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Samir Flores – Rest In Power

“Samir didn’t die, the government killed him”

That’s the call as thousands march on Mexico City following the murder of Samir Flores Soberanes environmental activist and journalist who was shot twice in the head in his home in Amilcingo, south of Mexico City, on Wednesday.

A member of The Peoples in Defense of Land and Water Front, Samir was a chief opponent of the Proyecto Integral Morelos (PIM), a development project in the state of Morelos that includes two new thermoelectric plants and a 93 mile gas pipeline and had attended a meeting about the project days before his assassination and challenged government representatives who were pushing flesh ahead of a vote on the PIM project.

Samir had been attacked numerous times before and a letter was left with his body, which the police have refused to release the details off. It seems clear in these times of struggle, he was executed for defending his community, the environment and indigenous autonomy against the corrupt state, a state who have immediately began laying the blame for this murder on organised crime. Given that is 2017, according to Global Witness, 15 environmental activists were murdered in Mexico you can be sure that organised crime is the blame, those responsible sit in the Palacio Legislativo de San Lázaro and Palacio Nacional.

This part of an ongoing trend across South America and indeed the world with at least 207 land and environmental defenders killed last year. Thats 207 indigenous leaders, community activists and environmentalists murdered trying to protect their homes and communities from corrupt states, mining, agribusiness and other destructive industries.

Rest in Power Samir and all who die defending this planet from parasitic capitalists bent on destroying it for their own ends.

Demand justice for Samir Flores.

Demand the respect of indigenous communities.

Solidarity with all who continue the fight. ■

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Pereira Maintains

Pereira maintains he is non-political. He edits the culture page of the Lisboa – an evening paper, and therefore not in the same league as other newspapers of Lisbon, but he was sure it would sooner or later make its mark, even if the culture staff consisted solely of himself, one man sweating with heat and discomfort in a squalid cubby-hole under the eye of a caretaker who was probably a police informant. It was the twenty-fifth of July Nineteen Hundred and Thirty-Eight and Lisbon was glittering, literally glittering in the purity of an Atlantic breeze, and the city seemed entirely in the hands of the police that evening. The day before, in Alentejo, they had killed a carter who supplied the markets, because he was a Socialist. This explained why the Guarda Nacional were stationed outside the market gates. But the Lisboa hadn’t had the courage to print the news, and who could be expected to have the courage to print news of that sort, that a Socialist carter had been shot down on his wagon in Alentejo, and had drenched all his melons with blood? ‘World’s Most Luxurious Yacht Sailed Today from New York’ the Lisboa’s headline read that day.

There are countless novels written about fascist Italy, Germany and Spain. Patrick Creagh’s translation of Pereira Maintains is the only one I know of in English about the Portuguese ‘Estado Novo’, arguably the world’s longest ruling fascist regime. I say arguably because it is difficult to say when fascism started in Portugal. There was no violent coup like in Germany, no march on the capital like in Italy, no civil war like in Spain – just the gradual consolidation of power by Salazar and his circle, and the slow creep of authoritarianism working its way into every corner of Portuguese life. Like being lay in a bath with the water temperature slowly rising, it’s difficult to say at what point you’re being boiled alive. Such was life in Portugal. By the time of the Carnation Revolution in 1974, after forty plus years of dictatorship under the banner ‘Faith, Fatherland and Family’, Portugal had the highest rate of infant mortality in Europe.

Tabucchi’s novel is set as the heat rises on its hero, Pereira. The heat rises, the walls close in, the grip on his collar tightens, and the question is: how heroic is he? How heroic can anyone be expected to be under the tyranny of a police state? I’m only the obscure editor of a second rate evening paper, said Pereira, and every day the proofs are examined by the state censors. It isn’t easy in a country like this for a person like me. But a wild idea had struck him, he maintains. There is no time to lose.

Pereira Maintains by Antonio Tabucchi, Feltrinelli, 1994. ISBN-13: 88-07-01461-0

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North East Anarchist Group Launch Statement

“North East Anarchist Group is an anti-capitalist, anti-fascist & intersectional synthesis group / collective based in north east England.

In the near future we are hoping to provide a platform for anarchists and libertarian socialists in the local area, so that we can build a larger sense of class consciousness in a region that has been decimated by needless and cruel Tory austerity and deprivation. We wish to foster a sense of community surrounding radical anti-authoritarian politics, as well as actually building the mutual aid networks that people need.

We are proud to work with comrades locally, nationwide and internationally in order to bring an end to exploitation, imperialism and unjust hierarchies, and to help each individual obtain the opportunity and freedom to maximise their own development on their own terms. We believe that through mutual aid, solidarity and cooperation we can begin to put the world’s wealth and land back under common control for the benefit of all”. ■

North East Anarchist Group

  • NORTHEASTANARCHISTGROUP.ORG
  • FACEBOOK.COM/NEANARCHOGROUP
  • TWITTER.COM/NEANARCHOGROUP

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How Does It Hurt? – Re-imagining violence outside of capitalism by Hannah Levene

Last month I visited a friend in New York. In the bookstalls along the streets by Washington Square Park I found a copy of ‘Prison Memoirs of an Anarchist’ by Alexander Berkman. It is a 1972 reprint of the 1970 edition, published by Schocken Books in New York City itself. The same city Berkman came to from Russia, bought on a street he probably walked down. Berkman was imprisoned for 22 years for the attempted assassination of Henry Clay Frick, the man who sent an army of 300 Pinkerton men to quash the Homestead Steel Company strike in Pittsburgh, 1892. Berkman travelled by train from New York to Pittsburgh, walked into Frick’s office and shot at him in cold blood.

He believed the act would send a clear message of what the People can do in the face of oppression. It would be the greatest piece of propaganda the cause could have, worth not only Frick’s life but his own. He will kill Frick and he will be hung, all for the cause. In actuality Frick doesn’t die and far from providing a clear message Berkman’s act incites discussion amongst the prisoners, the workers and the anarchists on the use violence in the name of the People. Believing he will be hung and not caring a bit, what Berkman actually gets is 22 years in a penitentiary to think.

The Kate Sharpley Library’s May 17 newsletter includes a review of Berkman’s memoirs. It says: “[Berkman] doesn’t decide that victory will come if the anarchist movement is more fierce or more cunning. Berkman’s achievement is to know that it has to be more human – we need not only persistence but also “hearts that grow not cold”.1 Let ferocity and cunning be the tool of the oppressor, come the revolution from hearts that grow not cold.

On seeing a public execution by Guillotine in Paris during 1857, Tolstoy remembers “the cold, inhuman efficiency of the operation.” More horrific than any scenes of war, Tolstoy sees the guillotine as a “frightful symbol of the state that used it”. Tolstoy, like Berkman comes to realise, knows it is not cruelty that we should be using, but care. Violence isn’t the job of the People it is the dirty work of the State.

In ‘An Anarchist Guide to Violence’, Ruth Kinna’s article in the 2016 summer issue of Strike! Kinna reminds us that it is not that black and white: “we must understand the boundaries between violence and non-violence as blurred”. To begin with, Kinna states, anarchism is not in general “understood as a condition directed towards the eradication of violence”. Instead, Kinna says, “historical anarchists who called for the abolition of capitalism and the state had their sights set on the destruction of the monopoly of violence, something they believed states held, and not the abolition of violence.” It isn’t the abolition of violence then, but the “destruction of the monopoly of violence,” the idea that violence, like everything else, should be communised.

The communisation of the States monopoly on violence is not translatable as the American right to arms. The rights to arms is upheld by structural, systematic mistrust. That each man has the right to defend himself and his family from another man reifies the fallacy that violence is already dispersed equally amongst the people (and that those people are men). Being allowed to own a gun is founded on and perpetuates the idea that the people are violent, unruly, and not to be trusted. This is naturalised and thus unshifting; all they can do is give a gun and grant you the right to shoot your neighbour. But the dissembling of the monopoly of violence is not simply handing out guns or tweeting nuclear codes. Such actions continue to ascribe to current capitalist system which is predicated on us not trusting each other.

Rather, like any reclamation, reclaiming violence involves redefinition. The question is, once violence is everybody’s what is it? What does the communisation, of violence look like? What does the decentralisation of violence look like? What does our violence look like? If centralisation is a part of violence in its current form, then decentralising, dispersing violence re-forms it. What is that, or, what are those forms? It isn’t that we either support or reject violence, but rather we must ask what does violence look like outside of this system, in our hands? When is it necessary? How does it hurt? How does it interact with autonomy and mutual aid? And what is the use of violence in a society based on trust?

The Curious George Brigade’s ‘The End of Arrogance: Decentralization and Anarchist Organizing’ says:

Mutual aid has long been the guiding principle by which anarchists work together. The paradox of mutual aid is that we can only protect our own autonomy by trusting others to be autonomous.

Mutuality and autonomy are inextricable. Autonomy within a capitalist system is cast as the freedom to be better than, it requires having the means, the money to be left alone. But autonomy has nothing to do with isolation or individualism and everything to do with trust. That is, trusting yourself which includes trusting yourself to trust others.

The Brigade continues that super-structures, like capitalism do the opposite of this. They seek to limit autonomy and work based on affinity in exchange for playing on our arrogant fantasies and the doling out of power. Decentralization is the basis of not only autonomy (which is the hallmark of liberty), but also of trust. To have genuine freedom, we have to allow others to engage in their work based on their desires and skills while we do the same.

Being able to own a gun pacifies some, plays on our arrogant fantasies, it is the irresponsible “doling out of power”. The same irresponsible doling out of power which each vote becomes inside of a democratic system that fails to teach its children or engage its adults in the democratic process. We are told implicitly that things are too complicated for us to understand fully, there is an expert for that, and no doubt, it is someone who is a different age to us, a different gender to us, a different class to us, has a different colour skin to us. We cannot be trusted. In ‘The Conquest of Bread’ Peter Kropotkin discusses the proliferation of early socialist writings which appeared after the 1830 July revolution in France. These writers, he explains, planned intricate socialist schemes based on collectivist ideals yet, he says,

“writing during the period of reaction which had followed the French revolution, and seeing more its failures than its successes, they did not trust the masses, and they did not appeal to them for bringing about the changes which they thought necessary.”

How can you write and develop plans for a collectivist way of organising at the same time as distrusting the masses? They made it impossible in doing so, with this disparity at the heart of it, it was doomed to fail.

It is obvious, too, that these thinkers did not plan for the socialisation of everything, having such little faith in the people they were certainly planning on keeping violence for themselves. And as such, keeping violence as it is: a monopolised, central legitimated cruelty which is doled out from above or a criminalised reflection of or reaction to that cruelty when exercised from below. It is, again the inherent structural distrust of the capitalist system we are living in which currently frames our definition of violence. In an anarchist communist (with a small c) society, there will be a different violence. Decentralization of everything, including the decentralisation of violence relies on autonomy and trust.

How to build a society based on trust? A decentralised system where we each have a slice of everything and are responsible for that slice. A system which requires new understandings of trust outside of contracts and laws. A definition of trust which includes tenderness and care and understanding. A system which doesn’t simply hand us “power” we are not adept to deal with, that same system that ensures we are not collectively adept at it, yet hands it out nonetheless. Which casts power as something we can earn within a capitalist system, based on money and means.

In Maggie Nelson’s ‘The Art of Cruelty’ she says: “the mainstream thrust of anti-intellectualism as it stands today, characterises thinking itself as an elitist activity.” A society based on trust must dispel the idea that education is a privilege we do not deserve. The capitalist usurpation of education has translated into a cultural prejudice that those who cannot afford it do not deserve it, that it is not for them. That thoughts are something you purchase, that some ideas most people simply cannot afford to know. This is bullshit.

Being able to understand is not a privilege. The ideas you have do not make you higher or lower than you are. You are where you are and your ideas are there with you. And when you move your ideas will come too, and they can be passed on, they can be given and shared. Ideas are not linked to status. Thinking is ours to do. Ideas are ours to form. Ideas do not differentiate us from each other, those who think and those who do not think. Ideas are not the opposite of action, it is not a choice between being the worker who works and does not think, or the thinker who thinks because they do not need to work. Thinking is the common denominator, the ideas we have are what we share. That isn’t to say that the ideas are all the same but that we can all think, that we can all form ideas, the power to think is ours. Learning is not elitist, it is everybody’s. Not only do we deserve it but it is integral to building a society built on autonomy and mutual aid, on trusting yourself enough including trusting yourself enough to trust others

This is the history of thought in anarchist culture. The autodidact is the self-taught scholar who wants to know, to find out, and to share in ideas. I think of Jose Peirats, the Spanish anarcho-syndicalist revolutionary writer, who “stressed the role of education in founding a counter-hegemonic revolutionary consciousness – an alternative culture that, in order to flourish, had to be rooted in everyday life.” Not just the importance of education, as if it were a separate space outside of everyday life, but the idea that education is a part of what we do. Not what we do in order to get a job, but in order to a be autonomous, when to be autonomous is to feel that you know, that you have the right to know, the ability to know, that are you are able, that you can help.

The process of turning a centralised system which relies on some people knowing more than others, and on everyone not knowing enough, into a system where everything – knowledge, violence, property – is decentralised, in short, the shift from a capitalist system to anarchism is not a simple process. It is not a switch like the day we switch from a Tory government to Labour government. And, I believe, it is not a coming insurrection, a violent revolution after which everything will be altered. Rather, it is the building of a culture of resistance. The Anarchist Federation defines a culture of resistance as a set of bonds, “connections of trust and common purpose [which] work against the everyday logic of capitalism” They continue “A culture of resistance is the school in which we learn how to be free, how we become through the fight against capitalism everything we will be after it.”

Here is your portion of bread. Here is your portion of violence. But I don’t want your violence, not as you have used it. Then, who am I to reject violence? As someone who has had the privilege of never having to fight, I’ll side with Kinna. “The rejection of non-violence as a primary anarchist commitment is merely a decision to reserve judgement on the use of violence and a refusal to automatically condemn those that resort to it.” Meanwhile, there is work to be done towards building a society in which there is no use for it. That no one is hungry enough, or downtrodden enough. That the rubble of the monopoly of violence once toppled will pile up around us for us to make something else out of. So we can imagine what the communisation of violence looks like, what it feels like in our hands and how we can now forge it freshly. In a society based on trust violence as we know it will be a redundant technology, something we once thought we needed, now rendered obsolete. ■

Citations:-

1.Kate Sharpley Library Bulletin, May 2017, p.2

2.Anarchism, George Woodcock, (Penguin, 1977), p.209

3.Strike! Summer 2016, ‘An Anarchist Guide to Violence’, Ruth Kinna, p.9

4.‘The End of Arrogance: Decentralisation and Anarchist Organising’, Curious George Brigade, NYC, 2002, p.5

5.Ibid.

6.‘The Conquest of Bread’, Peter Kropotkin, p.6

7.The Art of Cruelty, Maggie Nelson

8.Living Anarchism: Jose Peirats and the Spanish Anarcho-Syndicalist Movement’, Chris Earlham, (AK Press, 2015) p.71

9.‘A Short Introduction to Anarchist Communism’ by The Anarchist Federation, 2015, p.30

10.Ibid.

11.Kinna, p.9

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Getting A Crew Together – A short primer on how to rabble rouse and revolt

For the sake of this article I’m going to guess you’re like most Anarchists in the UK… disconnected from any ongoing community of resistance and struck griping about the every declining state of affairs, unable to enact any change on your Billy Todd. You might live in a small town or major city, but the reality is that most of us engaged in the politics of revolutionary compassion are isolated from persistent networks and let’s face it the ones we are in can be a major emotional investment at times. So you find yourself waiting for the revolutionary momentum to kick in, set to idle.

There are a few reasons for this state of affairs really, for a start half of us are busy trying to survive capitalism and can only occasionally pop our heads up for the odd action or book fair. T he revolution seems likesuch a distant concept that many people just try and live the best life however they can, fair play like. Heck you’d have to be half mad to try and get something going, it’s a lot of work, usually for little result. There isn’t any point lying about it or trying to build some romantic vision for you. It’s graft.

Whether it’s a cheery A-B march or ongoing campaigns against parasitic skum, it’s incredibly draining, especially if you have work to be getting on with. It can however be the most rewarding thing you ever do and for every headache, you got to think about the positive changes you’ve worked towards, especially if your crew is results driven.

The first thing you’ve got to remind yourself is that you don’t need to wait for some larger group to come into town recruiting, not the IWW, AFed or anyone else, especially not liberal outfits looking to increase their donor base selling rebellious vibes at the price of a newspaper. The revolution can only come about through the people empowering themselves, working from the grass root, it’s you and yours that will make your home town less shitty.

Obviously every word of this advice needs crafting to your aims and intentions. Starting an alternative father and baby group isn’t going to be to same as mounting resistance against a coming fascist parade, the immediacy of a response to a police murder demands a different tact to founding an Anarchist reading group, so bare in mind these are generalisations. The first of which is:

* Get Out There And Talk To People. You probably have some pretty strong ideas of what needs to happen around your ends which is grand, but talking to people about setting up something, planting seeds and taking on ideas should always be your first step. You are not an island and you should aim for a new group to be the spiritual property of the collective, founded on your shared ideas from the word go. So get prodding, get talking, get asking folk what they reckon your ends need. Whether you do this on social media or down the pub, hearing people out about what they think about starting up a crew is almost always going to light a fire under peoples asses. They’ve been waiting for something to kick off too.

* If You Build It, They Will Come. It’s a cheesy adage sure, it’s also true. Pick a day, pick a place and let folk know you’re holding a meeting. If this is with your mates have it at your gaff, otherwise somewhere accessible and relativity quiet. The back room of a friendly pub or cafe are the usual spots. These spaces will keep it informal and be easy for people to step in. Obviously context is king but I’d advise against diving into bureaucracy and formality, keep it light hearted and convivial. If you get three people come along. You have a collective. It’s starts there.

* So What Are You After? It’s the big question and your first task as a collective, what are your aims here? Long term and short.

You have to be honest with yourselves. Do what Mary Kondo would do and ask what sparks joy. This is true of any collective, whether you are looking to found a social network, focus a group on a specific issue or create a more general rebel alliance give yourselves some guiding aims. These will be your North Star in the coming struggles, you points of unity and solidarity. Your short term aims will be the corner stone of your…

Call to Arms. Let’s stop the hunt! Let’s start a food not bombs! let’s run a charity gig! The ideas will pour out, a bit of debate and temperature checking later and – for the sake of the argument – you’ve decided to squat the ol’cop shop and make a free shop. Noice. Now you have a call to arms, your new collective should share out some responsibilities and tasks appropriate to everyone’s capacity and inclination. There is no shame in not being able or willing to take on a role of course but the wider you can diffuse this the less pressure there will be on individuals and the greater the sense of communal ownership!

* The Work Begins. This is where most projects stumble. That’s ok, it happens, just start from the top like. Presuming your crew is full of drive tho you’ll want to build a regular schedule of events. Individuals/working groups should try to get in the habit of reporting back to the group, even if thats just a note to the shared thread saying “Got the drill/ we’veprinted the Section 6’s.” Keep each other in the loop and perhaps more importantly consolidate these growing friendships. Too many activists treat organising like a job, some noble duty they have taken on… lighten up, share jokes, go to gigs, have a laugh. The best comrades are friends, always.

* Educate, Agitate and Communicate! Learn all you can about the action you’re taking. In this case Squatting law, how to enter buildings, defending them and such, not just you but everyone. Share leadership and responsibility. This is vital not only as a philosophical position in Anarchism but also on a tactical level, having a single person be the go to for issues that arise is always going to cause hassle. Now is also the time to step up your presence, make it public, start putting up info sharing related material, provide a point for people to contact you and get involved. Start contacting other groups local and otherwise. Maybe the local SolFed have a few squatters who’d love to be involved maybe Class War want to donate some gear. Your collective is not an island and you are part of a vast ever changing network of mutual aid and solidarity, this is true whether you are “fluffy” or “spiky”, just know your audience. SQUASH the Squatters campaign group are going to love to hear from us, Local Sabs are probably just going to show love and wish our free shop well. Align yourselves with established comrades, accept their support and advice, work hard to develop bonds and trust.

* DO IT. Whether it’s cracking a squat or marching on the town hall, taking action is an amazing feeling. Work with your team and support each other, help out new faces or people who have turned up just for the action. You’ll want to have some media to share to help get the word out but you never need as many leaflets as you thought you did. Honestly a nice big placard and someone brave on a megaphone will be more effective at a demonstration that 300 handouts.

* We did it, Hurray. Now What. once you’ve got something under your belt it becomes real, folk should start to take it more seriously, they’re excited and keen. Keep that energy up! Have an “after action” gathering to discuss and celebrate what happened, share information with the world, thank you comrades and start to look to your next goals. Keeping a regular set of events is critical at this point as is being constantly open to development.

* Make it formal, make it look good. Start meeting up regular, discussing things and taking actions , remember to report back and share it on social media etc. It’s about here that you’ll want to make sure that you have a set of collective aims and principles – by whatever name – If you haven’t got them already. It truly helps to have a written down mutually agreed upon sense of direction. Generating this is almost always a chore but stick it through an make it happen.There will be questions to resolve, from cleaning duties to whether or not you are a dry space. Almost universally here is best to have deference to traditionally oppressed minorities, thats pretty important to progressive organisation. Develop and agree upon processes of internal democracy and problem solving. Remember you are comrades and always act in good faith but it’s good to plan for hiccups. The most vital thing from here on is to keep active and be a presense in your community.

If you are looking to establish a group or campaign contact the Anarchist Federation and let us see what we can do to support you.

We’ll also be expanding this short primer on the website here with in-depth examinations and guides to different models of organising. If you have specific questions or would like us to cover something in particular send us an email. ■

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A Letter To XR

As climate catastrophe draws near, we are impressed and encouraged by the movement that Extinction Rebellion is building. This mobilisation has reinvigorated environmental activism at a time when we most need it. XR has been bold in its aims when much of the established movement has been cynical, and has managed to tap into a broader sense of alarm over environmental degradation, and mobilised many people not previously involved. XR has grown at a speed that many people would have thought impossible before we saw it happen. XR has also been far more radical in this broad appeal than many people would have thought, pursuing a strategy built around both local direct action while maintaining an international orientation. We cannot overstate the overwhelmingly positive effect that XR is having on environmental politics.

Those of us already involved in various radical and green movements have been attending XR meetings and actions and found them deeply inspiring. However, at the same time we also have doubts about some of the tactics that XR has adopted in its pursuit of a green future, and we have discussed how we should bridge the differences between our views and those of XR. We do not want to undermine the important work that XR is doing, but we also feel that there is a conversation that needs to be had about some of XR’s tactics.

While we hope that these tactics do work, we are dubious that they will be enough. We fear that the government will be less willing to negotiate in good faith and more willing to use violent repression against a truly disruptive campaign than is assumed. Capitalism systematically incentivises environmental destruction, and we worry that the costs of any government initiative to combat climate change will fall on the poor and powerless unless a clear anti-capitalist stance is articulated. We will never be free from the spectre of environmental crisis while the profit of the few is put above the lives of everyone else.

Against the existential threat of human extinction hanging over us all, cooperation is our greatest strength. We feel that a separate organisation that works alongside XR while allowing for a greater diversity of tactics is the most honest way to do this. We want to support XR with a parallel mobilisation that has a greater focus on the capitalist roots of climate catastrophe.

We believe these actions can be mutually supportive and bring a zero emissions world closer to reality. See you on the streets.

MANIFESTO


We are encouraged by the ability of Extinction Rebellion to call people onto the streets and push their demands for zero emissions. However, we believe that meeting these demands will not be possible without abolishing capitalism, a system reliant on the total exploitation of nature; whether that be sacrificing our clean water to frack for hydrocarbons or sacrificing our children to the production line. We must develop our ideas of what a different future may look like outside the constraints of both capital and fossil fuels. We must also critique the false solutions offered by ‘green capitalism’ and increased state control. It is our contention that the world in fifty years will look radically different from what we see now. The question is whether we are moving towards a sustainable future for humanity, or one of catastrophe. We are calling for a broad anti-capitalist environmental movement based around the following points of unity.

  1. An existential threat – Human induced climate change and environmental destruction more broadly are a threat to global ecosystems. Action must be taken now to guarantee we not only survive, but flourish in the future.
  2. Capitalism is the crisis – Capitalism is part of the problem. A global economic system built on competing capitalists cannot be trusted to combat climate change when doing so threatens their profits. We must make the link between capitalism and environmental degradation explicit in our politics and critique the role of the state in facilitating this.
  3. International class solidarity – We must be internationalist in our scope and ensure victories for workers in MEDCs does not mean just pushing environmental problems onto workers in LEDCs who have done the least to contribute to climate change. We must push our trade unions to adopt an environmental as well as anti-capitalist stance which argues for a just but rapid transition for workers in extractive industries. We must take a hard stance against nationalism and aim instead for global unity.
  4. Building collective power – We should ensure the actions we take, and the struggles we link up for, leave us and others who take part stronger not weaker. We must avoid any so-called victory that relies on the ‘good will’ of a politician or the ‘expertise’ of an NGO. Win or lose, each action and campaign should leave us more aware of the world around us, more confident of our collective power, and more experienced in our ability to self-organise.
  5. Diversity of tactics – We must develop a diversity of tactics that is not dependent on the actions of politicians or corporations developing a conscience to achieve its goals. We plan to work alongside Extinction Rebellion while maintaining certain critiques of them.
  6. Horizontal, bottom-up structures- We cannot recreate the structures we know do not work within our own movement. Our movement must be horizontal and autonomous so that it truly represents the interests of those our current rulers treat as expendable. We must also take an intersectional approach to our solidarity and care for each other at all times.
  7. We need a new system – Ultimately, while the imminent threat of climate change may limit us to putting pressure on state and capital in the short term, in the longer term we need to replace these institutions to solve the systematic problems that have created this crisis.

We are entering uncharted territory, in terms of how the earth’s ecosystems may respond to the ever-increasing pressures capitalism places upon them. Left unchecked, the current fossil fuel economy will continue to wreck the climate with the burden on impacts falling on the working class and LEDCs. We do not have faith that capitalists – or their parliamentarian representatives – will act in time to limit climate change in a meaningful way. The crisis they perpetuate can only lead to an increase in state control of the economy, of our lives, of the borders, as the ruling class seeks to contain social unrest and keep out climate refugees. We must take back control of our energy and production systems to create a new model of equality between peoples and harmony with nature.

Yours in Solidarity
GREEN ANTI-CAPITALIST FRONT ■

For further info
Greenanticapitalist.org
Twitter/ FrontGreen
FB/ GAfront

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An Interview With The Decolonial Atlas

The Decolonial Atlas is a volunteer-run project lead by Jordan Engel which is building an ever growing collection of maps which, in some way, help us to challenge our relationships with the land, people, and state. It’s based on the premise that cartography is not as objective as we’re made to believe. The orientation of a map, its projection, the presence of political borders, which features are included or excluded, and the language used to label a map are all subject to the map-maker’s bias – whether deliberate or not.

Thank you for the time, why don’t we get started with a little about how you got started with The Decolonial Atlas? What was the original impetus and why do you feel that such maps are so needed? What are the aims of the project?

Cartography is beautiful science and art form that can help us to better understand the world and our place in it. The problem is that most of the maps we use today reinforce an understanding of the world that is flawed. They do this in many ways, from the projections they use, to imposing to place names of the colonizers, to the inclusion of political borders. Borders do not really exist outside our imaginations, but they have been ingrained so deeply into our mental geographies that they seem real. A recent analysis revealed that most international borders are actually less than a century old. A world free from states becomes easier to envision when our maps don’t include borders.

They say that ‘history is written by the victors.’ Well, maps are made by the colonizers. The Decolonial Atlas was started in response to that, to amplify indigenous geographic perspectives and challenge the monopoly that colonial maps have on our consciousness. The world has much to learn from these indigenous perspectives, but even more importantly, indigenous cartography contributes to the overall perpetuation of indigenous cultures which have for so long been suppressed. Knowledge of the land, passed down through generations, is preserved in indigenous place names. Documenting those names now is of the utmost importance, so that when the elders pass, those names are not forgotten forever.

Indigenous toponyms are important reflections of the cultures and places they represent. Compared to colonial toponyms which are often named for important settlers or are transplanted names from their homelands, indigenous names are much more deeply rooted in the local history and geography of that particular place. Documenting these names serves to support ongoing language revitalization efforts, acknowledge unextinguished indigenous land tenure, and help native and non-native people alike to better understand indigenous history, the legacy of colonization, and our relationship with the land.

You mentioned that one of the key issues with the maps in common usage is the projections themselves? Could you tell us a little more about this, why is came about and why it is we are using maps which continue to be problematic? Is there a preferred map?

The issue of projections in cartography comes down to equal representation. So many of the maps we use diminish the relative size of the Global South, while allowing for a greater level of detail in Europe and North America. The most egregious projection that we are all familiar with is the Mercator, a 450-year-old relic that famously makes Greenland appear larger than the entire continent of Africa. Obviously, because the Earth is spherical, there’s no perfect way to represent it on a flat surface, but there are many great equal-area projections which are certainly preferable to the Mercator. Some of my favorites are the Eckert IV projection, and the similar Equal Earth projection, which was just invented in 2018.

 What is the scale of loss of indigenous toponyms? How much have native communities lost?

The scale of loss varies from tribe to tribe. Eastern nations, which were colonized the earliest, often suffered a huge loss of their cultural heritage. Many of the names on our maps are from the precolonial era, while others are not quite as old. In some cases where the indigenous name for a place has been forgotten or suppressed, contemporary indigenous communities have endeavored to reconstruct a place name based on their cultural relationship with that location. Because indigenous cultures and languages are living and dynamic, none of these names are any less “authentic” than others. Still, I was once talking to DeLesslin George-Warren from the Catawba Indian Nation who brought up a great point when we were discussing indigenous toponymy – “The fact is that we’ve lost so much in terms of our language and place names. It might be more honest to recognize that loss in the map instead of giving the false notion that the place name still exists for us.”

 How do you feel about the argument that English toponyms can be set alongside indigenous toponyms? Such as found here in the UK where Welsh/English, Gaelic/English sit side by side, Is this enough?

It’s a question for each indigenous community to answer what reconciliation means and looks like to them. Personally, I think there are so many instances in North America where the colonial place names blatantly dishonor indigenous communities, that I don’t think dual-naming would suffice. The significance of place names is mostly symbolic, and too often, the names that dot this landscape are symbolic memorials to the white supremacist perpetrators of genocide and slavery. There is no equivalent for that in Great Britain.

 What is the main difference between modern state borders and those of indigenous communities? Do they not present similar issues?

The Decolonial Atlas has become a platform for people to share ideas about decolonization. Someone commented recently that the concept of ‘tribal territories’ is widely misunderstood. Most American Indian nations did not have clearly defined borders as we think of today, and the concept of land ownership itself seemed absurd to many. I’d also direct people to a recent article which explores this topic titled Settler Anarchists Should Tread Lightly Around Indigenous Nationalism..

Is there a particular focus to your work at the moment?

Since 2014, we’ve been researching and consulting with indigenous elders and language keepers across North America to create a decolonized modern map of the continent. The main feature of this map are the indigenous toponyms (place names) for major landmarks such as cities, mountains, and historical sites. We’ve worked with more than 100 indigenous communities so far to accurately represent their languages and perspectives on the map.

How can Anarchist communities best practice respect for indigenous names? Is there not an issue of appropriation?

At the beginning many public events, it’s becoming more common for there to be a territory acknowledgement, recognizing that these events are taking place on the stolen land of a particular tribe. When possible, we recommend also acknowledging the indigenous name of where the event is taking place. Place names are the intellectual and cultural property of the native people, and as such, we advise seeking permission from those communities and language keepers beforehand.

What are the long-term goals/ road map of The Decolonial Atlas?

We strive to accomplish many goals with the Atlas, including:
– Documenting indigenous knowledge of the land to ensure it’s not forgotten
– Fostering a better understanding of indigenous history and the legacy of colonization
– Supporting indigenous peoples’ reclamation of culture, language, and connection with the land
– Promoting indigenous pride in seeing accurate cultural representation
– Combating widespread misinformation about indigenous toponymy and
– Acknowledging unextinguished indigenous land tenure. ■

Jordan Engel, who kindly gave us this short interview is a mapmaker and researcher originally from Ga’sgöhsagöh in Onödowá’ga:’ territory. He founded the Decolonial Atlas in 2014.

facebook.com/decolonialatlas
decolonialatlas.wordpress.com

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Chav Solidarity – Review

Trigger warning. This review recounts abuse and violence, the book more so.

D. Hunter is a an ageing chav, whose first 25 years depended upon the informal economy including sex work, robbing and dealing. For the last 12 years he has been an anti-capitalist motivated community organiser.”

This book is built on the backs of those who walked alongside in the first 25 years of my life. The dead, disregarded and the disgraced. Forever in my heart, always on my arms.”

Whatever psychological scars I carry with me today would have been far worse were my skin a different colour. I honestly believe that had I been anything other than White I’d be dead.”

This self-published autobiography is, for the most part, about the earlier life of an anarchist comrade in Nottingham who most local activists will know. Some will even know snippets of his testimony now written down for the world to see.

It’s a blunt story of survival along with generous acknowledgement of how a young working class person’s life is moulded, good (in this case to being formed into anarchist) and bad (very), by family, friends, fellow travellers and circumstance. An abusive father who rejected the state whilst horribly tormenting those closest, community defence in the midst of terrible social distress, escapism via drugs and booze and suicide – attempted and achieved. A political book given at the right time, a moment of care after prison abuse, revenge meted out at the time of abuse or years later, sex workers looking out for each other and an account of serious racism with tacit recognition of the existence of a white supremacist patriarchal capitalist system. The writer doesn’t shy away from their own role or make excuses – we read how he used white supremacy to get advantage in boxing ring using racist slurs, did better (relatively) than Black or Brown men in youth offenders institutions and prison, got stopped and searched less.

The working class solidarity in the title of this amazing book really shines through. But there is a big challenge to the anarchist movement which is framed in terms of the vast majority of us now, especially after widened educational opportunity (but also then), having so many more choices and so much more ‘cultural capital’ than in the chav world the author identifies with but has managed, in part, to leave behind. In an increasingly unequal society, with a continued viscous attack on welfare, and the total disregard of the humanity of poor and working class people of colour such as with the Grenfell fire and an increasing racialised discourse during Brexit, many more people could soon be facing reduced choices, abandoned by the state. There is also the challenge to activists to really understand the 2011 riots, and to respond properly and practically to the critique of the former Black Panthers Lorenzo Kom’boa Ervin and JoNina Abron-Ervin) who visited the UK a few years later having been invited to the London Anarchist Bookfair in 2014 – whose meetings at the Sumac Centre (Nottingham’s anarchist social centre) and an afro-Caribbean community centre were hosted locally by the author and members of Nottingham AF, amongst others. Anarchists, the AF included, have yet to help make a real difference, in spite the much higher awareness of intersectional oppression.

The book is very well written and in accessible language. To find out more and get the book go to: chavsolidarity.com
You can read the titular essay here:- Chav Solidarity



Chav Solidarity Things by D.Hunter, Self Published, 2018.

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Chav Solidarity by D.Hunter

When people say chav, they mean only one thing.

They’ll have different definitions, but they’ll mean the same thing.

They’ll mean scum, they’ll mean those not educated in the right way, they’ll mean “keep away from my family”, they’ll mean criminal, and they’ll mean you are worthless and it’s your own fucking fault. The first time I heard the word was when I was called a chavvy twat by a pig who’d arrested me for going equipped to rob. I didn’t follow the press in those days so I didn’t know how regularly the word was being used in the mid 90’s, but eventually the idea trickled down and I understood what they meant. They meant you’re not good enough, you have none of the qualities we’re looking for in a human being, you’re a disgrace, you’re a violent thug, you’re lazy and stupid.

Chav was a shorthand way of dehumanising a large group of people who responded with indifference towards those who had benefited from their dispossession. There are worse things to be called then a chav for sure. The thing about being called a chav is that it’s shorthand. Before, people had a tendency just to call you violent, lazy, stupid and criminal, which, if said to you every day by teachers, social workers, pigs and other state administrators, has a far more violent effect on your psyche. Being called a chav, well that was alright, because you could reclaim it. If me and my friends were being called chavs then that shows we’re together, we’re a family, we have a fucking bond.

I’m 37 pushing 50 now, and it’s been a long time since anyone called me a chav as a way of stripping me of my humanity. To those around me I imagine I’m more like a librarian who shops at JD, and that’s fine, but I still identify with the chav name. I take it as my duty to have an eye for the latest generation of young people who are labelled in such away. It’s a class thing – you get called a chav and you’re being told you’re not working class, you’re beneath that, and you’ll never escape it; you are the underclass for ever and for always. Many of the essays that I’ve included in this book try to highlight the humanity of the underclass/chav communities, the things that have to be done within them to survive and thrive, and how neither pity nor disgust are relevant responses to those communities’ experiences. Most of all I’ve tried to emphasise the values of solidarity, mutual aid and self-defence that exist within those communities. I’m gonna talk about a few more examples of this just to get ya in the right frame of mind for all of this.

I spent several years in various young offenders institutes before I was 17. These were cages where I experienced incredible loneliness and desperation, where so much of my anger that had built up during my life flared up on a daily basis, and I spent my days with dozens of other boys of a similar age who felt a similar way. During one 6 month sentence in a Y.O.I. in Derbyshire, I lived alongside twenty-something other boys. I was 14 and one of the youngest and smallest of the prisoners. I walked around like a lit fuse just waiting to kick off, but knew no one. My only visitor a social worker, who came to tell me how and why I was there, and what I had to do to avoid coming back. Inside there were small groups of other boys who, based on experiences outside, towns they were from or the colour of their skin, stuck to each other like glue. The groups constantly fought amongst each other, and battled for supremacy over each other. Whilst some of us were on shorter sentences, others knew that they were only biding time before they got starred up, and were willing to take more risks in order to either establish their dominance over the other inmates or to build their reputation inside and outside of the prison. One of the oldest boys, who knew he wasn’t getting out until he was at least 21, was particularly determined to achieve these two goals. He had built some credibility because of his connections on the outside and his ability to bring in supplies, including trainers, gameboys and booze, which he sold onto other inmates. In order to get these inside he or someone on the outside was paying at least one of the guards a decent amount of money. This boy was universally reviled on the quiet, to his face the other boys showed him respect and some faked fear in order to curry favour with him.

Towards the end of the summer (which had seemed particularly hot, and was always the worst season to be locked up for obvious reasons) I had begun to develop a tenser than usual relationship with one of the screws. He had demanded pleases and thank you’s for unlocking my door in the morning and locking it at night, pleasantries which at best I spat out. This had gone on for a bit until I’d told him to fuck off and he’d given me a swift punch to the gut that had me doubled over and spitting blood. A day later I tripped him up near the stairwell, and he’d very nearly gone tumbling down the stairs. I’d been severely sanctioned for this, and been forced to clean the toilets with a toothbrush everyday for a week. Each day as I cleaned the toilets he would come in and piss into the bowl I was cleaning, spraying onto my hands and face. My planned retaliation meant I had to get my hands on some sharp metal, and having been banned from both the kitchen and woodwork room for various other offences, I felt that my only alternative was to ask the older boy with the connections on the outside.

Our only interactions had been the occasional game of pool, so I assumed approaching him and soliciting his help would be difficult. He would be aware that I would be unable to afford to pay for anything with money, and I was aware that even approaching him without money might lead to him and his friends kicking the shit out of me. But during lunch I saw him alone staring out the window and went over to ask him. He stared at me, laughed, and told me that I’d taken my fucking time. The next day, me, him, and three of his friends ambushed the screw, pinned him down and beat the crap out of him and whilst he screamed for help the other boys all body-checked, tripped and grappled with the other screws who tried to go to his aid. It took them about 20 minutes to restore their order, but by that point my knuckles were bloody from hitting the screw so hard, and his face was going purple. It turned out everybody had seen how the guard had been fucking with me, and some of the older boys had already talked about intervening, but the general consensus had been that I had to step up first; I had to reach out and ask for the back up I needed before anything else got done.

None of my mother’s family had “jobs”, most of them worked, but it was not in their mentality to go around factories, shops and bars asking if any jobs were going, it was not in their mentality, either, to go to the job centre. My grandfather’s belief was that in no circumstances would he take handouts from the country that had done so much damage to his own. I bring this up not as an indictment of those who do take state benefits, but as an indication of the man’s belief system and the culture he instilled in his family. We were told to work for ourselves – no bosses, no state. We would ensure that food was on our plates and roofs were over our head in our own way. This own way included hijacking lorries along the M62, killing and stealing livestock in the large industrial farms around Lancashire and Yorkshire, organising bareknuckle boxing and dog fights, and a host of other things.

Those identified as males in the family were expected to help out, as were those who, like my dad, fucked their way into the family. As a seven year old I was shown how to be a lookout during a robbery, and not long after, my cousins taught me how to steal a car. All of the rewards for this were collectivised, except that my grandfather took as much as he wanted. Everyone else got according to their need, not their ability. One of my uncles was fiercely respected for the amount of money he brought into our family, but he lived in a one bedroom flat which was furnished with a mattress, TV and nothing else. I only have a thin recollection of the flat but I’m not convinced it had a bathroom. This was acknowledged, but never challenged, it was raised by others as an example of how we all should be. Just because you can make a lot of money doesn’t mean you need a lot of money. I’m sure my uncle had enough to drink and feed himself, but in comparison to some of his siblings he lived a frugal life. The money went to uncles and aunts with children instead, so that those kids wouldn’t go short. One of my grandmother’s brothers was placed into what everyone called a “top special place for spastics” because his physical and mental needs were such that the family could not cope, but they would not see him suffer inside anything cheap and nasty.

There were discrepancies to all of this. My grandfather took whatever he wanted from the collective pot, and I’m sure he would say, that as the responsibility for everyone else was with him, it was only right. He was also a violent and abusive man, who let outsiders abuse and violate his family if it suited him, but the culture of collectivisation he instilled was still real to the rest of us. If one of my cousins was given something, they would share it without a second thought. Nothing was saved for later; nothing was personal property. With my mother unable to take care of me and my sisters, we were viewed as temporary orphans who slept in the master’s house. My grandfather did not need to take direct responsibility for us; his culture meant that every other family member who was able took responsibility for our food, clothing and general well-being.

Living in Radford in the early 90’s wasn’t always the easiest. The state had been on a mission to destroy communities like ours, poverty was high and there were a lot of angry people but there were still many moments in which neighbours stood together. We found ways to make it clear that, if we were gonna be fucked with, we would not provide the lubricant. One typical incident involves a couple of friends of mine, a brother and sister who were 12 and 13 years old. They lived with their aunt and her boyfriend who had severe drug and alcohol problems (I know because a few years later I would become their dealer). Their uncle and aunt were not in a position to pay much attention to my friends, and just as I don’t judge my own mother for being unable to do this, I don’t judge them. So the brother and sister spent most of their days doing what they wanted, going to school if they wanted an easy hot meal, or not going to school if they wanted to nick someone’s wallet and go get a Happy Meal. My life was pretty similar, but unlike myself, these two were placid and gentle. They didn’t get into fights and they didn’t scream at adults who looked at them funny. I doubt they ever smashed a window of a shop the day after they’d been caught stealing from it. The brother even went to church every Sunday on his own. He said it was the most peaceful place in the world. I’d see them most days, and at least once a week we’d spend large portions of the day together. They had other friends and I had other friends so we weren’t inseparable or anything like that. But we lived real close, and were bonded because of that.

One day they both came running over to where I was at the corner of Bentinck and Peveril, drinking with a couple of sex workers on their lunch break and a big dude called Malcolm, who I was tight with, on and off, for several years. The brother was screaming, panic all across his face, and his sister was clutching his arm tight, telling him that they had to go back home. He explained that they’d got to the hallway outside of their flat and saw that outside their house were three men with baseball bats and crowbars. They’d bolted looking for help. Malcolm didn’t think, just started running to the flats, with those on their lunch break and us three kids trailing behind him. I haven’t a fucking clue what was going through my head, other than I’m gonna have a fight. We ran to the tower block, up the five flights of stares, down the hallway and into the flat which now had the door hanging off it’s hinges. I was a few paces behind Malcolm and the brother, but when I got in, the uncle had blood pouring from his head and the aunt was screaming in the corner, as one man with a baseball bat pinned her to the wall. Malcolm had another man pinned to the floor and the brother appeared to be shadow boxing as another man swung his baseball bat at him. There was a lot of screaming, but not a lot of sense being made. The two sex workers ran at the man pinning the aunt to the wall, the first got hit so hard around the mouth that a tooth flew out, but the second ran her head into his chest. I followed up leaping onto his head and pummelling him to the ground, at which point we both started kicking him in the head and balls. The uncle had at this point pulled himself up off the floor and joined his nephew in going at the third man. Malcolm had apparently got bored of sitting on his man and decided to pick him up and carry him outside, not via the door but via the window. He held him over the edge and shouted out for everyone to pay attention. Everyone kinda did. Malcolm let it be known that if the men didn’t leave now he would drop their friend to the ground. The men did as they were told, and Malcolm dropped their friend anyway (he landed on a balcony just one floor below).

We spent the next few hours fixing up the door, sorting out the cuts and bruises picked up during the fight and drinking a hell of a lot of whiskey. Malcolm slept over on the floor of the flat, and we told the neighbours about what had happened and that some men might be coming back. Most of them said they’d keep a look out and lend a hand if they saw anything. It was what you did – you looked after each other, even if it was from men with baseball bats. The men had been loan sharks, people trying to make some pounds by preying on the poverty that had been inflicted upon whole communities up and down the country by a government and economic system which we often felt powerless to defend ourselves from. But it was in incidents like these that I learnt that self-defence from those with more might than you is possible and that those of us who have lived close to the bottom are the most able to do it.

*

These moments of collective organising and resistance were carried out by people in this country who live on the margins. I have experienced hundreds of moments like them, and I can only speculate how many others have occurred across the country, just in my life time. The people involved are pathologised and demonised in mainstream culture, as broken people who need to be remade in the image of the good citizen of a capitalist society. I disagree. I think these people and the moments that they create need to be the building block upon which we make a better society. I don’t know where many of the people I’ve talked about have ended up. I know they will have been fighting against the ongoing attacks of the transnational neo-liberal process and it’s servants, and that this will have caused unbelievable damage to their hearts and minds. Because of this, many may no longer be able to think or act with the collectivised tendencies of mutual aid, self-defence and solidarity. Of course there will still be many who can, and who need more people in their corner as they seek to survive emotionally, psychologically and materially. ■

Hunter is an ageing chav, whose first 25 years depended upon the informal economy including sex work, robbing, and dealing. For the last 12 years he has been an anti-capitalist motivated community organiser and spent too much time watching football. He is currently flogging a book about himself, poverty and anarchism, whilst finishing his first crime fiction novel. He pays his bills by working as a mental health support worker. He thinks everyone should stop recycling until they’ve collectivised and/or redistributed all their current and future economic resources.

To the political left Hunter’s people are the ignorant and the ill informed, to the victorious right they are the unwashed and discarded waste product of the labouring class. Chav Solidarity is part autobiography, part meditation on trauma, class and identity, part one finger salute into the face of respectability politics, but mostly an articulation of the contradictory heart of Chavvy shit heads across the U.K.

Chav Solidarity is a collection of essay’s which pick apart the lived experiences of its author. Hunter uses his experiences as child sex worker, teenage crack addict, violent thug and community activist to examine the ways in which our classed experiences shape the ways in which we think and do our politics.  

Photography © Kelly O’Brien


Look for the book at chavsolidarity.com

Contact: info@chavsolidarity.com

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An Interview With The Bangladesh Anarcho-Syndicalist Federation

(Originally shared on www.loveandragemedia.org)

Contact BASF:
basfsylhet@gmail.com
facebook.com/basfsylhet 

We do not know anything about an anarcho-syndicalist movement in Bangladesh. Please tell us, how everything started. Had there been anarchist traditions or a union movement for a longer time? Had there been contacts to organizations in other countries?

The Bangladesh anarchist workers’ movement is less than five years old, born out of the ashes of failed Marxism-Leninism.

I recall the antecedent period in Bangladesh history where Marxism-Leninism held hegemony. This was a time of deep faith and affection for the thought of Marx, Engels, Lenin, Stalin, Mao Tsetung, and Trotsky.

As far as I understand, none in the movement knew of anarchism as a political ideology and would not know of it until decades later. We revered the hanging portraits of Marxist leaders, we studied their books, and we integrated discussion of their ideas into our daily lives. Our life’s pursuit was to become socialist revolutionaries. We were so fervent in our beliefs of a better world that we sacrificed clothing for books, food for paper.

The socialist movement was already active in Bangladesh when my generation moved from studying socialism to helping develop a mass socialist movement. In Dhaka, the capital, we helped in the dissemination of pro-Soviet papers, we joined student organizations, and we participated in interviews. We explained socialism to the people, to workers, from the factories to the fields. Our path was guided by science and freedom of expression, and we spread our ideas without imposing on others. But we faced public rejection and death in our efforts.

When speaking in Muslim-dominated areas, many condemned us as atheists and unrighteous. And where we were not simply denounced, many of us were murdered. Our struggle has been the history of bloodshed. We have lost many of our companions. And although the oppressive apparatuses tortured and killed us, we proceeded ahead with the dream of revolution and continued to take those steps to make the revolution. Our work increased the number of socialist organizations and supporters across cities and villages. These bodies were intent to fight against the tyranny of oppression, against the national military dictatorship and against imperialism.

As early as 1980 we were able to hear about the Soviet Union and China’s authoritarian nature and contradictions. We did not believe this was the truth, that “scientific” socialism could be false. Rather, we believed this was imperialist and CIA propaganda. The subsequent collapse of the Soviet Union and the breaking of Lenin’s statue greatly shocked us all. Together with the eastern bloc, the socialist countries of the world changed. They moved away from having even a veneer of socialism and openly embraced a capitalist restructuralization.

This produced a tremendous shock in the thought of our movement. We re-read Marxism’s fundamentals over and over. But none of this helped us to better understand the failure of “socialism.”

We did, however, take an interest in the revolutionaries who criticized Marxism-Leninism. This led us to read the works of many anarchists, such as Mikhail Bakunin, William Godwin, PJ Proudhon, Peter Kropotkin, Emma Goldman, Errico Malatesta, Alexander Berkman, Max Stirner, Élisée Reclus, and Noam Chomsky.

Their works are not in print form [in Bangladesh], nor are they in Bengali. So our medium of learning has been through reading anarchist texts through the internet in foreign languages.

By 2012, many of us former Marxists acquired a clear idea of anarcho-syndicalism from our continuous internet studies.

Because I have been involved in tea workers’ struggles since 2000, it was among tea workers and close, political friends that we first introduced anarcho-syndicalist practices through the development of The Tea Workers’ Council. This council did not bear the name of any specific doctrine or party. Because old, authoritarian ways persisted, a clear articulation of anarchism and a regrouping along anarchist principles was necessary.

As a result, on 1 May 2014, many militants formed a twenty three-member committee of those committed to the principles of anarcho-syndicalism. This committee has fostered the development of anarcho-syndicalist organizations in across 60+ places in Bangladesh today.

Presently, we are receiving help from the Anarcho-Syndicalist Federation of Australia to improve our organization. With their help, we are also trying to become members of the IWA-AIT [International Workers’ Association – Asociación Internacional de los Trabajadores].

We seek solidarity from sister and brother comrades all over the world. We want to work together with everyone.

Why do you think anarcho-syndicalism is a good idea for your lives in Bangladesh?

I think that capitalism is based on the subordination and exploitation of the working class. Workers are oppressed because they are forced to work under a coercive management regime and they are denied the right to control the use of their own abilities or control their own work.

For the working class to liberate itself from this situation, it is necessary to have a strategy. The strategy needs to be workable and show how it has a chance of achieving liberation. This means that the strategy needs to have a good “fit” with the goal or aim. If the masses are to fight to replace capitalism with a form of socialism, it is not worth the struggle if the result is just a new form of oppression, run by some new boss class. Thus it’s necessary to think about how our strategy can lead to a form of socialism where the masses are actually in control of the society, and workers control the places where they work.

The advantage to anarcho-syndicalism, as I see it, is that it has the best chance of creating a form of socialism where there will not be a new ruling class, and where workers will be in control.

The anarcho-syndicalist strategy means building unions that are controlled by their members, and building broader solidarity throughout the working class. The idea is to build a labor movement that isn’t narrowly focused on only fights with an individual employer but has the capacity to fight for more systemic change, and can work in alliance with other social movements. This means that workers have to build solidarity between different sectors, different groups of the oppressed. Only a labor movement of this kind would be able to be a force for basic change in the social structure. Building unions controlled by the members foreshadows workers managing the industries.

The problem with other socialist strategies is that either they don’t seem able to get beyond the present society (as with electoral socialism and cooperativism) or they end up putting power into the hands of state leaders, and tend to create a new bureaucratic boss class. Anarcho-syndicalism, on the other hand, is built to avoid creating a new bureaucratic boss class by avoiding concentration of power into a state bureaucratic machine.

How many groups are there and in which industries / workplaces are they organizing people? In which cities are they placed? 

Bangladesh Anarcho-Syndicalist Federation (BASF) organizes workers at the lowest levels of diverse industries. Workers in BASF represent sectors from tea garden to food processing to rickshaw making to ceramics to brick-fields to construction to transportation to maintenance work to domestic/factory guards to loaders to sweepers to employed salesmen to grocery shop workers to metal workers.

BASF, already organized about 60 groups in different places, whose membership currently is over 1,600 with 45% women, and only accepts employees as their members.

Despite working in some of the largest and most important industrial sectors, workers receive extremely low wages. For instance, working women in food processing receive 45 Taka (0.54$) after an 8-hour work day. Ceramic workers receive 55 Taka (0.66$) per day. Moreover, factories don’t have proper ventilation, cooling, and supervisors mistreat workers. BASF, through sectoral associations, is organizing workers to demand higher wages, paid holidays, and better working conditions. Sectoral associations (shomiti/সমিতি) allow BASF to form struggles depending on specific needs and maintain sector specific autonomy. Each sectoral association has a secretary and a treasurer, and the secretary functions as a delegate to BASF in federation level decision-making. BASF’s student association is working on developing demands for free education for all, while the tea garden workers’ association is developing demands for land rights in addition to better wages and working conditions. Patriarchy pervades everyday life and hinders organizing when, for instance, women do not speak up in men’s presence in association meetings. This happens less among tea garden workers since men and women work together in the hills. In order to address the lack of women’s participation, BASF has made efforts toward building a separate anarcho-syndicalist women’s federation.

BASF is working independently and is not yet affiliated with any larger anarchist organization. BASF understands that capitalism is a worldwide phenomenon and has to be addressed at a global level through solidarity across locales. However, such internationalism requires developing a nation-wide organization—a major challenge for BASF. Assembling while being unregistered as an organization can lead to a five-year prison sentence for organizers in Bangladesh. BASF now has legal registration papers that they can use as shield, however it does not have permission from the local police station to assemble, despite having their organization registered. Anarchism still raises suspicion among local power-holders. BASF is vigilant about imperialist/colonialist tendencies among anarchist partners from the global north.

BASF is focusing on the challenges of eliminating entrenched domination in Bangladesh culture. Dominance has been naturalized across society, from domestic partner relations, to mullah-believer relation, to student-teacher relation to minister-citizen relation. The person in the position of authority is seen as unquestionable and is allowed full exercise of their sadistic impulses. Our student organizers talk about the widespread practice of “ragging,” where upper class students sexually torture lower class students in universities. When BASF organizers protested widely accepted sexual torture at universities, thousands of people protested their questioning of upper class authority.

People are habituated to think of politics as partisan politics organized in hierarchical bureaucracies. As soon as you talk to people about joining the organization (BASF), they think of being the president, secretary, etc. When they don’t get those roles, they lose interest and leave.

Among the membership base, workers lose work hours participating at BASF events. These are workers who live hand-to-mouth, unable to pay for food on days they do not work. BASF does not have enough resources (from food to furniture) to bring all of its association members together into long conferences and meetings. BASF has 60 associations and has received interest letters from many more but is unable to integrate all of them or even meet the interested persons in other parts of Bangladesh.

BASF is committed to moving from just wage struggles to building a broader social movement. Opposed to vanguardism, BASF wants to create spaces for collective reflection and action. It believes political praxis requires more education and consciousness raising among wage workers across sectors, but at the moment BASF is only able to organize workers in short duration for immediate needs. BASF lacks the infrastructure for further political education.

It does not have an office, library, or community space. It lacks computers, original and translated publications, and people capacity to take on popular education projects.

Despite resource drawbacks, BASF shomitis have generated collective “we feelings” among its members, negotiated higher wages, and engaged in practices of mutual aid within its sectors. After natural disasters in the region, BASF members work together to rebuild fellow members’ homes without any external aid. During health emergencies or family events like weddings, members pull together their resources to support one other.

BASF encourages other anarchist organization and federations to develop translations of publicly available literature for Bengali readers. There are a lot of people who are reading online nowadays and we can reach them if we have more Bengali anarchist writings. We should write in Bengali from now on.

Anarcho-syndicalism is an old, but still young idea out of the workers’ movement in Europe. The circumstances in Bangladesh – I guess – are different. Which parts of the anarcho-syndicalist historical / modern practices had been inspiring, which were not useful and had to be dropped/changed? How could anarcho-syndicalism be adopted to your economical and cultural circumstances in Bangladesh today?

While any modern economy will be complex, the simplicity of a future anarcho-syndicalist economy lies in the fact that it will be defined by a few basic principles. It will be a true anarcho-syndicalist economy if:

1) There is no mechanism for profit, or for concentrating wealth and capital. 2) Workplaces are collectively run and are controlled directly and democratically by workers. 3) Any organisational/administrative bodies are composed only of re-callable, accountable delegates who are elected by mass meetings in the workplace or community. 4) Property is held in common (though clearly, we all have the right to our own living space, personal possessions, etc.). 5) All work is voluntary, and goods and services equally accessible. Money, wages and prices do not exist. 6) There is a significant level of economic planning, but not centralized. Regional or wider-scale planning is for complex and larger scale modes of production. Local production and consumption is not subordinate to regional planning, but is on the basis of self-sufficiency.

An economy that operates under these principles is one that is a lot more desirable and effective in ensuring quality of life than the current capitalist chaos.

There are lots of ways in which people will feel the incentive to work voluntarily, and there are lots of different ways in which local and regional economies might work. Some people may migrate to economies which suit them. Some economies may be simpler, based on self-sufficiency more than anything else; others will be more integrated and produce complex goods.

The options are many, but the principles will ensure that everyone has the time and the inclination to get involved in planning and participating in their economy – a far cry from the present rotten, corrupt, and cynically selfish system we have the misfortune to be saddled with.

Getting from here to there is not going to be easy, but humanity created capitalism, and humanity can replace it. The collective act of wrenching control of our own economic lives from the hands of capitalism is the long-overdue revolution we so desperately need.

The success of replacing capitalism will be measured by how much we take control of our own destiny, rather than simply passing it on to some other power, as previous failed revolutions have done.

Real progress is best made not by producing detailed blueprints (for that way lies the slide into abstract politics and leadership), but by sticking to basic principles, and concentrating our efforts on taking action for real change. Real democracy requires real solidarity – and that means agreeing on the basics and then trusting ourselves and the rest of humanity to get on with it. “Keeping it real” is the key.

Anarcho-syndicalism is a strategy for the working class to free itself from the capitalist regime of class oppression and create a system of libertarian socialism based on worker-managed industry.

This is possible in Bangladesh because it is possible for workers to form unions they directly control. I realize that since World War Two unions became increasingly bureaucratic. That was then, this is now. Unions have obvious problems.

What is needed now is for workers to form new unions they directly control, through general meetings and elected delegate (or shop steward) councils. A more directly worker-controlled and militant unionism, a unionism based on class-wide solidarity, would be a much better form of unionism and it would provide workers with a vehicle for making changes in society.

The basic idea is that unions that are self-managed by their members prefigure and foreshadow a form of socialism where workers self-manage the workplaces, the industries. This is a much better model of socialism than the failed statist models of socialism in the 20th century.

However, the building of self-managed unions is only a starting point. The aim of anarcho-syndicalism is basic structural change in society, doing away with the capitalist regime, its system of class subordination, but also anarcho-syndicalism targets the other oppressive aspects of the capitalist regime — its systemic forms of inequality as on racism and gender inequality, its reliance on a top down repressive and bureaucratic state machine. So the question of how possible anarcho-syndicalism is, has to be interpreted as also asking about the possibility for the transformation of society into libertarian socialism.

For this to be possible there would need to be an alliance of unions and social movements of sufficient size, organizational strength and militancy as to pose this kind of threat to the survival of the capitalist regime.

What do you and your comrades think about a Bangladeshi/German exchange? A big part of anarcho-syndicalist practice is not only being organized in unions but to take the production in our own hands. What about the possibility to raise a collective industry and exchange of goods and labor between Germany and Bangladesh anarcho-syndicalist movement? So to say not only capitalist “fair trade” but collective “revolutionary economy.” Is there a possibility to build up anarcho-syndicalist collectives for a future economy in our way of thinking? (This point may lead to a bigger discussion, so take your time to answer it, please.)

It seems that the germs of a possible Bangladeshi/German exchange or the “revolutionary economy” as mentioned are already present.

As of now we do not have the technical or financial means to start co-operatives by ourselves, but we have already considered it as a possibility if the means were to be made available.  Funding co-operatives would be something we could do with surplus funds, if we ever have them.  It is difficult to have surplus funds when we are still having problems just making sure people have food in their stomach.

As mentioned above, the BASF is currently in a period of rapid growth that it is struggling to keep up with. The task of building anarchist-worthy workplace unions consumes all our time.

But this is seeming all the more possible the more sisters and brothers from abroad talk about this to us.  And it is welcomed news that contrasts the immoral spending habits we have seen our entire lives.

We have seen the terrible injustice of stronger nations and their peoples coming to or using indigent nations such as Bangladesh to take advantage of the high purchasing power of their home currencies that is made possible by our cruel impoverishment.

The proposal of such an exchange is in a completely contrary spirit to this. In the least, its solidaric content excites us.

I know anarchists and workers in the USA would also like to use such an economy to turn the weapons of the exploiters against the exploiters themselves here in Bangladesh.

I am glad to hear others from abroad wanting to do what little they can to help us.

If such collectives grew here, its participants would have to carefully chart their development, so that they are in harmony with the general movement and add to its revolutionary character.

I imagine they would socialize their resources, helping to meet urgent organizational and material needs among our rank-and-file that could offer unique opportunities that are not possible outside the framework of such a solidarity economy.

We are seeing successes in our union organizing, and it is difficult to concentrate our efforts elsewhere, especially while our hands are clenched fighting in so many workplaces.

I imagine comrades from abroad would have to come here to offer us technical assistance to make this possible since our hands are so full.

This is an idea and sentiment that I hope continues to grow. I thank all comrades who are discussing this.

What about other aspects of a free society – for example how is the question of women emancipation realized in your organizations? What do the female comrades think about it?

For the emancipation of women we already formed Bangladesh Anarcho-Syndicalist Women’s Union (BAWU).

The BAWU identifies the cause of women’s oppression as the economic systems of feudalism and capitalism, rather than in a perceived weakness in national character or culture.

Most of its ideology has been formulated by its founding members. They focus on the class-based exploitation of women, singling out sex workers, domestic servants and female factory workers as the most oppressed.

They condemn the unequal distribution of wealth and refuse to subordinate working women’s struggle to any other ideological cause. Declaring that “the goal of equality cannot be achieved except through women’s liberation,” BAWU views women’s freedom as something that women must accomplish on their own, since relying on others to give them their rights has not worked up to now and likely never will. Revolutionary change, not reform, is seen as the only way forward.

At this point, BAWU and the ideas it represent is still a new phenomenon to Bangladeshi women.

There is a mixture of joy, curiosity, and hesitation.

We hope that our liberatory vision and practices continue to grow.

The recent awakening of the anarchist spirit in the Bangladeshi people is causing big social changes that we hope can continue with the broadening of our experiences and education.

For decades we knew nothing of anarchism, very simple yet profoundly unique ideas that resonate to the core of our essential humanity.

Some of us who have grown up in authoritarian society and discover anarchism later in life have the least grounds to assume that our vision of freedom is the most comprehensive. After all, we lived completely oblivious to something simple and innate for decades, in some cases.

We will continue to be ready to receive and consider new or better ideas that enrich individual liberty and dignity.  Some will come from our interactions from other societies. Perhaps we will discover pre-colonialist ways of life that have been hidden from us and reclaim our heritage.

Being open to new ideas is the easier thing, of course. The task of spreading them and defending those who wish to elevate them against innate conservatism in ordinary people and institutions is the more difficult task.

We hope we are cultivating an anarchist generation that will be able to continue this work.

We are just the beginning, of course.

Are there any syndicalist research groups connected to your unions / syndicates?

Not yet.

Do you regularly publish any books or magazines with anarcho-syndicalist content?

We have taken the initiative to publish a little magazine.

Is there the possibility to send one or two versed comrades for a rally/connective tour to the anarcho-syndicalist groups and unions of Europe / Germany?

Yes. It is important to share our news and ideas.

What are your goals in the next future? How can European comrades support these goals?

Our main goals are as follows:

1) The Anarcho-Syndicalist Federation is a libertarian workers’ movement organized according to anarcho-syndicalist principles. We aim to create a society based on liberty, mutual aid, federalism and self-management.

2) We believe the working class and the employing class have nothing in common. Between these two classes a struggle must go on until the workers of the world organize as a class, take possession of the earth and the machinery of production and abolish the wage system.

3) In the present we take an active part in the struggle for worker solidarity, shorter hours, immediate wage increases and improved working conditions. And we actively oppose all attacks on workers such as conscription of labor, strike breaking, drives for increased production and longer working hours, wage cuts or unemployment.

4) We want worker/community self-education for complete self-management of production, distribution, social organisation and preservation of a healthy ecological environment. This will come about by worker/community expropriation of wealth and the creation of alternative economic systems.

5) We are opposed to all economic and social monopoly. We do not seek the conquest of political power, but rather the total abolition of all state functions in the life of society. Hence we reject all parliamentary activity and other collaboration with legislative bodies. We believe in fighting organisations in the workplace and community, independent of, and opposed to all political parties and Trade Union bureaucracies.

6) Our means of struggle include education and direct action. To ensure the full participation of all in both current struggle and the future self-management of society, we oppose centralism in our organisations. We organize on the basis of Libertarian Federalism that is from the bottom up without any hierarchy and with full freedom of initiative by both local and regional groups. All co-coordinating bodies of the Federation consist of re-callable delegates with specific tasks determined by local assemblies.

7) We see the world as our country, humanity as our family. We reject all political and national frontiers and aim to unmask the arbitrary violence of all governments.

8) We oppose all attitudes and assumptions that are harmful and injurious to working class solidarity. We oppose all ideologies and institutions that stand in the way of equality and the right of people everywhere to control their own lives and their environment.

European comrades can support these goals in the following fields: 

BASF seeks technical and financial support in the following areas:

1) We need some financial assistance to develop our communication infrastructure for our organizing work. Funds left over would be spent according to our membership’s discretion toward necessary efforts, including education, union campaigns, co-operative opportunities, transportation, and food.

2) Our movement is currently growing throughout the country.  Improving our communication infrastructure would help our organizing activities in over 60+ locals we have already established and in different industries we currently have a footing in.

3) Translation costs from English to Bengali language:

The Bangladesh anarcho-syndicalist workers’ movement is less than five years old, and we are in dire need of printed material to educate and organize..

We are undertaking the “Bengali Translation & Publication Project” here in Bangladesh.

We have begun translating some basic books on anarchism written by thinkers such as Bakunin, William Godwin, Proudhon, Kropotkin, Emma Goldman, Malatesta, Alexander Berkman, Stirner, Élisée Reclus, Noam Chomsky, and so on.

Our initial plan is to translate and print ten books to build a strong knowledge base of anarchism in our country.

Most of our Bangladeshi comrades come from very poor family backgrounds, so although the audience and organizers are there to share these books, but the means to finish printing them are still lacking.

You can help us print books with a small donation on our website.

Even just one euro would go a long way!

You can also contact us if you have any idea about inexpensive ways to print.

We will appreciate your help very much.

Perhaps anarchist, Bengali books will be useful for workers who live outside Bangladesh, maybe in your places of action.  If you want to organize conferences or pre-order books, contact us through the same means shown above. ■

Here are the books we are working on printing,

  1. The Conquest of Bread by Peter Kropotkin
  2. What Is Property? by P.J. Proudhon
  3. The Anarchist Revolution by Errico Malatesta
  4. God and the State by Mikhail Bakunin
  5. Anarcho-Syndicalism: Theory and Practice by Rudolf Rocker
  6. Nationalism and Culture by Rudolf Rocker
  7. ABC of Anarchism by Alexander Berkman
  8. Post-Scarcity Anarchism by Murray Bookchin
  9. Program of Anarcho-Syndicalism by G.P. Maximoff
  10. Demanding the Impossible by Peter Marshall

Contact BASF:
basfsylhet@gmail.com
facebook.com/basfsylhet