Black!-only unions are a recipe for failure where Black people form a minority in the working class (obviously the situation is different in South Africa where the Black working class is the majority- but more on this later). How can one even launch mild forms of industrial action without the support of most workers?

Furthermore, separate organisation is only admissible in cases where workers face a special oppression. We do not support Zulu-only unions like UWUSA (in South Africa) because Zulus do not face a special oppression as Zulus, they are instead being organised into a ethnic/tribalist reactionary union sponsored by capital, the semi- fascist Inkatha Freedom Party and the previous (apartheid) government to break the non-racial,integrated COSATU unions.

Separate organisation that is not on a class struggle basis is dangerous insofar as it lays the basis for multi-class alliances which are unable to defeat capitalism and the State because they include the class enemy and thus became hitched to the class projects of capitalists, bosses and power-hungry would-be rulers. A case in point is the Nation of Islam in the US.

Separate organisation is not innately progressive. It can be used as a tactic to roll-back worker struggles and undermine the left. For example, the nationalist-minded liberal middle-class Black leaders of the mass Industrial and Commercial Workers Union in SA in the 1920s used arguments that the Communist Party was a "White" institution to expel socialists from their ranks and had the union over to (White!!) liberals like Ballinger who opposed anything other than simple bread and butter, non-political orthodox trade unionism, as opposed to the ICU's previously semi-syndicalist positions. In French West Africa in the anti-colonial struggle, arguments about the "Black Soul" were used to split African unions from the French unions (the CGT in most cases), delivering them to authoritarian bourgeois-nationalist parties whose first act in power was to crush the working class.

Separate organisations can divide the working class into competing and even hostile sections to the detriment of all. For example, the Black Power movement in the US in the late 1960s almost entirely opposed any alliances with Whites, including White workers and trade unionists. In Detroit, it even organised separate Black-only unions like DRUM which undercut the United Autoworkers (to which most Blacks still belonged), refused to build alliances with progressive Whites, and ultimately collapsed in large part because of the inability of a radical union amongst a small section of the working class to make the revolution on its own. Without allies, the small Black minority (about 12% of the US population) was unable to weather the storm of repression that gathered in the early 1970s. At the same time, the White workers failure to defend the Black movement ensured that they too were unable to withstand the bossesŐ "free market" assault that began in the late 1970s; i!t is no accident that the US has the weakest unions and worst welfare conditions of any First World country. Contrary to the beliefs of some, it is impossible for such a small minority to overthrow the massive power of the US State and ruling class on its own. Instead it needed allies. In the same way that an isolated revolution or anti-imperialist struggle cannot survive without international support and revolutionary resistance, no one fraction of the working class can win.

Arguments for separate organisation often prioritise non-class identities like sex or race (e.g. "Whites should work in their own communities" - Malcolm X)- but in fact class is a key divide in society- all societies.

The WSF therefore only advocate separate/special organisations insofar as they are:

(1) class conscious in organising specifically amongst working class people

(2) work in alliance with other working class and left formations out of recognition of the common interests of the working and poor people and the necessity of class struggle

(3) do not undermine the unions, but on the contrary work with them, defend them and promote them

(4) take up arguments about the need for anti-racism etc. with other sections of the working class

(5) helps prepare that group for the coming revolutionary class struggle

We need to point out that workers unity is in the interests of all workers, and that special oppressions are not in the interests of any workers In other words, we should not promote separate organisations uncritically, we should recognise there may be a need to have special organising committees, sections etc. amongst working class women, gays etc. These should be seen as "wings" of the working class movement, not as separate groups who reject co-operation with other groups, or as go-it-alone formations who can make the revolution on their own.

Whether or not the women's or Black's section [etc.] decides to include men [etc.] is up to it.

A perfect example of this approach was the Mujeres Libres group in Spain which worked alongside the Anarchist/Syndicalist youth, union, community, and political organisations, organised on a class struggle basis, and took part in the revolution of 1936.


We should not just talk about separate/special organisations in the abstract, we need to clarify why and how racism, class struggle and the need for revolution are linked.

We argue that racism is the product of capitalism and the State, created to justify slavery, colonialism and the super-exploitation of Black workers. Capitalism and the State are inherently racist: they always generate new forms of racism (e.g. against immigrants). The social inequalities created by racism can only be dealt with by the removal of capitalism and the State to allow for projects of redress, reconstruction etc. Therefore the fight against racism is a fight against capitalism and the State

Only the working class can make the anti-state, anti- capitalist revolution because only this class is productive (and therefore does not need to exploit), has no vested interest in the system, has power by virtue of its role in the workplace as producers of wealth and is facilitated in its struggle by concentration in factories etc. The Black middle class, capitalists etc. will defend capitalism and the State against the workers despite the fact that this means they are defending the system that creates racism. Therefore the fight against racism requires a class struggle and a workers revolution.

The struggle against capitalism can only succeed if it is anti- racist. We can only mobilise the whole working class if we fight on all fronts, against all oppressions that affect us. Insofar as workers can only be mobilised and united on the basis of programmes that opposes all oppression, insofar as working class Blacks etc.,. are the main victims of racism etc. (they cannot hire lawyers, move to private schools etc.), and insofar as the majority of people affected by racism are working class, it follows that anti-racism etc. are class issues. Therefore the fight against capitalism and the state requires a fight against racism.

No sections of the working class gain in real terms from the special oppression of Backs, colonial people etc. In the west, White workers may have slightly less unemployment etc., but they are still the majority of the workers and the poor. Racism worsens conditions for all workers because it divides workers struggles and resistance and ability to destroy the system. At the same time, the doubly oppressed groups like Blacks etc. require allies amongst the White working class. Without them, they lack the numbers, strategic position, or strength to actually defeat racism at the roots. In South Africa, this situation is somewhat different. Clearly, the defeat of racism in South Africa does also require a class struggle and a workers revolution (as elsewhere). But here the Black working class is the majority of the population, the most radical, combative and organised force in society. Thus the question of Black workers presents itself in a different fashion here as it is obvious that the Black working class will be the force that makes the SA revolution.

What then of then of White/Black worker unity? This unity was remote in the extreme in the apartheid years- it was extremely unusual for White workers to join the struggle of the Black working class under apartheid, precisely because of their extreme level of privilege (although some did, mainly from the Communist Party). So, in contrast to the situation in the West, White workers here actually did benefit from racism. Nonetheless, interracial workers unity (on an anti-racist platform) would have been advantageous even under apartheid because it would have weakened the armed power of the State (most Whites were at some or other point soldiers and were and are workers). With the demise of formal apartheid and the move to a formally non-racial bourgeois parliament, the prospects for such unity are far better. The economic crisis, the removal of job reservation and other legal privileges, the breakdown of the alliance between Whites of different classes that underp!inned the racist regime all make a workers alliance and unity more feasible.

Thus we have a situation where literally tens of thousands of White workers and historically White unions have actually joined the non- racial integrated COSATU unions; the main historically white union federation, FEDSAL, has also begun co-operating with COSATU in negotiations and even demos (although White worker attendance is quite poor). We should support this unity, so long as it is on an anti-racist basis, and so long as the general layers of activists remain broadly representative of the mainly Black unions. In other words, workers unity is good, if only in terms of our proletarian internationalism and non-racialism, but the basis of that unity must still be the struggle against racism as well as capitalism. In any case, it is clear that the Black working class will still be the battering ram that destroys the system (the possible participation of White workers as reliable allies notwithstanding).

Therefore, class unity on a principled anti-racist basis (with the provisions for special organisations outlined above) is the key to freedom.

This is why we say
"Black Liberation Through Class War"
"State, Capitalism, Racism: One enemy, one fight"

L. from the Workers Solidarity Federation (South Africa)

(The WSF dissolved at the end of 1999.)

Scotland Yardies

On 10th July 1997 a Jamaican national, Eaton Green, lost his battle to avoid deportation to Jamaica. Green's counsel, in seking to resist a deportation order, had argued that Green, a polic informer serving six years for armed robbery, had been told by a Metrolpolitan Police intelligence officer that he would be "protected".

The High Court judge, Mr Justice Jarrett, ruled that the Home Office was not bound by any such undertaking. Eaton Green's original trial, for a robbery in Nottingham, attracted a flurry of media attention because of the revelation that he had carried out the robbery and dealt crack and run a South London protection racket, whiole operating as an informer, and furhter, that Green's handlers (in particular PC Steve Barker) had full knowledge of his activities and attempted to protect him from arrest and prosecution by Nottingham police. The line adopted by the media in relation to this, and subsequent reveltations about "Yardie" informers, was that good "street cops" under pressure, under resourced and unsupported, had bent rules to try to effectively tackle a "Yardie" crime wave. The main proponent of this line is a Guardian journalist, Nick Davies. "How the Yardies Duped the Yard" was the headline of an article he wrote on 3/2/97.

Whether Davies believes what he writes is open to question. The articles themselves read like a damage limitation exercise drafted by Scotland Yard's press office. Their central proposition, though, does not stand up to examination. They do not fit with the facts.

In his 3rd February article, Davies opens with "Ten years ago, Scotland Yard realised that organised criminals from jamaica - the Yardies - were moving into London. By 1987 they wre pumping crack cocaine into black housing estates and establishing their control with terrifying violence. The response from police was chaotic and pathetic. A 1993 official report warned that "unless there is a consistent, aggressive and long term strategy", drug related crime would soar." In fact, Scotland yard's "yardie" strategy stems froma meeting in 1989 between UK police officers and Robert Stutman, then head of the New York office of the Drug Enforcement Administration, in which he warned that most crack dealing in the US was controlled by two ethnic groups - Dominicans and Jamaicans - and that these gangs were determined to engineer a "crack explosion" in the UK. Up until 1989, Yard policy had been in the hands of Roy Ramm, who stated soon after his appointment in 1987 "I'm absolutely convinced that there is no such thing as a black mafia or black Godfather operating in this country".

In 1988 armed police raided the New Four Aces club in Dalston to target suspected Yardie gang dealing in cocaine. The raid netted £6,000 worth of cocaine - not a significant quantity given that a kilo of coke carries a street value of about £160,000. Further Metrtolpolitan Police fiugures for 1989 show 58 grams of crack being seized in the whole year, compared to 331 kilos of heroin, 424 kilos of cocaine and 50,000 kilos of cannabis. In consequence of this, for all the apocalyptic proclamations of the likes of Stutman, police units like Operation Lucy were in fact wound down. The journalist Jim Davison, a former Sunday Times writer, and like Nick Davies, a propoonent of the "Yardie" myth, reports a dscussion with Roy Ramm at the time as follows: "It is a loose association of violent criminals bent on making profits from drugs and then spending them as quickly as possible", he (Ramm) said. Unlike the Mafia or the Colombian cartels, the gangs opted for a "little and often" method of importation rather than large scale smuggling operations."The end result of this is, as Davies reports, a Yardie Squad set up and killed off within six months in 1990, and the establishment of Operation Dalehouse in 1991, to target what the Squad Commander DS John Jones (who I'm sure would throw his hands in the air in Hendon-shaded outrage if numbered as a racist) called "a fairly wide-based criminal fraternity of black British people." So successful were they that this squad also wound up in November 1992. Davies throws up a smokescreen around the reality of Operation Dalehouse. He writes that it "made 274 arrests often for attacks on black victims. John Jones feared tgat part of the problem was that black victims of crime attracted less press attention, and therefore tempted the policy makers at Scotland Yard to ignore them. And all the time that the generals at Scotland Yard were ordering their footsoldiers to retreat, there were more Yardies flowing into London." In truthOPeration Dalehouse did make 274 arrests, but of these only 25 were chraged with serious criminal offences, and the Sunday Times journalist Davison concedes the squad met with a "lack of co-operation from the local community."

The end result was that by 1993, according to Davies, his heroes were reduced to "a hrad copre of half a dozen detectives and immigration officers who were still trying to tackle the Yardies. They had no office and no facilities and were reduced to using the bar of a small pub in Southwark where.. they swapped intelligence and tried to cobble together a strategy.... oficers had been forced to spend their won money to fund operations." It's here that Davies' argument begins to fall apart. Soon after pleading poverty on the anti-Yardie squad's behalf, he revelas that the Drug Related Violence Intelligence Unit (which Davies snidely notes was so named to avoid triggering complaints of racism) ran an informer code-named Andrew Gold who was able to live a life of indulgence, driving around in a Golf GTI, eating expensive meals, drinking fine wines, playing golf, making endless transatlantic phone calls and sleeping in a luxury furnished flat with a view of the Thames - all supplied at the British taxpayers expense." Not bad for an outfit that Davies had earlier told us was reduced to running its operations form a pub back room at its own expense.

Davies provides details of 3 Yardies informers run by one SO11 linked DRVIU. Andrew Gold, we are told, produced a report on the Yardies in London which contaied no useable new intelligence, at a cost of more than $45,000, before returning to Jamaica in January 1994.

Eaton green carried out armed robberies and ran protection rackets inder the proetection of the unit. The DRVIU cannot deny that they protected Green. Cecil Thomas and Rohan Thomas came into the UK on March 28th 1993 on false passports, to work qwith Green. An immigration officer who wroked with the DRVIU, Brian Fotheringham, secured residence rghtts for Green after he married a British national whose child he claimed he'd fathered, even though tyhe child's date of birth made clear that the women in question had been pregnant for four months before she met Green. At Green's robbery trial, DRVIU officers made illegal approaches to both the Crown Prosecution Service and the trial judge to try to protect Green. From May 1994, Fotheringham and PC Steve Barker ran another informer, Delroy Denton, who had agreed to work for the SO11-linked team following his arrest after a raid on the Atlantic pub in Brixton. Immigration's initial assessment iof Denton was as a "dangerous Jamaican criminal, given 16 years in Jamaica for firearms/aggravated burglary offences." Following the intervention of Fotheringham and Barker, Denton was back on the streets. On 19th December 1994, Denton raped a 15 year old schoolgirl. On 1st February 1995 the CPS dropped a rape charge against him on the grounds of insufficient evidence. Fotheringham and Barker continued to run Denton, who byis stage had acquired a reputation as a psychotic, who Davies concedes fantasised about "how he would like to tell a man and a woman that hje was going to kill them, then order them to stay and have sex, and then when the man was too scared to perform, he would rape the woman himselfbefore he blew out both their brains". In April 1995, Denton entered a flat in Brixton and raped and stabbed to death a 24 year old mother of 2, Marcia Lawes. Denton was charged with murder on 29th June 1995. On 29th October 1995 the CPS again dropped the charge because iof "insufficient evidence".

The Number Five Area Major Investigation Pool detectives investigating Denton contacted Fotheringham and advised him of the informers' status as an illegal immigrant. Fotheringham refused to act. Barker, with full knowledge of senior SO11 officers, continued to meet Denton. In July 1996, following further AMIP work, Denton was jailed for life. Nick Davies argues that the DRVIU was starved of "power and leadership" and in consequence, front-line officers, with falling morale, committed errors in the field. "In the background, Scotland Yard's policy makers blocked a series of anti-Yardie initiatives which had been proposed by front-line officers." This is bullshit.

Whatever Davies and the media management teams at Scotland Yard are trying to conceal, the chronology of their cover story makes no sense. The DRVIU was, we are told, set up following recommendations from Detective Chief Superintendent (now deputy Assistant Commissioner) Ray Clark. Clark made 35 recommendations and delivered a report which concluded "It has been made abundantly clear by all I have spoken to that unless there is a consistent, aggressive and long term strategy to deal with Jamaican criminals in London, there will be ever and sharply increasing incidents of murder, violence, drug related crime and crack availability." Davies would have it that "the policy makers at Scotlasnd Yard then sidelined a substantial number if Clark's 35 recommendations", and things then began to go wrong.

But Eaton Green was arrested on July 8th 1993, only 2 days after Clark signed his report and BEFORE the DRVIU was officially established. Both Eaton greena nd Andrew Gold (with his $45,000 budget) were being run by Scotland Yard officers before Clark delivered his report. Green and Gold were only able to remain in the UK due to the manouevres of immigration officers like Brian Fotheringham. If Scotland Yard policy indeed led to the "almost complete breakdown of the Metropolitan Police strategic response (to Yardie crime) and of the formal intelligence gathering and development structure" and if the anti-Yardie squad was really reduced to a Southwark frinking club how and why were the resources to run Gold and Green obtained? If Barker and Fotheringham had already overseen Eaton green's crime spree of their own initiative, and with a PR disaster and the souring of relations between the Yard and Nottingham CID the chief results, why accept Clark's report at all?

Black American Anarchist Victimised in Australia

PM Claims "not of good character" but Lorenzo Komboa Ervin wnis his battle to stay and be heard

On Tuesday July 8th, the Australian Federal Government cancelled former Black Panther Lorenzo Kom'boa Ervin's visa on the grounds that he was not of good character, while lawyers for Kom'boa replied that the Prime Minister had falsely accused him of dishonesty.

He spent several nights in Brisbane's maximum security Sir Arthur Gorrie Centre after the Acting Minister for Immigration, Senator Vanstone, cancelled his visa. Shortly after, Lorenzo made this statement: "I was handcuffed with my hands placed behind my back. The Immigration officials accompanying me then pushed my face into a wall causing my glasses to break. I was then dragged by the handcuffs by Correctional officers at the Sir Arthur Gorrie Correctional Centre. I was in pain at this stage. I was not allowed to bring my broken glasses to the legal interview with my barrister .... and I only have the use of prescription sunglasses which are only for outdoor use. "

Prime Minister John Howard intervened after racist Queensland MP Pauline Hanson had accused Kom'boa of using his four-week speaking tour organised by the anarchist group, Angry People, to stir racial tension among Aborigines. In an ironic twist, it happened to be NAIDOC week, which is the government-sanctioned celebration of aboriginal and islander cultures.

Immediately this news got out there were demos all over Australia and outside Australian consulates the world over. On July 10th about 150 demonstrators assembled at the immigration department office in in Brisbane, where several people spoke and a statement from Lorenzo was read out.

An application for Lorenzo's release and a new visa was heard by the high court at 3.30pm. The court sat in Canberra (the federal capital), but the lawyers for the Lorenzo and the immigration dept appeared in a court room in Brisbane, linked up with Canberra via closed circuit tv. All the protesters were eventually allowed into the court to watch the proceedings.

The immigration department's case was shaky and at about 5pm the hearing was adjourned till 11th July.

There were demonstrations organized in Sydney and Melbourne, Dublin, San Francisco, Atlanta, New York, LA, Edinburgh and protests in at least a down other countries were made to embassies. ON the Friday, the judge decided that the government had acted unlawfully and not accorded him "natural justice" and Lorenzo was released on bail pending a hearing on the Monday14th.

At the Monday hearing Government was forced to withdraw the decision by the Minister, Amanda Vanstone, to cancel his visa and was ordered to pay Lorenzo's legal costs.

It is usual process for travellers entering Australia, to be questioned by immigration officers at the airport, should they not fully complete their passenger cards or indicate that they have a criminal conviction. If this was Lorenzo's case, as the government claimed, why was it that Lorenzo was not questioned, but simply arrested and thrown into a maximum security prison to await deportation ?

While the Australian Government licked its wounds, both Lorenzo and Angry People called for an apology from Canberra, but, as they put it, "we're not holding our breath."

Reclaiming Theatre

A review of the play The Haymarket incident staged at Bradford University May 5th 1997

I'm the wrong person to review this play. "I'm biased. I was staying for the weekend-in Bradford for the 1 in 12 Club's May day festival It was the first time I'd seen the 1 in 12 in action, and possibly the best event they've ever put on. And I hadn't been back up north for a while. And Bradford suddenly reminded me of the nice bits about Middlesbrough (apart from relegation, of course). And the sun was shining. And I was thinking all weekend "I quite fancy moving here' And then I went to see this play.

It-tells the story behind May Day. Set in Chicago, 1886 it centres around the activities (and eventual framing and murder) of four anarchist trade union militants, August Spies, Adolph Fischer, George Engel and Albert Parsons.- Put on by the 1 in 12's theatre group -most of whose members had no previous acting experience.or drama school education, it tells the Story in a down to earth and human way , with humour, politics, romance. And it's bloody good.

The play starts as soon as you walk into the Theatre. In almost complete darkness, with no seats, and a barely visible stage, you are hearded in by 19th Century American cops with truncheons who bark at you aggressively to move to the front and to keep moving. And then very quickly you as the audience are dragged into the action. You very quickly become a crowd, responding to the events that unfold: A man (August Spies) dodges like a scared rabbit through the crowd and hides behind us against the wall. A cop pushes through , pulls him out, humiliates him and and beats hm up. This sets the context and tone of the play. Bits of action pop up in every dark corner of the theatre, and the audience (or crowd) moves over to see the action and occasionally gets involved, cheering speeches, backing off as a gun is fired, or just being an audience. And it keeps you enthralled. It's audience participation at it's best.: You don't feel daft when you cheer a speech or join in a song because you feel part of the Story.

The early part of the story centres around Parsons, An ordinary bloke, the play takes us through his home life, his relationships and eventually his involvement in a strike by workers at the McCormack Machine Company and the agitation for an eight hour day. During an attack on a Striker's Rally outside Mcormack's by armed police, at which August Spies was a speaker, one workers is killled and several wounded. Spies immediately circulates a flyer for a Mass Rally against police violence and calling for " Workingmen to arm themselves and appear in force". In response, the police attampt to stop the rally and a bomb is thrown, killing at least one policeman., paving the way for a massive state crack down on trade unionists in Chicago, including the hanging of four known activists -The Haymarket Martyres. The second half of the Play centres round the trial and excecution. The trial at which Spies turns up half-way through, stating he is prpared to face death along with his other comrades) is played out using much of the original recorded words. And as well as being intensely moving it's also funny.,which brought you back down to earth. There's the two cockney likely lads who are called as witnesses for the prosecuation who have obviously been paid to say that Parsons and Spies had made bombs.and make a coplete hash of their court appearance.. And there's the judge who, every time the lights come on to start a new scene, is caught snogging a "floozy" who sits almost on his knee throughout the trial wearing little else but a few feathers.

Then very shortly after, there's a disturbing and violent scene where the Four stand with their heads covered ready to be hung, and make inpassioned political speeches seconds before they die.

It's the best play I've seen for a long time. But if you want to see it yourself you'll have to do a bit of work. The Cast are mostly unemployed, ordinary young people. they haven't got any funding but would love to do a tour. They need groups to sponsor them. If you're interested you can contact the group directly through the 1 in 12 club (01274 734160) .. The Director and Producer and (it seems) the main enthusiast is Noel Batstone,a 1 in 12 member. I suppose it's just nice to see a real play with real people who ahven't been to college telling a political story that inspires you. And I haven't seen anything like it since the Poll Tax when a lad from Leeds did a one-man show about the peqasant's revolt, and toured the country with it. It'd be great if anarchists could give these people a hand to put the play on elsewhere. Go on- give 'em a ring.!.

John Mc Arthur


Replies c/o ACF
c/o 84b Whitechapel High Street
London E1 7QX

Dear Black Flag,

In regards to the statement that the "newly formed Anarchist Communist Federation " supported the CNT-Unificado/CNT Renovado which later changed its name to the CGT,in the last issue of Black Flag,may I point out the following facts:The ACF has never supported the CNT-Renovado/CNT-Unificado /CGT in any of its publications.The ACFs critiques of anarcho-syndicalism/revolutionary syndicalism that have been developed over the last 10 years would exclude any support for the Renovados/CGT.No motion of support has ever been put forward,let aloe passed,for any conference or delegate meeting of the ACF.

The ACF was founded in March 1986.In February and May 1985,a member of the Anarcho-Communist Discussion Group,one of the elements that assisted in the foundation of the ACF,wrote 2 articles of information in Freedom about the repression and torture carried out by the Spanish state against members of the CNT-Euszkadi(Basque section of the CNT Unificado) who had played an active role in the Michelin workers strike ain Vitoria.This was an act of simple solidarity and did not imply uncritical support for the CNT-U.This was followed in October 1985 by another article in Freedom "A Reply to the CNT-AIT" by the same writer,replying to a report by the Press Secretary of the CNT-AIT discussing the expulsions of various groups from the CNT,including the magazine collective Askatasuna who the Press Secretary wrongly called Platformist (they were not Platformist but were expelled because they advocated a libertarian Euszkadi-Basque country)the Movimiento Communista Libertaria (influenced by Platformism,but using the Platform as a point of reference and not as the Gospel)the Anarcho-Syndicalist Affinity Groups around Sebastian Puigcerver,a former member of the CNT national committee,and the magazine collective around Bicicleta,an independent anarchist magazine based in Catalonia.The writer went on to describe the physical attacks on members of the CNT-Unificado,with one militant nearly losing an eye,and another receiving a fractured skull.The aim of the article was not to discuss the rights and wrongs of the splits in the Spanish CNT,but to point to the authoritarian character of the expulsions ,and the barbarous behaviour of some in the CNT-AIT,including members of the Federacion Anarquista Iberica.The writer finished by saying "There are probably many workers in the CNT-AIT thoroughly sick of the violence and sectarianism employed against workers in the CNT-U,libertarians themselves,just as there are many workers who have left the CNT,and are disgusted at these antics.The sooner these destructive squabbles are settled,the better for the libertarian workers movement in Spain."Hardly an all out endorsement of the CNT-U.The writer of these articles is still a member of the ACF,but like everyone else in the ACF,would not support any syndicalist faction.To conclude otherwise,as your writer does,is a little specious.

Finally, (hooray) on the charge of Platformism against the ACF. The ACF does not regard itself as Platformist,but sees the Platform as an interesting point of reference.(Some ACF members are more enthusiastic about the Platform than others.)The same could be said for the Union des Travailleurs Communistes Libertaires of France -UTCL (renamed several years ago as Alternative Libertaire-AL).They did enthusiastically support the CNT-U/CGT and still do,as did the Swiss Organisation Socialiste Libertaire and various libertarian communist groups in Italy with similar politics to the UTCL-AL.These grouops have a conception of work within the reformist unions in their specific countries which in most cases includes taking official positions in the union structures. The ACF has nothing in common with these tactics,so you can hardly talk about a united bloc of groups erroneously labelled as "Platformist",especially if you also include the French Organisation Communiste Libertaire,who the writer in Black Flag would probably also describe as "Platformist" but who,as far as I am aware,never took sides on the CNT split.As regards the Workers Solidarity Movement,who are keener on the Platform than others,I'm sure they can defend themselves.

Yours for libertarian communism
Ron Allen

Letter: Sectarianism


To my mind,the ill-informed sectarian bollocks about the Anarchist Communist Federation in the last issue of Black Flag ruined an otherwise fascinating article on sectarian bollocks in the IWA.

I can't see how such snide shit stirring about other anarchists is going to help Black Flag become a forum for debate,ideas and action amongst class struggle anarchists.

Yes, anarcho-syndicalists are going to disagree with the ACF's position on the unions (otherwise they wouldn't be anarcho-syndicalists) but simply giving anything you disagree with a slagging isn't going to get anyone anywhere.

Yours gainst sectarianism and for a united revolutionary anarchist movement,

Freddy Cheeseworth

@ Quiz

1. Which linguistic scientist wrote that 'a visiting Martian scientist would surely conclude that aside from their mutually unintelligible vocabularies, Earthlings speak a common language'?

Answer Choices:
a: Gerald Edelman
b: Giles Brandreth
c: Noam Chomsky
d: Jordi Ballart

2. The same scientist has only one entry in 'Bartlett's Familiar Quotations', and rather a strange one at that. What is it?

Answer Choices:
a: Colourless green ideas sleep furiously.
b: When all's said and done, there's a lot more said than done.
c: If at first you don't succeed, try again. Then give up, there's no point being a damn fool about it.
d: Eat my shorts.

3. What was the longest strike in Australian history?

Answer Choices:
a: The Perth garment workers strike over dayworking.
b: The Iron Knob bauxite miner's strike of 1972 - 1976.
c: The strike of the Gurrindgi Stockmen of Wave Hill station, in the Northern Territory.
d: The Queensland sheep shearer's strike of 1878 - 1882.

4. What connects it to Professor Fred Hollows, Australian eye-scientist, rabble rouser, former Communist and general controversial figure, who, in his last interview before he died in 1992, said that he was now more in agreement with anarcho-syndicalism than anything else?

Answer Choices:
a: Fred Hollows spoke before the United Nations General Council on the issue.
b: Fred Hollows saved the sight of Vincent Lingari who was publicising the strike in Sydney.
c: Fred Hollows donated $150K to the strike after being awarded this amount with his 1972 Nobel Prize for Medicine.
d: Fred Hollows was the first signatory of a 2 million name petition on behalf of the strikers.

Correct Answers:

1: c - Noam Chomsky is the Professor of Linuistics and Philosophy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

2: a - Despite being in the top ten most referenced writers in the humanities (and the only one alive) his one 'familiar quote' is 'colourless green ideas sleep furiously', a sentence he contrived to show that a sentence could be grammatical but make no sense, and that impossible word orders could also be grammatical. For example, colourless can't be followed by green, ideas don't sleep.

3: c - In 1966, the Gurrindgi Stockmen of Wave Hill station, in the Northern Territory, went on strike against being paid only in rations, and for control of their land, leased at the time to Lord Vestey, British meat baron, owner of Dewhursts and tax-dodger extraordinaire. Eight years later, Aussie PM Gough Whitlam gave Vincent Lingari a piece of paper recognising the Gurrundgi people's right to the land. The strike as significant as well for boosting the land rights movement, still fighting in Australia to do this day.

4: b - Vincent Lingari came to Sydney to publicise and call for solidarity. During his visit he met Fred Hollows who noticed he had an easily curable eye disease that causes blindness. Hollows set up a 'barefoot' clinic in the outback, and made the operations himself, while gathering a team together and training aboriginal opthalmologists to follow in his footsteps. The project has since spread from Australia to Nepal and Eritrea.

Posted By

Apr 4 2018 12:10


Black Flag magazine

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