Content warning:
Sexual violence against women and children. Domestic abuse. Police violence. Violence. Suicide.

Part 3: The Women They Rape
In the first two parts of this series, I showed you how The Police ignore the institutional misogyny that is policing, and that there’s practically nothing in place to stop cops abusing their power just to get their rocks off.

Here is where all of that culminates. But first.

Rape Has Been Decriminalised in The United Kingdom

If you’ve been raped, what might be on your phone that proves you’ve been raped? I’ve been sitting here for a while asking myself that question. The best I can come up with is a text to the rapist saying words to the effect of “you raped me”. I dunno. This is an uncomfortable thought experiment.

What about the opposite question? What would prove you weren’t raped? My woke AF brain is not happy with that question. My um best… answer for this is another text “wasn’t that sex fun?

Ew.

I’m not entirely naïve. And after lifetimes of dealing with male bullshit, neither are women. The above examples alone prove nothing. One can imagine how a defence lawyer might use sexts or nudes found on a victim’s phone in court. They’re just modern additions to the “what was she wearing?” defence.

Which brings us to the UK’s merit-based approach to prosecuting rape. Which certainly seems positive, or at least, not total utter garbage. In short, it looks at what the merits of a conviction will be, as opposed to how likely one would be.

For example; If it is statistically unlikely for a conviction to be achieved for rapes where the victim had been drinking, and a new case of rape involves a drunk victim, the prosecutor has to ignore that statistic, because the benefit of a rapist off the street is deemed more important.

But here’s the inevitable but: The latest Office for National Statistics’ (ONS) Crime Survey found in England and Wales only 16% of rapes are reported. In 2019-2020 a bit more than 55,000 allegations of rape were made. 1.4% of those resulted in a charge or summons. There are no official rape statistics for children.

These are not precise numbers, but you work with the data you’re given:

So, the effective charge rate of rape in England and Wales is 0.2%. And that’s not convictions. Merely charges. It’s obscenely low. Obscenely. Like. What the actual fuck? Why is this happening?

Campaigners believe the merit-based approach has been unofficially abandoned by the Crown Prosecution Service in favour of a bookies approach. So, the End Violence Against Woman Coalition brought a legal challenge making this claim against the CPS.

The court ruled against the campaigners.

And so, the opinion of leaders of several women’s and victims’ groups is that rape is effectively decriminalised in the United Kingdom. Vera Baird, The Victim’s Commissioner, Harriet Wistrich, director of the Centre for Women’s Justice, and Shadow Solicitor General Ellie Reeves all said exactly that.

This seems to be in large part because cases are immediately dropped when victims do not want to hand over their phones to the police for one of those “digital strip searches” I described in Part 2. Who can blame them? While attitudes may be slowly shifting, women are aware of victim blaming questions like “what was she wearing?” That most victims know their rapist, and any indication that she may have had some sexual desire towards him at some point will be used against her, it’s not surprising that a woman wouldn’t want to hand over her phone.

And I presume they don’t know all the stuff you and I know from reading this. Goddamn it.

One tiny little teeny flickering ray of kind of maybe hope a little bit is that the police have U-turned on the digital strip searches. But it remains to be seen whether it’ll have any effect on the charge rate for Rape. For the past four years it’s been decreasing, and they only started demanding total phone access in 2018. There is little cause for optimism. Huh-fucking-rah.

So now we know the state of how the state handles rape cases as a whole: Shit out of ten. Let’s see how the police do when allegations are made against cops.

A 76% prosecution rate as a whole (not counting ‘Unclear’ or ‘Awaiting Trial’). Not Earth-shatteringly terrible. But like Sexual Assault, when we remove the children from the equation, the Guilty rate drops, this time to 57%.

I still can’t provide an explanation for this disparity. My hunch is that people, a jury, are more willing to believe a bunch of people saying, “this child was raped” than they are a woman saying, “I was raped”.

So yeah, it’s not good. I do not believe that a statistically significant number of rape complaints are false. Again, I reiterate that each of those numbers represents a woman overcoming all sorts of fears and reporting the cop who raped her.

Using the number of 16% of rapes being reported, we can extrapolate and estimate that the total number of women raped by police officers over the past ten years is closer to 469. But that number only counts cases that went to trial, were reported on by the press, and I found. And most definitely doesn’t account for the extra fears someone has when reporting a police officer. It’s a bare minimum, not-even-conservative kind of estimate.

Supposing aside, let’s break down the charges we do know about a bit. They’re split between thirty-five men. The charges marked as ‘Unclear’ are ones where I couldn’t find a story following up the one case being referred to – the accused officer had four charges against him.

Two cops are awaiting trial. The two reports concerning them each consist of one hundred words. Both officers are sergeants. That’s all we’ve got.

Not Guilty Does Not Mean Innocent

Thirty Not Guilties are split between thirteen men. Fourteen of those Not Guilty charges belong to Inspector Mustaq Patala. A bit of a shit.

Inspector Mustaq Patala physically attacked his pregnant wife. Inspector Mustaq Patala threw a chair at his wife. Inspector Mustaq Patala regularly attacked her for more than ten years.

In 2010 she reported him, and he was charged with domestic violence offences. He admitted two counts of assault, and all the other charges were dropped.

A few years later he was arrested again after several women reported him for raping them while he was still a cop. He allegedly told one he was a police officer who “could find and kill her”. Which, y’know, tracks as far as The Police go when they do crimes to people. In the end, the case was thrown out by the judge who said there was something wrong with the legal submissions. That’s all I’ve found as the reason.

Patala claimed the rape charges were due to the jealousy of his colleagues, and institutional racism. I’ll be clear here; I have no problem believing there’s institutional racism in The Police. Or indeed that they’re all a bunch of petty little dickholes. Because fuck the cops. But about three seconds of thinking pisses all over his stupid claims. He wasn’t employed by The Police anymore. Even they don’t let you keep your job after you’ve attacked your wife and been prosecuted for it. Though it’s only the first bit of that they don’t mind.

So, The Police just made up some rapes a while after Patala had been fired for… what reason? The CPS thought they had a good chance of prosecuting him because it got in front of a judge, and we know they’re super not keen on prosecuting rapes. So, they must have thought they’d had a shot. I dunno. It all fucking stinks to me. Someone fucked up somewhere. Everyone sucks.

I hope those women are okay.

The majority of the rest of the Not Guilty charges are cases where there have been other charges, some of which have been proven and returned a Guilty verdict. Rape has not been proven though. One case does seem to have been a false accusation.

Then there’s the case of PC Andrew Robertson. Allegedly, his partner held down a woman while PC Andrew Robertson raped her. In court it was their word against hers. I wonder if the jury believed them because PC Andrew Robertson is a cop. Maybe it was simply a numbers game, two versus one. Read the linked article and decide for yourself. But it seems pretty fucking iffy to me.

My point here is that I believe the women who made these allegations. I refuse to believe that half the women who accused cops of raping them were making it up. If you’ve been following this series, you know the kind of fights they’ll have had to go through.

You guys, I hate it.

The Eighteen Rapists We Know About For Sure

The outcome of all of the cases above reminds me of the words of the victim of the very first police officer convicted of rape that I read about:

His not guilty plea caused me to have panic attacks. … Every contact regarding the trial heightened my anxiety. At times I thought I was suffering a cardiac event and thought I would not be able to continue.

This is just one victim. Sergeant Derek Seekings was at work, on his meal break. Sergeant Derek Seekings wanted to have sex with the woman who was present with him at the time. She told him plainly and clearly that she did not want to have sex with him. Sergeant Derek Seekings didn’t care what she wanted. Sergeant Derek Seekings carried on regardless of her clear denial of consent. Sergeant Derek Seekings raped her.

Sergeant Derek Seekings’ subsequent denial of reality caused her to feel like she was going to die, that her heart was going to explode.

It sickens me. All the victims quoted in the press have similar sentiments of lingering terror. I fear the women in the previous section felt something even more intense when they were told that their reality was legally wrong. It sounds unbearable. It makes sense why an accused man would deny it of course, he’s trying to save his own arse. But it’s all a part of why women think they won’t be believed when they report that a man has raped them. And as a cop, there’s no way he’d not know that. I wonder what weight it adds when your rapist is a cop.

These numbers are from the ONS Crime Survey, they apply to the population as a whole, not specifically rapist cops. The reporting for them will be far lower.

I Fucking Hate A Man in Uniform

Rereading all the articles I collected, I noted that at least half of these men in some way used their status as a police officer to rape their victims. Some used it as a way to impress women, some to gain their trust. Some used it to scare them into staying quiet.

And once again, I can’t emphasise this enough: The stories I’ve collected are based on often short media reports. I don’t know all the details, their roles as cops could well have been significant or at least a factor in all of these cases. But here are three I picked at random.

A Spook

I’m a white guy. So, unless I’m doing something illegal, I don’t pay the police much attention when they’re nearby. Sergeant Clive Garton, also a white man, presumably thought this is what most people think too. Mixed with that, he was a cop. He could do anything. Go anywhere. He didn’t need permission. It’s not suspicious for a cop to be anywhere. He owned the streets. Whose streets? Clive’s streets.

And for three years, that’s how Sergeant Clive Garton stalked his victim. A physically disabled woman. That’s how Sergeant Clive Garton controlled her. Sergeant Clive Garton would appear out of the blue wherever she happened to be. Sergeant Clive Garton lied to her and told her he was on police business nearby. Sergeant Clive Garton knew where she was because he was tracking her phone.

Sergeant Clive Garton had training in covert surveillance. Sergeant Clive Garton placed listening devices in her house. Sergeant Clive Garton made recordings of her.

Sergeant Clive Garton was in her house arguing with her. Sergeant Clive Garton approached her as she sat on her staircase. Sergeant Clive Garton started trying to hug and kiss her. She tried to get away. Sergeant Clive Garton held her down. She couldn’t escape. Sergeant Clive Garton raped her.

Sergeant Clive Garton wouldn’t leave her home. She called the police and told them that Sergeant Clive Garton had raped her. Sergeant Clive Garton begged her to retract her statement. She did.

She reported him again. He was arrested. Charged. Bailed. He was told not to contact her. Sergeant Clive Garton bombarded her with texts.

At trial, Sergeant Clive Garton said she was a liar. Sergeant Clive Garton said she was mentally impaired because of her physical disability.

I felt very frightened of him. I still feel intimidated by him. I am convinced he will turn up again one day even if it is in years to come. I felt ashamed, betrayed, mocked, and not believed. He has made my life a misery.

Hence why I mentioned the sofa, I’m nice Lol”

In May 2020, my brother was supposed to get married in Chicago. That’s where his fiancée is from. Covid-19 put a halt to that. But the thought of a destination wedding was pretty fucking exciting. A drunken weeklong binge on American grease with my family sounded like a damn good time. At some point my sister and I might whip out our respective Tinders and bond by checking out the local talent.

I’d bet PC Lee Martin-Cramp felt similarly excited as the weeks counted down towards a family wedding in Antigua. What might he see, and whom might he meet?

They matched on Tinder. Chatted a bit. Arranged to meet up. She lived on a different part of the island to where he was staying. It was too far to walk. PC Lee Martin-Cramp told her what he did for a living. PC Lee Martin-Cramp sent her photos of him in his uniform. PC Lee Martin-Cramp asked if he could stay over. She agreed, but told him via WhatsApp:

But if I'm being totally real with you, and we're hanging out & drinking, don't come with an expectation of having sex, aight? I would rather be real upfront, and i don't do that kind of thing with people I just meet. Ya dig?

PC Lee Martin-Cramp lied and said he was happy to sleep on the sofa. Lol.

They drank. They chatted. They headed back to her place to hang out and watch a movie. She poured them both a glass of wine. She headed to her bedroom to change into something more movie-watching appropriate. PC Lee Martin-Cramp mixed the crushed up sleeping pills into her drink. She returned to the living room. The movie started. She took a swig of her wine. She asked him why it tasted funny. PC Lee Martin-Cramp said he’d poured some vodka in it. She took another sip. She started to feel dizzy. She passed out.

PC Lee Martin-Cramp dragged her into her bedroom. PC Lee Martin-Cramp stripped her. PC Lee Martin-Cramp began to rape her. She regained consciousness. PC Lee Martin-Cramp was on top of her, raping her. She screamed no. PC Lee Martin-Cramp kept raping her. She passed out again.

The following morning she awoke, naked, with him in bed next to her. She drove him back to his hotel.

"For many months, I felt numb if not empty. I cried myself to sleep at night every night for an entire year. I typed many suicide letters on my phone then after a few days deleted them, just to write another."

I’m A Cop, I Can Do What I Want”

She’d reported him to the police once before. They didn’t believe her. PC Michael Graham told her they wouldn’t.

Describing something as lucky sometimes feels wrong. It’s relative, I suppose. Being in a park. In the dark. Scared. Crying. Injured. Found by his enablers, the police. It doesn’t conjure a vision of luck. But that September night in 2014, I reckon for PC Michael Graham’s victim, ‘luck’ is the best word we’ve got.

It’s not clear how long PC Michael Graham abused her for. But she first reported him in 2012. The eventual charges only dated back to December 2013. The following is an amalgamation of many, many nights:

She opened the app, and set it to start recording when she snored. She placed her phone on the bedside, stood up, and walked towards the door. PC Michael Graham entered, and she started to shake.

PC Michael Graham grabbed the front of her dress. PC Michael Graham ripped her dress in two. PC Michael Graham pushed her against the wall. PC Michael Graham took her by the throat and began to squeeze. PC Michael Graham told her what she’d done and what he was going to do to make her pay for it. She already knew. PC Michael Graham threw her onto the bed. With the cry she made, the app began to record.

PC Michael Graham strode over, pulling his belt from his trousers. PC Michael Graham turned her over into a prone position. PC Michael Graham lashed her across her backside. “You cunt.

Please stop please don’t.

PC Michael Graham lashed her again. “I hate you, you cunt.” PC Michael Graham said as he lashed her again.

I hate you.” Again. “I hate you.” Again. “I hate you.” Again.

PC Michael Graham used his belt to tie her hands to the headboard. PC Michael Graham tore down her underwear. PC Michael Graham raped her. Again.

Her phone kept recording.

At trial, after her recordings were played, PC Michael Graham called her a liar. PC Michael Graham said it was consensual rough sex. PC Michael Graham said he was only angry because he’d given up smoking.

You told me as a police officer you could do as you liked, that no one would believe me and you would tell your colleagues I was mental. You threatened to kill me and dispose of the evidence. I can no longer listen to music or watch television in case I can't hear you breaking in to kill me.

The Perfect Job for Aspiring Rapists

I started this piece with the line “Rape has been effectively decriminalised in the UK” and then proceeded to tell you about three men who were caught, tried, and prosecuted. I do not believe that these are contradictory positions. I think it is good that they were caught, and I hope their prosecution brought their victims some kind of peace. But we should be preventing, not prosecuting.

I said in Part 1 that this is a men’s issue. It is men who incite all these crimes. And cops are members of society, so society is reflected in policing. Well, there are roughly one thousand rapes a day in the UK. The horrors I described above happen one thousand times a day. I don’t know how many of those thousand will be committed by police officers. But some will be, and they’ll have used their state power in the ways the men above did.

So the list never ends. The actual number will be higher. Far higher. Victims of sexual violence are frequently vulnerable people targeted precisely for their vulnerabilities. Cops have a habit of abusing vulnerable people. Rape is wildly underreported. Cops aren’t actively searching for the corrupt among them. And people are scared to report the police to the police.

Yeah, it’s the perfect job if you’re into that kind of thing.

It's so fucking fucked.

Tear It All Down

Every time I return to the spreadsheet with the data in to find a source or something, I spot a crime I haven’t mentioned that’s strikingly abhorrent. It’s been hard to resist the temptation to cherry pick the absolute worst of the worst and use them to paint all of policing as maniacs on raping sprees.

From workplace sexual harassment, to murder, to misuse of police data, to rape. Every single one of these crimes is violating, and most are brutal. I found them draining to write. I tried my best to not sensationalise the actions of those men. Just plainly describe the choices that they made. If I have written well enough, then the plodding ambivalence with which male violence against women committed by cops is treated by The Police will have dripped through. And indeed, male violence against women in general, because The Police and the justice system don’t give a shit about it.

For the final time I must acknowledge that a project like this, that hopes to hold the powerful to account, is built on the courage of women and girls whose names I’ll never know. But I would also like to recognise the very large number of, and very real fears other women and girls have when it comes to reporting sexual abuse, let alone by a police officer. How do we help them? They deserve our help.

Every day they aren’t helped means society has failed in yet another way. And at these pitiful levels of prosecution, clearly the justice system has failed too. It needs to go. From Community Support Officers to the stupid fucking wigs that judges wear, and everything in between. It all must go. It’s all a bad joke. They are not here to protect us. Anyone who still has faith is either uninformed or lying to themselves.

Epilogue

In March 2021, BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour interviewed two women: Susannah Fish, former Chief Constable of Nottinghamshire Police, and Olivia Pinkney, the Chief Constable for Hampshire. Pinkney said all the usual platitudes organisations say when they’re accused of being shitty. “I don’t recognise…” Zzzzzzz. “We’re committed to…” Snore.

The final question the presenter, Emma Barnett, asked Susannah Fish was; knowing all she knows about the inner workings of The Police from top to bottom, and being a woman, would she report a crime?

Fish said that she’d not hesitate to report a crime against her property. But she would if it were against her body.

Lovely Alexander
Writes and reads about horrible things, and turns them into video soup. find him at www.LovelyAlexander.com and follow him at @LovelyAlexanduh


Part 1: The Women They Know
Part 2: The Women They Find
Part 3: The Women They Rape

Download the spreadsheet here: https://we.tl/t-vqccs8iDIm

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