- Neat-o photos and videos from rallies around the whirled : Solidarité Ouvrière (Workers’ Solidarity).
In Australia, a brainworker reckons Stolen wages: labour’s forgotten outrage (Ros Kidd, ABC), noting that thousands of Aboriginal workers remain uncompensated for their labour (a critical factor in the development of rural industry). “When will the labour movement march with their fellow workers — and keep marching — until the most basic right of wage security is won for those whose labour was so cruelly exploited, across generations, to build our nation?”
In Bolivia, President Evo Morales has taken the opportunity of May Day to announce (again) the state’s intention to nationalise three energy companies: Chaco (owned by British Petroleum); Transredes (owned by Ashmore Energy), and the CLHB company. He also announced the nationalisation of the national telephone company run by multinational Euro Telecom International (ENTEL), 50-percent owned by Telecom Italia SPA. (See also: ¡Cochabamba! Water War in Bolivia, Oscar Olivera and Tom Lewis; Foreword by Vandana Shiva, South End Press, 2004.)
In Colombia, Killings of trade unionists on the rise in Colombia, according to Amnesty International. “We do not want marches crying for the dead, nor 1 May protests” wrote a paramilitary death squad in a letter sent to trade unionists in the department of Santander on April 22. Of course, one simple solution would be to stop killing trade unionists. Unfortunately, that would cramp the stylee of the Coca-Cola corporation; a development which would, in turn, possibly cramp the stylee of some of Australia’s best up and coming artists!, including The Cops (naturally), “rambunctious party favourites” The Cat Empire and “the laid-back singer, songwriter & surfer Jack Johnson”.
In Cuba, “Cuba labor leader calls for more efficiency, harder work” (Will Weissert): “HAVANA (AP) — The head of communist Cuba’s powerful labor union called for more efficiency and harder work in the face of rising world fuel and food prices as hundreds of thousands of workers joined the traditional May Day march on Thursday.”
In the Czech Republic, about 100 or so anarchists laid wreaths and made paper flowers in memory of the executed trade unionists from Chicago. 500 neo-Nazis belonging to the Workers’ Party and other fascist twats also gathered in Prague. In response, “The Young Social Democrats met at the same place, outside the church on Jiri z Podebrady square in Prague 3, this morning at the event dubbed “More toys for deprived nationalists.” They said they wanted to show right-wing extremists that it would be better “to play with something less ugly than baseball bats.” They left piles of toys on the square that extremists removed before their rally” (Some 500 neo-Nazis rally in Prague on May Day, ČTK, May 2, 2008). Anarchists in Poland also marched (as well as briefly encountered some fascist losers).
In Finland, about 500 partying workers celebrated EuroMayDay; police arrested 27, ‘”…the majority of the detainees were not guilty of any crime but rather the police took them in as a preventative measure,” Inspector Jortikka explained’.
In the United States, while May Day Returns to its Roots, according to Geov Parrish (Eat the State!), in Seattle ‘Arbitrator steps in to avoid West Coast port slowdown’, Alex Veiga (AP Business Writer), Seattle Times:
An arbitrator has ordered the union that represents dockworkers at West Coast ports to tell members they must report to work on Thursday and not take the day off to protest U.S. military involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan.
A wide enough walkout could cause a slowdown at the West Coast ports – the nation’s major gateway for cargo from the Far East.
Arbitrator John Kagel issued his decision Wednesday after holding a hearing by phone with the employers’ group, the Pacific Maritime Association, and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, according to a document outlining the ruling.
The union previously asked employers to clear the way for members to skip out on the day shift to protest the war, but employers refused the request and were backed by the arbitrator last week.
Despite that decision, word continued to spread on the Internet of a May 1 walkout by longshore workers and details of protests, including a march in San Francisco. Thursday is May Day, when workers traditionally celebrate the labor movement…
(And Happy May Day!, from the San Francisco Bay Guardian too.)
Still, while striking workers on the West Coast may irk order-givers in the US, in Iraq port workers belonging to the General Union of Port Workers of Iraq have issued a statement in solidarity, declaring that “The courageous decision you made to carry out a strike on May Day to protest against the war and occupation of Iraq advances our struggle against occupation to bring a better future for us and for the rest of the world as well.”
AP reports that the strike was successful, as ‘Terminal operators say West Coast cargo traffic halted’: “LOS ANGELES: Terminal operators say West Coast cargo traffic has come to a halt as port workers stage daylong anti-war protests. Pacific Maritime Association spokesman Steve Getzug says thousands of dockworkers did not show up to work Thursday morning, leaving ships and truck drivers idle at ports from Long Beach to Seattle. The West Coast ports are the nation’s principal gateway for cargo container traffic from the Far East. A spokesman for the National Retail Federation says shippers and exporters planned for the slowdown that coincides with May Day and expected no significant long-term disruptions.”
The Maritime Union of New Zealand also sent congratulations to fellow workers in the US. In Olympia, a couple bank windows got broke at a rally. Police used pepper spray and rubber bullets to disperse those assembled.
(In Kashmir, India, an example of super-exploitation of the kind US management can only dream of (and plan for).)
In Israel Report shows workers lost NIS 8,000 each to employers’ benefit (Ruth Sinai, Haaretz):
With every passing year May Day – celebrated as the International Workers’ Day – becomes more of a day for general social protest. Friday’s Labor Day march in Tel Aviv, for example, includes a long list of organization not associated directly with workers’ right: students’ and women’s groups, neighborhood activists and a range of political organization from the Young Communist League to Meretz Youth. Among the slogans under whose banners the participants will be marching, for example, are “Maintain the standard of living in light of the price hikes” and “The municipality is for everyone, not just the real estate sharks.”
“It’s impossible to maintain the division between the struggle for workers’ rights and the overall economic policy,” Alon-Lee Green, the hero of the strike by employees of the Coffee Bean chain in Tel Aviv, which ended in March with an unprecedented revenue-sharing deal for the workers. “It doesn’t matter whether your salary is cut or prices rise. Either way you’re left with nothing,” Green said.
Residents of South Tel Aviv’s Florentine who have banded together to fight a plan to turn the area into a luxury residential neighborhood also joined in. The protest march will begin from there, proceeding to the concentration of bank offices and personnel agencies at the intersection of Allenby St. and Rothschild Blvd. “The first of May is becoming more and more relevant for more and more people who want to feel they are not alone in the war of survival” says the chairman of the Student Union of the Academic College of Tel Aviv-Jaffa, Daniel Bronstein. “Not only terms of employment are important to Israeli workers, but also for their children to have access to high-quality education systems as well as good medical and welfare systems,” he says.
Elsewhere in the Middle East, there are some May Day reflections in Lebanon: Politics in labor’s name, NOWLebanon: “It’s Eid el-Ommal, May Day, Labor Day or International Workers’ Day, as you will. By any name, it is the day on which workers around the world celebrate the achievements of the international labor movement. For Lebanese this year, however, the day has special significance, as it comes just six days ahead of a general strike called for by the Lebanese General Federation of Labor Unions (GFLU). Sadly, the bear-baiting event is more about March 14 vs. March 8 than it is about workers’ rights. The Lebanese have a proud labor legacy, but this event – just like the January riots and the Mar Mikhail shooting – is going to compromise it once again…”
In the Basque region, computer says ‘3 bombs explode in Spanish Basque region’ (Daniel Woolls, AP): “MADRID, Spain (AP) — Three bombs exploded in Spain’s Basque region on Thursday, officials said. No one was injured in the blasts, which police said were carried out by the separatist group ETA. All three blasts, which occurred on the traditional workers holiday of May Day, targeted labor-related government buildings…”
In a story that’s sure to bring crocodile tears to the eye of former Rhodes Scholar, Companion of the Order of Australia, Australian Prime Minister and working class man Robert James Lee (Bob) Hawke: “Sitting outside her hut under a spiderweb shade of bamboo and thatch, 40-year-old Ba Yoong remembers the warm May day, six years ago, when SPDC soldiers came to her village. During heavy fighting between government and rebel troops, her farmer husband, Loong Mayta, was seized by a drunken officer who demanded money. As Ba Yoong ran to him, holding her six-month-old baby, the officer shot him in the chest. As Loong Mayta lay on the ground begging the officer to spare him, he shot him in the throat, killing him instantly. Tears spill over Ba Yoong’s deeply lined face as she tells her story. “I cannot forget,” she says. “We cannot go back, but there is no future for us here.” Burma‘s top general, Than Shwe, meanwhile, has used May Day to urge workers to support the military dictatorship’s latest legal manouevring: “Burma’s top general has urged people to vote in favour of a new constitution in a referendum to be held next week. In a May Day message, Than Shwe said workers should back the charter because workers’ representatives had played a part in drafting it” (perhaps by providing their blood to be used as ink?).
There’s a different kinda May Day in Egypt, apparently: ‘A different May Day: Workers in the industrial town of Mahala Al-Kubra have cause to celebrate, writes Faiza Rady’, Al-Ahram Weekly: “Over the past two years the struggles of Egyptian workers have changed the country’s political map. For the first time in more than five decades the government will really have to address workers’ demands on May Day rather than pay the customary lip service to Egypt’s ‘honourable workforce'”, says Mohamed Al-Attar, a strike leader and veteran worker at the Misr Spinning and Weaving Company in the northern industrial city of Mahala Al-Kubra where nearly a quarter of all public sector textile and clothing workers are employed…” And it appears that, as a result of labour unrest — especially in the form of wildcat strikes in th country’s north to protest privatization, layoffs and high food prices — ‘Egypt to raise wages after unrest’; if only for public service workers.
In Germany, thousands of police prevented perhaps as many as 10,000 antifa from meeting and greeting 700 participants in a neo-Nazi march in Hamburg and at a similar event in Nuremberg. “In Hamburg and Nuremberg, the NPD marched between cordons of riot police ordered to enforce the NPD’s right of free assembly. Anti-NPD protesters far outnumbered boot-wearing rightists in both cities.” According to Deutsche-Welle, “Bavaria state’s premier, Guenther Beckstein, who comes from the city, told a peaceful anti-NPD rally in another part of town that his government would use undercover agents, court challenges and youth education programmes to undercut the NPD wherever it could”, which suggests he may like to brush up a little on his history. The report also briefly recounts marches and rallies in Russia, Siberia, France and Greece, where “public transport services, and ships and flights by the state carrier Olympic Airlines were paralyzed across the country as unions planned demonstrations in the capital Athens to coincide with Labor Day”. See also : Berlin.
(On France, see also : ‘Once the lion of the right, Le Pen’s roar now but a whisper’, Susan Sachs, Globe and Mail, May 2, 2008.)
In Palestine, Manar Jibrin writes that ‘Anti Wall demonstration in a Bethlehem village, two Palestinians injured’ (IMEMC News Report, May 2, 2008): “An anti-Wall demonstration of at least two hundred of the residents of the al Ma’sarah village near the southern West Bank city of Bethlehem and dozens of International peace activists on Friday. Demonstrators marched from a high school in the village of Al Ma’sarah towards the construction site of the Separation Wall on the village’s farmlands. Work began a year and a half ago no the village’s lands, aimed at confiscating and isolating ten of thousands of dunums of Al Ma’sarah’s land, located south-west of Bethlehem. This week’s demonstration was to celebrate May Day (International Workers Day)…”
In the Philippines, ‘May Day protesters demand wage hikes amid surging rice prices’. “MANILA (AP) – Thousands of workers marched in scorching heat Thursday in May Day protests demanding President Arroyo’s resignation for not raising the minimum wage to help them cope with surging food and fuel prices…”
In South Africa, the Zabalaza Anarchist Communist Front (ZACF) has issued a May Day statement condemning the police murder of Mathaseni, a militant of the Sebokeng Ward 2 Concerned Residents and the Coalition Against Water Privatisation (CAWP), on April 30: From Haymarket to Sebokeng: the struggle continues. For more information on anti-privatisation struggles in South Africa, see anti privatisation forum.
Elsewhere in Asia, SKorean workers rally against free trade pact: “SEOUL (AFP) — Thousands of South Korean workers rallied Thursday against a planned free trade pact with the United States and the pro-market policies of new President Lee Myung-Bak…”
Zurich/Lausanne, Switzerland: “Police and anti-capitalist protestors clashed in Zurich and Lausanne Thursday after thousands of marchers took to the streets across Swiss cities in traditional May Day demonstrations. In Zurich, where up to 10,000 people took part, police used rubber bullets and water canons after being confronted by around 250 left-wing extremists throwing stones and bottles, according to the Swiss wire agency ATS/SDA. Around 20 people were arrested. Police were also looking for a motorist who drove off after driving his car into the crowd injuring two people. In Lausanne a McDonald’s restaurant was evacuated after it became a target for protestors who smashed windows.”
In Turkey, the police have had a riot: Turkish police disperse workers defying May Day ban, International Herald Tribune (AP); Riot cops swoop on Turkish May Day rally (CNN); Police break up Turkey marchers (BBC).
Oh yeah, and in the UK, BONK HOLIDAY: BRITS OUT FOR SEXY WEEKEND, writes Cameron Millar of The Daily Star: “SEX-MAD Brits are set to turn this weekend into a sizzling BONK holiday.”
Also : Workers in Asia and Europe Commemorate May Day / On May Day, a mix of rallies, violence and even hints of hope, AP; ‘Asian workers protest during May Day parade’, The Times, May 2, 2008; May Day; International Labour Day, UN Observer; The Origins and Traditions of May Day, Eugene Plawiuk, La Revue Gauche, May 1, 2006; The ONLY Spies I trust!, slackbastard, May 9, 2006.
“IF YOU CANNONADE US
we shall dynamite you.” You laugh! Perhaps you think, “You’ll throw no more bombs;” but let me assure you that I die happy on the gallows, so confident am I that the hundreds and thousands to whom I have spoken will remember my words; and when you shall have hanged us, then, mark my words, they will do the bomb-throwing! In this hope do I say to you: “I despise you. I despise your order; your laws; your force-propped authority.
HANG ME FOR IT!”
~ Louis Lingg (September 9, 1864 — November 10, 1887)
“But, if you think that by hanging us, you can stamp out the labor movement — the movement from which the downtrodden millions, the millions who toil and live in want and misery — the wage slaves… if this is your opinion, then hang us! Here you will tread upon a spark, but there, and there, and behind you and in front of you, and everywhere, flames will blaze up. It is a subterranean fire. You cannot put it out.
THE GROUND IS ON FIRE
upon which you stand. You can’t understand it. You don’t believe in magical arts, as your grandfathers did, who burned witches at the stake, but you do believe in conspiracies; you believe that all these occurrences of late are the work of conspirators! You resemble the child that is looking for his picture behind the mirror. What you see, and what you try to grasp is nothing but the deceptive reflex of the stings of your bad conscience. You want to “stamp out the conspirators” — the “agitators?” Ah, stamp out every factory lord who has grown wealthy upon the unpaid labor of his employees. Stamp out every landlord who has amassed fortunes from the rent of overburdened workingmen and farmers. Stamp out every machine that is revolutionizing industry and agriculture, that intensifies the production, ruins the producer, that increases the national wealth, while the creator of all these things stands amidst them, tantalized with hunger! Stamp out the railroads, the telegraph, the telephone, steam and yourselves — for
EVERYTHING BREATHES THE REVOLUTIONARY SPIRIT.”
~ August Spies (December 10, 1855 — November 11, 1887)
Have a read of this for a good laugh:
Power to the People! (So long as they are not ‘pseudo-Leftists!!111!)
Poor old Bazza.
“Today, what passes for the left openly opposes progress. This pseudo-left has nothing in common with the sixties spirit and no social base outside Government funded institutions of propaganda. Its role is to make the right appear less ignorant and to complain about the weather. Back in ’68, environmentalism and nature worship, notions of a balance in Nature, properly belonged to the right. It was only when the right retreated and the left hibernated that such reactionary conservative ideas, with their antecedents in Romanticism and fascism, were taken up by people claiming to be left-wing. A vacuum is always filled.”
And so is this:
What fills the space between Barry’s ears?!?
So how is ‘Anarchy’ doing these days…which revolution are you lot leading in the world, must be everyone is too dumb for ANARCHISM?!
I notice you didn’t mention Nepal – but reality doesn’t really suit you does it?
What a pity that the Nepalese haven’t taken up your ‘First World’ petty bourgeois Anarchism and instead have opted for “Authoritarian, Stalinist, Leninist, blah, blah, blah”.
No, I didn’t mention Nepal, but now that you mention it:
‘May Day being observed across the country’
“The International Labour Day or May Day is being marked all over the country today calling for protection of the rights of workers.
Trade unions affiliated with various political parties are organising public functions and rallies concerning the rights of workers to celebrate the day.
All government offices including banks and industries remain closed today due to the public holiday the government had announced on the occasion of International Labour Day from last year onwards.
In his message on the occasion of International Labour Day, Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala said that it is high time the nation take a firm resolve to improve the condition of the workers. He also stressed the need for the private sector to stress on economic revolution to transform Nepal into a new and prosperous country. Similarly, Minister for Labour and transport and other umbrella organisations also issued their good wishes to the workers on the occasion.
The Labour Day has its origins in the “eight-hour day movement”, which advocated the eight hours for work, eight hours for recreation, and eight hours for rest.
On 21st April, 1856 Stonemasons and building workers on building sites around Melbourne, Australia, stopped work and marched from the University of Melbourne to Parliament House to achieve an “eight-hour day”. Their direct action protest was a success, and they are noted as the first organised workers in the world to achieve an eight-hour day with no loss of pay, which subsequently inspired the celebration of Labour Day.
According to the International Labour Organisation (ILO) – Nepal, out of 11 million labour forces in the country, only 3.6 per cent workers are employed in the formal sector that involves some form of social security.
But over 96 per cent labour force in the informal sector are deprived of job security.”
I’m absolutely sure that this correction will please you. Of course, I’ve only referred to events in about two dozen or so countries, and there’s something like 193 or more in the world, so unfortunately that leaves another 170 or so disappointed readers.
As for how anarchism is doing, I’d say ‘fair-to-middling’. Next time I bump into him, I’ll be sure to ask.
Well attended demo in Union Square, NYC which focused on the issue of immigrant rights. Too many platform speakers, though.
Crack Pot Kin:
Re Nepal. I’m not sure what your point is, but given that you have the mental capacity to ask such probing questions of “the anarchists”, I’m sure you’re capable of enlightening me as to your argument. Incidentally, it’s not “Authoritarian, Stalinist, Leninist, blah, blah, blah” that the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) subscribes to, but “Marxism-Leninism-Maoism and Prachanda Path”.
The Wall Street Journal:
Nepal’s Maoists Soften Tone, Get Set to Lead
May 2, 2008
Nepal’s Maoists, fresh from winning the most seats of any one party in the national assembly, are positioning themselves to form a new government within a few weeks.
Their dramatic victory in last month’s elections also has forced the U.S., India and China to adjust to a new political era in the small Himalayan nation.
The Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist), which waged a decade-long rebellion against the state that ended in 2006, won 37% of the seats in the 601-member assembly. The assembly’s main task is to rewrite the country’s constitution and decide on the future of the monarchy, which has been a powerful force in Nepalese politics for 240 years.
The Maoists are expected to lead a new government of national unity. They already have decided that their leader, Pushpa Kamal Dahal — better known as Chairman Prachanda, or “fierce one” — will be the next head of the government.
But they have yet to build a consensus among a majority of the other 24 political parties that the Maoists will need to form the next government. One obstacle is the fact that the Maoists still have a private army and weapon caches, which are currently under United Nations-supervised camps. Analysts say that creates legal obstacles for Mr. Dahal to be the next leader and for the Maoists to lead a government.
“They will have to deal with these aspects first before even claiming the leadership of the next government,” said Nilambar Acharya, a political analyst in Katmandu, the capital.
After their strong election showing, the Maoists have softened their rhetoric against the two nations that are the largest foreign investors in Nepal: India and the U.S. During their insurgency, Maoist leaders would frequently refer to “expansionist India” and “imperialist America.” Today, they are striking a conciliatory tone after promising big economic improvements.
“We want good working relations with neighbors including China and India, and the Western power centers including the U.S.,” said Baburam Bhattarai, a senior Maoist leader and policy maker, in an interview. “Our main agenda now is peace, development and stability in Nepal,” he said.
The economy of Nepal — a country with about 28 million people, most of them poor — doesn’t have much impact on global affairs. But the country is in an important geopolitical location — sandwiched between India and China — and the Maoists’ emergence as Nepal’s most powerful political party is forcing some diplomatic rethinking.
From 1950 until 2006, when a popular uprising forced Nepal’s king to cede power to political parties, India backed a “twin-pillar theory” in Nepal. It held that a constitutional monarchy and a multiparty democracy should co-exist. Today, with the Maoists winning the election and the king’s future in doubt, the “only pillar now is the will of the people of Nepal,” said Deb Mukharji, India’s former ambassador to Nepal.
India has said it will support a Maoist-led government in Nepal. The Maoists have demanded a review of Nepal’s political and trade treaties with India, which they claim have been tilted in New Delhi’s favor. India has responded that it is ready to review the accords. Of the total of $600 million in foreign investment Nepal had received as of October, some 43% came from India, according to the latest data available from the Nepalese government.
The U.S. ranked second, with 13% of the total. But the Maoists’ rise to prominence poses a serious dilemma for the U.S. Washington still considers the Maoists a terrorist organization.
China — the third-largest foreign investor in Nepal — in late April sent a delegation to Katmandu. Officials promised continued assistance and an expansion of areas of cooperation with Nepal. China has plans to increase its rail service from Lhasa in Tibet to Khasa, a Chinese border town through which most Chinese goods come to Nepal. The Nepalese government dealt strongly with Tibetan protesters in their country, and the Maoists have made it clear that they consider Tibet part of China.
I’m presuming that you’re not arguing in favour of revolutionaries in Melbourne and Sydney to take to the Dandenongs and Blue Mountains, wage a protracted civil war against the government, only to then participate in federal elections and emerge triumphant as the new face of Australian politics?
Or maybe you are.
If so, good luck on your quest.
Yet another betrayed working-class movement.
There are May Day reports, info on Nepal and discussion about it all at the Kasama blog. So everyone should be happy
rebel love ( and a belated happy May Day to one and all)
ps forward to glorious proletarian revolution
Oh yeah, for the record, thus far there are reports of May Day events, actions and announcements regarding events from Australia, the Basque region, Bolivia, Burma, Colombia, Cuba, Czech Republic, Egypt, Finland, France, Germany, India, Iraq, Israel, Lebanon, New Zealand (Aotearoa), Philippines, Poland, Russia, Siberia, South Africa, South Korea, Swizerland, Turkey, the United States and, er, the United Kingdom.
“So how is ‘Anarchy’ doing these days?” A moment’s reflection on the anarchist origins of May Day goes some way to answering this question.
Amazing what a little anarchist agitation can achieve eh?
Yet another example of anarchists doing incredibly brave stuff, (the wobblies are another example… wow), but there is no glory in death. There is only glory in creating a successful revolution.
Adventurism/’terrorism’/violent direct action hasn’t achieved this yet, hasn’t even come close! When will you learn?
We mourn together…
Wow ‘Juancastro’ man, I mean cool, groovy awesome. Love the black clothes dude – so rrrevolutionary. So deep.
Crack Pot Kin:
It’s Official. You’re An Idiot.
The Wobblies weren’t anarchist. Be that as it may…
I’m not sure I follow you. By “incredibly brave stuff”, I assume you’re referring to the Haymarket Martyrs? August Spies, Adolph Fischer, George Engel, Louis Lingg and Albert Parsons? If so, I agree that they were extremely brave men. But they were framed for crimes they didn’t commit; their real crime, of course, was being popular agitators, anarchists, and foreigners to boot. To put it another way:
“The anarchist crazies involved in the ultra-violence were in no serious sense part of the May 4, 1886 rally. Just like their anarchist mates in Europe they simply exploited the rally for their own purposes. Because of the behaviour of these provocateurs the media and the law and order brigade are having a field day… The labour movement should offer no comfort to these crazies. We should do whatever we can to isolate them. They are wreckers. If they grow in the United States it will simply make it harder to build future protests and movements.”
In my opinion, there is glory in death, just as there is in participating in a successful revolution, at least for some: the Haymarket Martyrs are an example of the former, and there are, of course, many glorified revolutionaries. But to concede this fact is not the same as arguing in favour of martyrdom.
“Adventurism/’terrorism’/violent direct action hasn’t achieved this yet, hasn’t even come close! When will you learn?”
I could ask you the same question. Anarchism cannot be reduced to adventurism/’terrorism’/violent direct action, and to do so is to misconstrue its aims, purposes and history. The involvement of anarchists in the labour movement, both in the United States in the 1880s, and at numerous other times and places, is a case in point.
I have distanced myself from that article a number of times. I think I’m sick of it. But anyway, it will be brought up at the national conference this year if I get a participating seat.
I know anarchism is not simply adventurism/terrorism/violent direct action, but these tactics are often accepted and used by many anarchists on principle, whereas socialists seem to try and think more strategically. Of course, we fail (and have failed) as well, but I think the fact that we’re consciously trying to succeed, rather than consciously trying to uphold a large list of principles at all costs, means that we’re more likely to do so. IMO.
Of course those people were framed. But some of the G20 people weren’t framed (while many were), and there have been a number of anarchist/ultra-left actions around the world in recent times which have resulted in (almost certainly) sincere, brave and revolutionary people being arrested and imprisoned for actions which have in no discernible way moved us closer to a revolution. Of course, they are often framed as well, but I think it’s impossible to deny that certain types of activity bring us in more conflict with oppressive tools of the state than others.
Anarchists often choose these tactics on principle, and I find this horrible (for the people involved, but arguably more importantly; for the loss felt by the movement as a whole when it loses so many comrades).
In contrast, I honestly think the “actuality of the revolution” should be the primary goal, and all else should be bent towards that goal. If breaking a few windows helps that, I’ll go and do it right now. The reality is, it won’t (for now), and so I don’t.
Having said that, I can think of no happier day than when there are mass calls to invade office blocks and destroy capitalist spaces, and/or transform them into our own. But I put aside that personal desire/urge/dream and look at the bigger picture. I think a flaw with anarchism is that it puts the self in the centre.
PS. The wobblies were syndicalist weren’t they?
Re that article (aka Mick Armstrong’s comment): yeah, I know. And I don’t mean to suggest you agree with its contents. But the parallels between late nineteenth century and early twentieth anti-anarchist hysteria are simply too obvious (for me) to ignore.
Regarding the relationship between anarchism, adventurism, terrorism and violent direct action:
A serious discussion requires definition. So:
1) “adventurism”: is bad.
Otherwise, the concept of ‘adventurism’ appears to have been developed by Lenin in particular as a cuss-word for a number of his political opponents. Thus:
Which is clear as mud.
From what I can gather, in the lexicography of Leninism, to engage in ‘adventurism’ is to drink lashings and lashings of ginger beer before going off on a wild political goose chase. Or: “Involvement in risky enterprises without regard to proper procedures and possible consequences”. If so, as far as I’m concerned, ‘adventurism’ is hardly the sole domain of anarchists, but applies across the political chessboard. In fact, in April 2001, local anarchists put Lenin on trial, and one of the crimes he was accused of was ‘adventurism’:
2) “terrorism”: following Chomsky, one definition is the following:
“the calculated use of violence or threat of violence to attain goals that are political, religious, or ideological in nature… through intimidation, coercion, or instilling fear” (US Army Operational Concept for Terrorism Counteraction, TRADOC Pamphlet No. 525-37, 1984).
That’s a broad definition, in my view, and could describe any number of political formations, including, of course, the state.
Closer to home, a legal definition (TERRORISM (EXTRAORDINARY TEMPORARY POWERS) ACT 2006 – SECT 6):
As far as I’m aware, no anarchist in Australia has ever been charged with a terrorist offence. The closest contemporary case I can think of is inre the Green Scare in the United States, and the official designation of the ALF and ELF as being terrorist. (Although neither the ALF nor the ELF are anarchist.) On the other hand, there’s also the case of Peter Gelderloos, the US author of How Nonviolence Protects the State (AK Press, 2007) charged with terrorism offences in Spain.
See also : ‘My Arrest in Spain: The Easy Road from Tourism to Terrorism’, Counterpunch, May 19/20, 2007.
3) “violent direct action”: first, ‘direct action’:
DIRECT ACTION By Voltairine de Cleyre (1866–1912):
‘Violent’ direct action presumably refers to those forms of ‘direct action’ which involve the use of ‘violence’, presumably defined as being those acts which involve damage to property and/or person.
Having loosely defined these three — adventurism, terrorism, and violent direct action — I think it possible to argue that your contention that “these tactics are often accepted and used by many anarchists on principle, whereas socialists seem to try and think more strategically” is false.
To begin with, all three may said to involve questions of tactics. That being the case, the anarchist use of them is, like all other potential actions, subject to strategic and political considerations. The point being, this examination proceeds from anarchist principles, principles which may be found not in the use of particular tactics, but anarchist philosophy and politics. Or: anarchist world-views. If anarchists, therefore, favour ‘direct action’ over ‘political action’ — as de Cleyre defines those terms — then I think the relationship is fairly well grounded.
A great deal more discussion on the anarchist conception of the theory and practice of ‘direct action’ may be found here.
PS. The Wobblies described (and continue to describe) their ideology as ‘revolutionary industrial unionism’ or ‘One Big Unionism’. The distinction between this and anarcho-syndicalism is another subject.
A whole lotta theory there, and I did get through it all (eventually)… With that understanding, let’s talk about something practical.
For example, could you explain the rationale for black blocs? In my understanding they are militant (usually anarchist) members of protests and marches who go out with the express goal of causing confrontations with the state, often violent. Now given that the overwhelming majority of society is absolutely nowhere near accepting the slogan “down with the capitalist state”, it seems to me that such actions serve only to alienate anarchists, AND as an added bonus, give the state just another reason to institute oppression (eg. NZ at the moment, although it’s not even clear that the anarchists have done anything!).
You’re exactly right when you say violent direct action is a tactic, but I think anarchists are too ready to use it, disregarding the balance of overall class forces and where the majority (or even significant minorities) of the working-class are at.
BTW notice I didn’t criticise “direct action”, so your little bit justifying it was probably unnecessary, though interesting. Though again, unless the goal of direct action is consciousness raising, and is followed up by ongoing political activity, I suspect it is more like middle-class fun and games as opposed to committed political activity aiming to raise the revolutionary potential of the working class.
An example of this sort of ‘direct action’ would be the Woomera detention centre stuff, when a decent group of anarchist and autonomist peeps helped tear down the fences on that fateful day, but were never seen again at any action, large or small.
Of course, I don’t think such behaviour (re both transient action and violent direct action) is an inevitable consequence of anarchist thought, just a worrying tendency within the movement(s).
I listened to a couple of Chomsky lectures today on the train to the school I’m teaching at and I had to agree with everything he said, though I worry at the tendency to emphasise personal morality and self-improvement in the same breath as broader revolutionary struggle. I think I understand that many anarchists believe the two to be inseparable, but I don’t think I agree.
Actions affect consciousness more than ideas ever can, and we can’t somehow live outside capitalism and remain able to organise effectively within it, which is where the workers are. So we’re in the system, therefore we’re affected. We can’t stop being affected as long as we’re in it, so the first thing to do is get rid of it, not hide in a squat somewhere outside it, and organise ‘from without’. Again, I accept that the latter is by no means the hegemonic view in anarchist circles, but it is very influential, and I strongly disagree with it.
This is a pretty interesting discussion…BUT…
I don’t think anyone in, or a tendency of, the Left can accuse another of lacking either strategic or tactical thinking without something unfortunate happening to a glass house. The vast majority of the Left is shackled to rigid ideological forms which are used as the answer for everything (I see your party and raise you an affinity group etc etc). Even the innovations of the ‘movement of movements’ quickly calcified into rigid forms.
Also I don’t think that building new emancipatory politics is aided by discussion of tactics that are framed in polarised ‘debates’ about ideology – especially when they are then peppered with disconnected historical references.
Personally I think the kinds of groups and spaces we need should be open to a vast history of struggle and also be spaces of critical discussion YET strategy and tactics should be developed in the context of specific and singular struggles and driven by the needs of those struggles.
Q. “For example, could you explain the rationale for black blocs?”
A. The origins of the ‘black bloc’ may be found in the development of confrontations between ‘autonomist’ movements and the state, in particular those which took place in Germany in the early 1980s. The ‘black bloc’ was ’spontaneous’ in the sense that it emerged partly as a result of a pre-existing preference among young radicals to wear black and a desire to defend movement projects and street protests from state, and later neo-Nazi, assault. Or as Daniel Dylan Young describes it:
For more on autonomist movements in Western Europe, see George Katsiaficas, The Subversion of Politics: European Autonomous Social Movements And The Decolonization of Everyday Life (Second Edition), AK Press, 2006; a useful if typically hostile (to anarchism) account written by a follower of Marcuse.
“Now given that the overwhelming majority of society is absolutely nowhere near accepting the slogan “down with the capitalist state”, it seems to me that such actions serve only to alienate anarchists, AND as an added bonus, give the state just another reason to institute oppression (eg. NZ at the moment, although it’s not even clear that the anarchists have done anything!).”
Last things first: as far as I’m aware, those arrested in NZ/Aotearoa have precisely nothing to do with ‘black blocs’. On Monday, October 17, 2007, “Police arrested 17 indigenous, anarchist, environmental and anti-war activists, including people from Tūhoe, Te Atiawa, Maniapoto, Ngā Puhi and Pakeha. Police wanted to charge 12 people under the Terrorism Suppression Act (TSA), however the Solicitor-General denied the police permission to proceed. After four weeks in jail everyone was released on bail. On Tuesday, February 19th 2008, police raided further properties, arresting 3 more men. All were released on bail with strict conditions that same day. A woman was arrested on Thursday April 17th, 2008, and also faces charges under the Arms Act.” Meaning that there are now 20 people facing charges under the Arms Act.
Why did these arrests take place?
In the absence of the full facts, it’s difficult to ascertain. What is known is that the arrests were the culmination of an intensive investigation by Kiwi spooks, conducted over a period of at least 18 months, if not longer. However, it doesn’t appear to be the case that the NZ state was reacting to a particular series of events involving such actions as you believe typical of ‘black blocs’, actions involving “members of protests and marches who go out with the express goal of causing confrontations with the state, often violent.” To the best of my knowledge, the most sustained acts of popular resistance to state violence in New Zealand/Aotearoa occurred years ago, in 1981, when the Springboks toured.
“Now given that the overwhelming majority of society is absolutely nowhere near accepting the slogan “down with the capitalist state”, it seems to me that such actions serve only to alienate anarchists… You’re exactly right when you say violent direct action is a tactic, but I think anarchists are too ready to use it, disregarding the balance of overall class forces and where the majority (or even significant minorities) of the working-class are at.”
I don’t think that effective action needs to rely upon the majority of society accepting, in some abstract sense, the validity of the slogan ‘down with the capitalist state’. Beyond this, I think that revolutionary situations and actions — that is, actions which, rather than being motivated by the logical acceptance of such propositions, go some way towards actually constituting their embodiment — proceed from all sorts of circumstances, even ones which might appear to be the least propitious ones from which such actions might spring. I would also suggest that seeking to frame one’s politics or actions around a conception of what may or not prove appealing to an imaginary mass is not only debilitating but in fact crippling. But this is to discuss such questions or possibilities in the most general sense possible, which is also not necessarily terribly illuminating in terms of what courses of action may be possible for much smaller movements, tendencies and groups in the here-and-now. There are probably countless examples of forms of direct action which have proven to be very inspiring to a wide range of others, if not a majority in any particular society, and these actions form an integral part of any broader movement towards social revolution. Further, I’d suggest that actions obtain their validity not only in terms of their effects upon public opinion, but to the extent that they open up possibilities for individuals and small groups engaged in various forms of political resistance aimed at reconstituting their own lives in the here-and-now to actually proceed in doing so. Finally, I’d argue that none of the above can or should be read as an argument against the conduct of an analysis of the situation of the contemporary working class in Australia, or its history.
Re ‘direct action’: If it wasn’t your intention to criticise (that is, denigrate or dismiss) it, perhaps you could outline your understanding of the relationship between direct action and violence, direct action and anarchism, and direct action and revolutionary struggle.
“Unless the goal of direct action is consciousness raising, and is followed up by ongoing political activity, I suspect it is more like middle-class fun and games as opposed to committed political activity aiming to raise the revolutionary potential of the working class.”
I think this observation is based on a misunderstanding of the meaning and significance of direct action. That is, while ‘direct action’ may ‘raise consciousness’, this is not its purpose. Rather, ‘direct action’ — as the name suggests — is intended to address issues directly, and to bring about desired changes directly. Last week, the ILWU called a one-day strike, not in order to raise consciousness — although I believe it certainly had this effect — but to directly penalise the state and business for conducting a disastrous, massively expensive, criminal, and hugely unpopular war.
That said, in general, you appear to be employing or criticising the notion of direct action solely in terms of what you imagine are the actions of middle class students engaged in a bit of ‘fun and games’; presumably, a reference to the actions of some protesters at G20. True or false, this protest action is only one of a vast range of ‘direct actions’, and it simply isn’t true, now or in the past, that ‘direct action’ has been characterised by the interests and proclivities of fun-seeking middle class youth.
“An example of this sort of ‘direct action’ would be the Woomera detention centre stuff, when a decent group of anarchist and autonomist peeps helped tear down the fences on that fateful day, but were never seen again at any action, large or small.”
I’m not convinced that that’s actually the case. My understanding is that a number of the individuals involved in these and similar actions at Woomera proceeded to engage in a range of different forms of solidarity with refugees; some continue to do so.
To be honest, I think that this remark is more likely the result of ignorance than a truthful account of the subsequent political commitments and developments of those who participated in the actions at Woomera; it also reminds me of the remark of one of your comrades whom I contacted to seek her commentary on a blogpost I’d written, viz:
“furthermore, who the fuck are you? i have never heard of an ‘andy’ at any of the activism i’ve been involved in for the past 5 years. i don’t remember ever meeting you at stop the war meetings, or palestine solidarity network, or student cross campus meetings. am i mistaken, or are you just another one of those armchair activists who spend all their time on the net slagging off socialism instead of actually putting this energy into building mass movements like the rest of us? but i guess you wouldn’t want to waste your time with building protests or anything like that, you’re probably more busy wrapped up in your lifestylism which, i must have forgotten, is ‘part of the struggle against an exploitative system’ as you said in your blog.”
The basic premise seems to be: if a member of SAlt hasn’t heard about it, it doesn’t exist. A fabulously arrogant approach which, if only those advancing it gave it more thought, might explain why their organisation is held in such low regard by others.
“Actions affect consciousness more than ideas ever can, and we can’t somehow live outside capitalism and remain able to organise effectively within it, which is where the workers are. So we’re in the system, therefore we’re affected. We can’t stop being affected as long as we’re in it, so the first thing to do is get rid of it, not hide in a squat somewhere outside it, and organise ‘from without’. Again, I accept that the latter is by no means the hegemonic view in anarchist circles, but it is very influential, and I strongly disagree with it.”
I think Knabb has some neat-o things to say about this kinda stuff (that is, the relationship between ideas and actions — see below). I also agree that it’s nigh-impossible to somehow live ‘outside’ of capitalism. As Herr Marx said: “Men make their own history, but they do not make it as they please; they do not make it under self-selected circumstances, but under circumstances existing already, given and transmitted from the past. The tradition of all dead generations weighs like an nightmare on the brains of the living.” And yeah, I agree with you that hanging about in squats and imagining that thereby one is living ‘outside’ of capitalism is a mistaken view; I also think it’s another boring stereotype, but I’d be interested in hearing about exactly why you think this view is “very influential”, as none of the anarchists I know — and I reckon I probably know more than yourself — actually agree with it either.
Does this mean we are not on for vegan lawn bowls at the squat on Sund’y ‘nymore?
Nah, we’re still on. (Remember to bring some clean fits this time, ‘k?)