Thursday, 22 March 2018

Ersatz Anarchists and Fake 'FREEDOM'

by Chris Draper
THERE’s a lot of fake “Anarchy” about these days.  Authoritarians wrapped in the black flag proclaim the pseudo-science of Marx whilst practicing the politics of Trotsky and Lenin.  Their “class-struggle” rhetoric replaces the rejection of authority that properly defines Anarchism.

Kapital' Idea Vicar!

THE rot first set-in at 'Freedom', the movement’s erstwhile newspaper, with the bizarre appointment of a Marxist editor who found Jesus and was reborn as a Vicar.  

Closing the paper down in 2014 with the triumphant declaration, 'Kropotkin Might Have Started it but We Fucking Finished It!'  the ersatz 'anarchists' refused to vacate the building and now run the premises as rentiers issuing occasional press statements like their 6 March 2018 celebration of the violent suppression of free-speech. 
'Freedom’s' response to my reasoned critique betrays an utter absence of anarchist values.  In place of a thoughtful, cogent, closely-argued libertarian response all Northern Voices received from 'Zofia Brom' of 'Freedom' was a random string of abusive invective;
  • I couldn’t care less what you think’
  • can not (sic) be arsed to read Northern Voices’
  • nobody cares what your shitty blog has to say’………etc.

Essential Anarchism
Regrettably this behaviour is all too common. Free-speech, truth and reason are essential ingredients of anarchism.  Other varieties of socialism accept 'means-to-an-end' politics; Marxism-Leninism-Trotskyism demands party-discipline, subservience and uniformity whilst Labourism eschews principles in pursuit of popularity. 

For Anarchism 'the personal is political', to build an anarchist society you need citizens with a libertarian psychology. Communists might imagine they can smash capitalism and mechanically rearrange the pieces to re-engineer citizens in a chillingly instrumental fashion but anarchism’s bottom-up approach demands patience and humanity. 

Old-school anarchists Colin Ward and Gustav Landauer remind us:  

 'The state is not something which can be destroyed by a revolution but is a condition, a certain relationship between human beings, a mode of human behaviour; we destroy it by contracting other relationships, by behaving differently.'

Ignoring, insulting, censoring, no-platforming and even physically assaulting critics reinforces the sort of authoritarian relationships anarchists oppose and ultimately strengthens the state.  Rather than expound on the sociopathy of ersatz anarchists I prefer to articulate a positive alternative. 

To offer a practical guide to 'everyday anarchy in action', originally compiled by A K Brown and, incidentally, published in 'Freedom' in the years before the authoritarians took over.  Of course, there’s more to Anarchism than just these eight bullet points but if you’re uncomfortable adopting them you’d probably be more comfy under the duvet with the Commissars.

Everyday Anarchy

1.  Say what you honestly think, not what some theory says you ought to think.  If the evidence of your eyes contradicts your theory (and I include anarchist theory under this), ditch the theory, don’t go blind.

2.  Don’t join organisations whose ideals you don’t share simply because they are bigger than you. Campaign openly and honestly whenever you can and if you can’t form your own organisations and have to join someone else’s (eg a union at work), don’t try to take it over unless the majority agree with you and you want to help. Argue for your ideas instead.

3.  Never ask for something you don’t really want in order to take 'workers' through the experience. Campaign for things which are worth winning (and preferably which may be won soon).

4.  If you are in an organisation, don’t be scared to disagree with each other in public and to accept varieties of opinions. You don’t have to split every time you disagree over what’s happening in Nicaragua.

5.  Respect the rights of minorities. Listen to what others have to say and try to avoid imposing the majority will on them until there’s no alternative.

6.  Participate in campaigns and actions when you want to, not when others make you feel guilty. This will lower your political activity in the short term but enable you to be active for much longer and be more effective (you will sound like you mean what you say not like you would rather be at home).

7.   Accept that no one organisation has a monopoly of the truth. Just because other people belong to other organisations doesn’t make everything they say wrong.

8.   Trust people who are putting forward sensible ideas now (they are the only leaders we need). Never trust anyone calling themselves a leader and thus assuming the right to have all their ideas treated as if they were all good ones.

Christopher Draper (March 2018)


'NO SHAME!' Cuts for us, rises for them!

'You ought to be ashamed of yourselves' - Cuts to vital local services but 52% pay rise for Labour’s 'Strategic Communications Director'

Office of John Leech

MANCHESTER Council's Strategic Communications Director is set to receive a staggering pay rise of nearly 29% just 18 months after an 18% pay rise.

John Leech has hit out at Manchester City Council today as it awarded its chief spin doctor another staggering pay rise just 18 months after an above-inflation pay rise.

Just 18 months ago the Labour Council waved through pay rises of up to 60% for 11 posts, including the Head of Strategic Communications which saw a healthy 18% pay rise.

Now it is being regraded and re-designated to become the Director of Strategic Communications with another pay rise of up to an eye-watering 29%.

This means, in just over a year, Manchester Labour have hiked the post's pay by up to 52% at a time when vital services are cut.

In a heated statement, the city's sole opposition member, John Leech, told the town hall:

"This council has let countless staff go, told other staff that they have to make do with a 1% pay increase and claimed to local residents it cannot fund vital local services.

"But the grim reality is, when this Council wants to, it can find enough money for almost anything - not least of course when it comes to awarding the person responsible for making the Council look good a stomach-turning pay rise of up to 52%.

"For a council that claims poverty and blames Government cuts every single time I suggest taking on vulnerable refugee children or tackling the homeless crisis, the ability to find money for vanity projects and endless pay rises for top bosses is beyond impressive.

"You all ought to be ashamed of yourselves."


Wednesday, 21 March 2018


VICTIMS of undercover police units and their lawyers staged a mass walk out during today's hearing of the undercover policing public inquiry calling for the removal of Sir John Mitting as the new judge in charge of the inquiry.  Sir John Mitting has told the inquiry, that victims will be be met with a 'wall of silence' in key parts of the inquiry and is granting anonymity to almost every police officer - so the public inquiry will be held mainly in secret.  This will not be justice. We are not prepared to participate in a process in which the victims are merely window dressing. 

Below and attached is the full transcript of the submission made by Phillipa Kaufman QC, representing over 200 of the 'non-state, non police core participants' in the inquiry including Doreen and Neville Lawrence, women activist who were deceived into relationships with undercover officers, anti-racist campaigners and trade unions. 

Blacklisted workers and the Blacklist support Group have been granted 'core participant status' in the inquiry because of undercover police infiltration of trade unions and were part of the walk out. 


Blacklist Support Group Statement for Undercover Policing Public Inquiry hearing on Wed 21st March 2018:
'Blacklisted workers who have been kept under surveillance by political policing units were always skeptical about whether the British state investigating itself would truly provide justice.  But under John Mitting, the public inquiry has descended into a good old fashioned establishment cover-up.

'Mitting was put in charge to carry out a job of work on us - and he's doing it.  Time and again he gives the police the benefit of the doubt, to the detriment of those whose lives have been torn apart by this human rights scandal.

'Tinkering around the edges isn't going to change things.  We have no confidence in Mitting.  He must go and needs to be replaced with a panel of experts who have have at least some degree of empathy with the victims and are prepared to question the accounts of undercover police officers who have been trained to lie.'
Dave Smith: core participant in 
'union strand' of public inquiry (21/3/18).


Scot Labour Boss to crack down on blacklisting

based on information supplied by Joe Bailey.
SCOTTISH Labour leader Richard Leonard claims he will crackdown on outsourcing and blacklisting.  In a speech to the Scottish Labour conference as the party’s leader in Scotland, he condemned firms that exploited and blacklisted workers. 
'Our strategy will ensure that we stop once and for all giving millions of pounds of public money in subsidies to exploitative tax-avoiding companies like Amazon down the road in Dunfermline,' he said. 
'And that we stop awarding billions of pounds of public procurement contracts to companies which don’t pay a living wage, which use zero-hours contracts and which blacklist workers. So, we meet in Dundee and we applaud the redevelopment of the waterfront, but we condemn the use of a blacklisting company to do it.' 
Construction giants BAM and Sir Robert McAlpine have harvested major contracts out of the redevelopment, which includes a new branch of the V&A museum.  Both were backers of the undercover blacklisting organisation the Consulting Association, which was exposed in 2009 for running an illegal blacklist of trade union activists, often targeted for their workplace safety activities.

The  announcement of the victory of Leonard last November, was considered at the time another  triumph for Jeremy Corbyn.  It is believed the Unite union played a significant role in this.

This week saw yet another Corbyn prefered candidate appointed as Labour's general secretary when Jennie Formby, an official from the Unite union.  She defeated Christine Blower, former general secretary of the National Union of Teachers.

Jim Pickard in the Financial Times today described the Ms. Formby triumph thus:
'Ms. Formby's victory ..... demonstrated how comfortable Mr. Corbyn is with Unite, Britain's largest union, controlling many posts in his operation.'

Madam Formby is seen by some as a bit of a brute in the office and some of the staff have been quick to throw in the towel in as soon as it was known she'd got the job.

It also seems that Momentum  has some misgivings about the dominant influence of Unite.  Momentum wants a wider reflection of views within the party than the union base.

Germaine Greer on 'Bad Faith' & 'career rapees'

An anthropological approach to rape in society
by Brian Bamford

YESTERDAY Germaine Greer argued on Radio Four's 'TODAY' program that we need to look at how the rape narrative is tackled and defined in society, and what this tells us about the treatment of women today.  She said, among other things, when asked to define her stance on #MeToo, Ms Greer declared: ‘I don’t actually think it’s gone too far, I don’t think its got anywhere at all.'

She then added:  ‘What we need is to sort out the law regarding rape and to sort out our concept of what it is.
‘It’s pointless now bringing up this stuff when [for] most of it no action can be taken.
‘Why wait 20 years?’

She of course neglected to concern herself here with the treatment of men or boys in society.

 Cambridge House & the abuse of boys

And yet, I live in Rochdale where it was at Cambridge House in November 2012, that the issue of the exploitation and abuse of boys by Cyril Smith in the 1960s was initially reported on this NV Blog and simultaneously on the Westminster Politics Home website.  A few hours later Simon Danczuk made his speech in the House of Commons (an earlier story about this in 1979 in Rochdale's Alternative Paper [RAP] had been squashed by a threat of legal action by Cyril Smith's solicitor).

Rape & Jean-Paul Sartre on  'Bad Faith'

Ms. Greer told listeners to Radio Four that #MeToo doesn’t work:  ‘I don’t actually think it’s gone too far, I don’t think its got anywhere at all.
‘What we need is to sort out the law regarding rape and to sort out our concept of what it is.’

To understand this better perhaps we should consider the nature of bad faith and exploitative behaviour in human relationships generally.  Ms. Greer talks about women who 'open their legs' to gain career advantages from Harvey Weinstein

In the North it was in the 1970s and 80s, and may still be, a common practice for women to hang around in  pubs using their charms in order to get men to buy them free drinks, and one (perhaps I should say second generation feminist) use to complain to me about these working-class women who boasted about it as she thought it was 'disgusting' and anti-feminist.  When I went working in London I worked with men in the sugar refinery in Hammersmith who used to chat-up women in clubs and when the women went to the toilet they would tell me how they would empty their handbags. 

Dealing with bad faith in a way which seems to relate to what Ms. Greer has said, the French philosopher, Jean-Paul Sartre. gave an example of a young girl on a first date:
'The young woman’s date compliments her on her physical appearance, but she ignores the obvious sexual connotations of his compliment and chooses instead to direct the compliment at herself as a conscious human being. He then takes her hand, but she neither takes it nor rejects it. Instead, she lets her hand rest indifferently in his so as to buy time and delay having to make a choice about accepting or rejecting his advances. Whereas she chooses to treat his compliment as being unrelated to her body, she chooses to treat her hand (which is a part of her body) as an object, thereby acknowledging her freedom to make choices.'

 The #MeToo Mob in Hollywood want to argue that they had no choices and had to succumb to Weinstein's wilds and that they had no power of agency. 

Another example of bad faith that Sartre gives is that of a young woman on a first date.  The young woman’s date compliments her on her physical appearance, but she ignores the obvious sexual connotations of his compliment and chooses instead to direct the compliment at herself as a conscious human being.  He then takes her hand, but she neither takes it nor rejects it.  Instead, she lets her hand rest indifferently in his so as to buy time and delay having to make a choice about accepting or rejecting his advances.  Whereas she chooses to treat his compliment as being unrelated to her body, she chooses to treat her hand (which is a part of her body) as an object, thereby acknowledging her freedom to make choices.

For Sartre, people may pretend to themselves that they do not have the freedom to make choices, but they cannot pretend to themselves that they are not themselves, that is, conscious human beings who actually have little or nothing to do with their pragmatic concerns, social roles, and value systems.

 Germaine Greer's anthropological analysis & the initiation of 'Donkey Dick'!
Germaine Greer's approach to what she calls 'career rapees' is it seems to me anthropological, while Sartre's is philosophical.

I mentioned Rochdale, and the historic case I knew about of the teenagers abused by Cyril Smith at Cambridge House, using spanking practices and 'false medicals'.  I could have dealt with the historic practices of the initiation ceremonies which took place in the factories in the North West of England in the 1950s and 60s, when I was an apprentice electrician.  Last month we had Shrove Tuesday or Pancake Tueday, and it was at that time common for young apprentices to get their balls blacked or greased, or both.  De-bagging's of lads were often indulged in on the shopfloor on the pretext that it was an ancient custom of an 'iniation ceremony', in the 1950s it was argued that this should be done when lads reached 18-years when the lads became 'improvers', perhaps owing to the advent of the Welfare State, lads were becoming too big at 21 on completion of their apprenticeship when they officially 'came out of their time'.  One lad at Tweedale & Smalley where I worked, gained the title 'Donkey Dick' and seemed to enjoy the title as well as the exploits and High Jinks.

However an outsider may view these escapades, and when I did try to protest I was made to feel like a wet blanket,

How do we consider these initiation practices?  Are they to be represented as the abuse and exploitation of young people and apprentices by tradesmen?  Or are we to see it as an ancient custom perhaps handed down to us from the times of the rural village? Perhaps even Harvey Weinstein and those who engaged with him thought they we involved in some ancient ritual or initiation ceremony.


Tuesday, 20 March 2018


Noam Chomsky

“Goebbels was in favor of free speech for views he liked. So was Stalin. If you’re really in favor of free speech, then you’re in favor of freedom of speech for precisely the views you despise. Otherwise, you’re not in favor of free speech.”

Noam Chomsky

Monday, 19 March 2018

Up to a million children to lose free school meals in England under Government plans!

THE political party that snatched away free milk off school kids, is now planning to take the food out of their very mouths, to save money. Up to a million children could now lose their free school meals if the Tory Government gets its way. Currently, all families receiving Universal Credit can claim free school meals. But under new rules for Universal Credit that come into effect on  1 April, children in Year 3 and above, on Universal Credit in England, will now not normally be eligible if their parents earn more than £7,400 in a year. 

The Children's Society has warned that the plans will create a 'cliff-edge' where many families would be better off taking a pay cut, even though Government claims that Universal Credit, will make work pay. However, Labour have pointed out that while up to a million youngsters in England could be denied free school meals under Government proposals, Theresa May's alliance with the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) - which keeps her government in power - has led to the Government protecting Northern Ireland from the free school meals cut. Under the proposed changes, the same threshold for Northern Ireland families to be eligible, is double that of England at £14,000.

Last Tuesday, MPs voted down a Labour bid stop 1.1 million children missing out on free school meals. MPs voted 312-254 against an attempt by Labour to block Government changes to Universal Credit rules. 

The controversy over ending free school meals for poor children, has led to calls for food and booze subsidies for MPs to be ended forthwith. While the average UK wage is £26,000 a year, MPs receive £74,000 per years plus subsidies. The food and booze subsidies, cost the British taxpayer more than £6million a year. 

I, Zofia!

 Zofia Brom, Freedom Press & the Interpretive Community
IN January, the journalist and social anthropologist Gillian Tett in the Financial Times magazine supplement (5/01/2018), grappled with what she considered to be a possible metaphor for the triumph of Donald Trump encompassed in the story of Tonya Harding's rise and fall in the 1990s as an American ice skating champion now illustrated in the film 'I, Tonya'.

Gillian Tett explains the background story to the film 'I, Tonya'
'Harding grew up in a world of poverty, instability and alleged mistreatment by her mother. It is hardly surprising if this bred anger and resentment.  But if she found it tough to conform to the culture of elite skating, officials found her tough to accept too.  “I never apologised for growing up poor or being a redneck” .'

Or so Margot Robbie, the actress who plays Harding, tells the camera at one point in 'I, Tonya'.

Tonya was the daughter of a single-parent mother who herself worked as a waitress.  

When I read the responses of the Tonya Harding, I can't help but think of Zofia Brom on the Freedom Collective and the author of the article 'London Antifa shuts down alt-right talk' (Mar. 6th).

One website reported the Antifa attack, which Zofia Brom FREEDOM PRESS article glorifies, on the contributors to a debate at King's College:
'Antifa agitators shut down an event at the King's College in London featuring Ayn Rand Institute President Yaron Brook and anti-political-correctness You Tube personality Carl Benjamin (a.k.a. Sargon of Akkad).'

Ms. Brom, who seems to be a novice writer on the revolving door of the Freedom Press website, and has written on feminist and gender topics under the initials 'ZB'.  

There are distinct differences between Tonya and Zofia.  Tonya was a hugely talented skater who was among the contenders for an Olympic medal at the 1994 Winter games in Lillehammer.  Zofia, on the other hand, is not a very remarkable writer and her comments on Chris Draper's article 'Free Speech and Cheap Bigots' show a certain sloppyness with regard to spelling and grammar.

For example Zofia wrote a comment on Thursday, 15 March 2018 at 10:51:00 GMT:
'Glad people read Freedom: I for once [sic] can not be arsed to read Northern Voices, even when they land in my inbox.  But, congratulations to NV for proving that me [sic] nick- naming them "leftist The Sun" [sic] was correct.' 

To which on Thursday, 15 March 2018 at 20:14:00 GMT, (I) bammy said: 'Bless you Zofia; I hope nobody blacklists you!' 

Then 21-minutes later on Thursday, 15 March 2018 at 20:35 GMT, Zofia Brom said:  'Brian the reason why people find you annoying (to say the least) is that you are a troll [sic] and a cop grass, plus you harras [sic] and doxx [sic] people online. I wouldn't call it blacklisting.' 

What is interesting here is the vocabulary used by Ms. Brom words like 'troll'; 'cop grass': 'harras'; and 'doxx' all seem to belong to a special interpretuve community which excludes some and includes the choosen ones like Zofia.

Ms. Brom wants to say nobody at Freedom want to look at our Blog, and yet she not only reads one of my comments but responds if not with the speed of Zeus at least within 21-minutes to a comment of mine.

Because she is so smothered in these utterances of her own 'interpretive community'* she is  perhaps  unaware that she is writing sublime gobbledegook, as when she writes:   'congratulations to NV for proving that me nick- naming them "leftist The Sun" was correct.'

All I can interpret about this utterance is that she is describing Northern Voices as a 'leftist The Sun'.  Which I take to mean that she finds our prose annoyingly accessible.

It seems that at last we have arrived with Zofia and company at a linguistic lexicon so slender it bears comparison with George Orwell's Newspeak dictionary.**

   A term pertaining to Stanley Fish's reader-oriented theory of literature (see Reader-response criticism ).  Interpretive communities consist of a group of “informed readers” (Fish) who possess both linguistic competence by having internalized the syntactic and semantic knowledge required for reading, and L iterary competence by being familiar with our literary conventions.  By way of introducing the concept of interpretive communities, Fish argues that the informed reader's interpretive perceptions and aesthetic judgments are not idiosyncratic but socially constructed; they depend heavily on the assumptions shared by the social group or groups to which the reader belongs.  Interpretive communities adopt particular kinds of reading strategies which will, in due course, determine the entire reading process, the stylistic peculiarities of a literary Text as well as the experience of assimilating them.  If Fish's categories were to be taken seriously, reader-response criticism would cease to be riddled with questions concerning either the mode of existence of the literary work or the Aesthetics of perception (the active and creative process a reader engages in when reading a text): both would collapse into a set of assumptions and conventions shared among a socially defined community of readers. 1981a : “  Stanley Fish and the righting of the reader ”. 1980

**  Nineteen Eighty-Four, the fictional language Newspeak attempts to eliminate personal thought by restricting the expressiveness of the English language.

Free Speech and Cheap Bigots

 by Christopher Draper

ANARCHIST beat-poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti warned us that, “Freedom of speech is always under attack by Fascist mentality” and last week (5.3.2018) a gang of masked, black-clad thugs calling themselves London Antifa smashed their way into a meeting at Kings College London in a coordinated, violent, attack on “Free Speech”.  

With perverse irony, “FREEDOM” an erstwhile anarchist website celebrated this exhibition of “fascist mentality”; “Well done to London Antifa for taking action against one of (sic) major universities assisting an alt-right speaker in spreading hateful propaganda.”

The New Authoritarians
Fascist-minded “No-Platformers” claim a unilateral ability and right to distinguish “Free speech from Hate-speech” but there is no distinction to be made. 

As George Orwell said, “If liberty means anything at all it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear” - regardless of how hate-filled the speaker may be. Noam Chomsky advises, “If we do not believe in freedom of speech for those we despise we do not believe in it at all.

Hate Speech” is the modern equivalent of “Blasphemy”.  In 1697 Thomas Aikenhead was the last man in Britain executed for Blasphemy.  In the 19th century the editor, printer and publisher of The Freethinker were all imprisoned for Blasphemy and as late as 1977, according to the trial judge, “It was touch and go” whether Dennis Lemon, the editor of Gay News, would be imprisoned for Blasphemy (he was fined £1000 and given a suspended prison sentence). 
When the British State finally abolished the crime of Blasphemy in 2008 “direct-action” bigots eagerly adopted the abandoned role of punishing those deemed to “speak the unspeakable”.  All around us Commissars now claim the right to control what is expressed even in university halls and anarchist bookfairs.  Where the State formerly identified accusers and offered the prosecuted an opportunity of “due process” and an argued defence the new authoritarians operate in the dark, anonymous, masked and unreasoned. These new arbiters of the new Blasphemy don’t debate they assert and attack.

Free Speech - the Bedrock of Liberty
Northern Voices considers dissent inevitable, healthy and to be welcomed. We are happy to debate FREE SPEECH with anyone in any public forum but the authoritarians don’t respect reason.  Bans, censorship, blacklisting and physical attacks are their modus operandi.  Indulging in such antics lost the organisers of the Manchester Anarchist Bookfair their former booking at the “Peoples’ History Museum” and seems likely to lose their current venue, The Partisan, the financial support of local trade unions. 
Violent suppression of Free Speech caused the organisers of the 2017 London Anarchist Bookfair to abandon plans for a 2018 event.  The vandals have kicked open the gates and are rampaging amongst us.  Whilst FREEDOM applauds Antifa attacks on Free Speech and publishes books like “BEATING THE FASCISTS” its Board of Management (David Goodway, Peter Marshall, Ernest Rodker et al) timorously cower behind the barricades.  It’s time for all decent minded folk to come out of the closet and stand up for FREE SPEECH.


Carillion & the auditing watchdog

THE accounting watchdog has launched an investigation into two former finance directors of collapsed construction and outsourcing giant Carillion.

Richard Adam and Zafar Khan are to be investigated over the company's financial statements for the years 2014, 2015 and 2016 as well as the first half of 2017, the Financial Reporting Council (FRC) said.

The FRC has powers to impose unlimited fines or ban members from professional accounting bodies.
It said its investigations would be undertaken 'as quickly and thoroughly as possible'.

Mr Adam was Carillion's finance director from 2007 until the end of 2016 and he was succeeded by Mr Khan, who held the post from January last year until September.

The FRC is already looking into the auditing of the company's financial statements by accountants KPMG.

Carillion collapsed in January with debts of £1.3bn, a pensions black hole estimated at up to £2.6bn and only £29m cash left on its balance sheet.

Mr Adam came under fire last month from MPs investigating the collapse amid revelations that he sold shares in the firm, raising almost £800,000, ahead of its demise.

Frank Field, chairman of the Work and Pensions Committee, accused him of "dumping" the stock at the first possible moment after his retirement in December 2016.

Mr Adam explained:  
'I sold the shares that I was eligible to sell when I was invited to do so by the company as I retired.

'More than half of the shares in the company that I had an interest in at retirement have been lost as a result of the company entering liquidation.'

Sunday, 18 March 2018

Review: 'Slow Burning Fuse' & Anarchist Aspects

by Brian Bamford
Reviews:  'The Slow Burning Fuse: The Lost History of the British 
Anarchists' by John Quail, published by Freedom Press [2014] price £15.,
and 'Aspects of Anarchism' published by the Anarchist Federation price £1.  
 Both available from Freedom Press: 
84b, Whitechapel High Street, London E1 7QX. 

IN concluding his book 'The Slow Burning Fuse; The Lost History of the British Anarchists', John Quail writes: 
'...the anarchists of England have paid for the gap between their day-to-day activities and their utopian aspirations.  This gap consists basically of a lack of strategy, a lack of sense of how various activities fit together to form a whole, a lack of ability to assess a general situation and initiate a general project which is consistent with the anarchist utopia, and which is not only consistent with anarchist tactics but inspires them.' 

Mr. Quail admits that 'Such general Anarchist projects have existed, perhaps the best examples being the anarcho-syndicalist trades unions of Spain and France.' 

In his Forword to the Freedom Press 2014 edition of Quail's book Nick Heath*[1] writes 'I would take issue, as very much an organisational anarchist, with some of (Quail's) comments on organisation in his conclusion.'    

John Quail's book fundamentally emphasises the reactionary nature of English anarchism:  only capable of responding in a series of fits-and-starts to specifically social and political conditions.  In contrast to Quail, Mr. Heath no doubt believes what is documented in his Anarchist Federation's pamphlet 'Aspects of Anarchism' (2003) that 'The structure (of an anarchist communist organisation) must increase the ability of the organisation to perpetuate itself while its ends remain un-realised'. 

The historical characteristic of the British left in general has been to react to the agenda set by the establishment and initiatives developed by governments.  The Anarchist Federation in Britain is well within this defensive tradition of reactionary responses as is shown in their pamphlet under review 'Aspects of Anarchism' in the closing paragraphs of this booklet under the subheading 'Our Role' the author writes:  'Large demonstrations and strikes can often turn to violence and we should accept the need for self-defence.' 

Or the author writes:  'In non-revolutionary periods anarchist communists will be a conscious minority with “the leadership of ideas”.'  

There is much talk of 'revolution' here, but the writer mentions 'self-defence' because the nature of British politics is so much about reacting to the authorities in a tactical way rather than developing a serious strategy for social change.  And in the very next sentence the writer continues:  'Groups like the hit squads arising from the miners strike (1984-5) are genuine expressions of working class resistance.'  And then the writer goes on to argue 'we will need to defend ourselves against the violence of our enemies.'  This is all about 'defence' and 'resistance'  not about a pro-active program for social transformation, what's so revolutionary about that? 

The fact is that this is typical of the British left over the ages, and of the most memorable struggles in this country from the General Strike of 1926, to the Peace Movement of the 1960s, to the Miner's Strike of 1984-5, have been reactionary in that they have been responses to the actions of governments. 

Much of the rest of the AF's pamphlet in an act of belief in commitment or act of faith and of solving the problem of 'other minds', or as the writer puts it: 

'Determination and Solidarity:  To create effective organisations we must know our own and other's  [sic] minds, therefore there must be a high degree of communication, of sharing. We must set about creating aspiration, setting achievable targets, celebrating success, rededicating ourselves again and again to the reasons why we have formed or participate in organisation.'

When at random I compare this kind of feeble analyse to an interview in 1977, between the Spanish anarchist, Juan Garcia Oliver entitled 'My revolutionary life' the nature of the abstraction of 'Aspects of Anarchism' becomes clear.  When the questioner, Freddy Gomez asks 'What were the circumstances in which you became active in the libertarian movement and the CNT?'

Garcia Oliver answers:  'We need to be precise about this.  The idea of the “libertarian movement” surfaced well after the period we are talking about.  The CNT, on the other hand, was a long-established battle organisation which in those days marshaled revolutionary syndicalists, especially in Catalonia and therefore throughout Spain.  I join as a 17 year old.  I was working in the hospitality trade, as cafe waiter.  We had just seen the “La Canadiense” strike which is still famous because it was handled to perfection and won by the CNT's Light and Power Union.'

For people like Nick Heath they want to create an organisation or anarchist movement before there are anarchists, were as Garcia Oliver realises that it is in the practical life of the social body of the working class that anarchists are formed and from which the political organisation may then arise. I became an anarchist out of my experiences in the national strikes of engineering apprentices in the early 1960s; those experiences showed me first-hand how the bosses operated, and how the trade union officials and the local politicians operated, just as Garcia Oliver learnt through his experiences in the strikes of waiters for the abolition of tipping.

The point is the theory and the ideas evolve out of the shopfloor struggle.   It is this half-baked idea of the struggle developing out of the theory that is wrong with the approach of the Anarchist Federation: theirs is a form of cookbook anarchism in which the chef knows best. 

The dispute over what Peter Kropotkin stood for 'anarcho-communism', and what Bakunin believed 'collectivism', according to the anthropologist Gerald Brenan in his 'The Spanish Labyrinth' (1962), divided the Regional Federation of Spanish anarchists in 1888:  the argument was about whether anarchist organisations should consist just of convinced Anarchists or if all workers should be included if they were willing to join.  Brenan writes: 

'...with the introduction of Anarcho-Syndicalism in 1909, it was finally decided in accordance with Bakunin's ideas, the question of the nature of the future form of society became less importance.'

It is necessary to mention that this Spanish experience because the history of anarchism there is significant as a consequence of its success in that country.  Garcia Oliver responding to a question about the time when in about 1920 he joined the anarchist 'Bandera Negra' about 'some sort of understanding between syndicalists and anarchists' said:  'We were still a long way from what came later – anarcho-syndicalism – which overcame this dichotomy.  Anarcho-syndicalism allowed anarchism to become part and parcel of trade unionist groups which were imbued with anarchist thinking'.  Garcia Oliver said that he had joined 'Bandera Negra' by mistake and implies that at that time he ought to have been more syndicalist or 'revolutionary syndicalist', because 'Bandera Negra' (Black Flag) 'spent its time liaising – nationally and internationally – with other groups and its main activity was reading incoming correspondence and replying to it.'  The Spanish 'Bandera Negra', according to Garcia Oliver, like the Anarchist Federation was firmly against trade unionism and the CNT.

John Quail recalls the International Anarchist Congress of 1881 in London thus:
'The International Congress was basically an affair of and for Continental and Russian revolutionaries.  The minutes ... reveal that the English delegates played little part; yet many of the people involved were ... exiles in London and the British socialists that a more sophisticated libertarian philosophy was to develop relevant to British conditions.'  

Brenan has written of the same 1881 Congress:
'The Spanish delegate, when he went back to Madrid, took several new ideas with him.  (But) Spaniards lived then at a great distance from the rest of Europe.  Besides, anarchism had still a large proletarian following.  Under such conditions terrorist action was madness and would not find any encouragement among workers.  The new Regional Federation had in any case no need to appeal for violent methods.  Its progress during the first year or two of its existence was rapid.  A Congresss held in Seville in 1882 represented some 50,000 workers, of whom 30,000 came from Andalusia and most of the rest from Catalonia.'

In England, John Quail has demonstrated in his conclusion:
'The anarchist movement in England has shown itself capable of a progression of initiatives taken according to circumstances.  Take, for example, the beginnings of the squatters movement in London.'

Quail realises that the English anarchists are prisoner's of historical circumstances when he argues 'it is only when anarchist strategies develop [and] move from pin-prick defiance and piecemeal defence to confront and change all this that the anarchist movement will make history instead of being dependent on it.'  But this is true of the British left in general and even the trade unions, nay especially the British trade unions in this country, in so far as they are always reacting to events.  Perhaps it is because he now sees change in this respect as such an hopeless expectation in this country that I understand Mr. Quail is no longer sees himself as an anarchist.  As one northern anarchist once said to me:  'Each new batch of English anarchists have to learn the same old lessons every few decades, until in the end some of them give it up as a bad job.'

Starting in 1881, Quail identifies 'the first systematic propaganda defining itself as anarchist that had any effect within the (English) socialist movement came from America the shape of Benjamin Tucker's paper Liberty'.  It seems that Liberty was a 'lively and far ranging and even (Tucker) was prepared to give space for the Anarchist Communist view', though according to Quail, Tucker had 'a good eye for revolutionary humbug'.  And, on the English left there is so much 'humbug' about.

John Quail then goes on to remind us that '[t]he introduction of specifically anarchist ideas into the working class  movement was thus going on well before the alleged Year One of English anarchism, 1886, which saw the foundation of Freedom.' (p37)  (Freedom was finally closed down in 2014, and since then there has been an ongoing disputes between those who scuttled the ship of Freedom and their critics).

In conclusion Quail [page 333] writes:
'The anarchists have since shown the same astonishing ability to suddenly come from nowhere when everyone had assumed that they were finished...  A new movement emerged out of CND and the Committee of 100 and to dispersed.  The student movement of the 1960s again showed strong libertarian proclivities.   And that too seems to have disappeared.  I do not propose to talk about these movements in this book...  A bare mention, however, is sufficient to bear out the general thesis that has emerged throughout the book that the anarchist movement grows in times of popular self-activity, feeds it and feeds off it, and declines when that self-activity declines.'

In contrast to Quail, Nick Heath wants to keep the anarchist movement alive in the fallow years with what he calls the 'leadership of ideas'.  John Quail's book is very London oriented and it fails to include what the northern anarchist  James Pinkerton sometimes called the 'anarchist fellow travellers':  for in the same way that some say 'Christianity doesn't depend on the Christians', so very often anarchism doesn't depend upon the anarchists, as people like Colin Ward seems to have been aware.  William Morris was close to anarchism politically but his influence was larger than mere politics and people like both Quail and Heath will both tend to overlook the 'Arts and Crafts movement' intellectually dominated by Morris, John Ruskin's ideas and the development of the National Trust, and self-help societies, and other kinds of cultural and intellectual spin-off. 

Colin Ward's ideas developed in around 1960 is a more recent example of this approach, which in those days he described as 'permanent protest' or as some claim 'revisionist anarchism'.   In a soon to be published memoir by the veteran anarchist Laurens Otter writes:  'Colin (while retaining the term Revisionist Anarchism) was by 1961 defining his aim as “widening the sphere of  freedom”.'    Mr. Otter then writes:  'Ward's then desired journal (which became “Anarchy: a journal of anarchist ideas”) would from its beginning reject any belief in progressive fundamental change.'

These ideas of Colin Ward contrast not just with the kind of intellectual bigotry of Nick Heath and the the more refine historical determinism of John Quail, but also with the whole of left-wing ideology in this country.  This rupture which Colin Ward developed in the 1960s can best be understood by considering what George Orwell has to say in his essay 'Writers and Leviathan' (1948):

'The whole of left-wing ideology, scientific and Utopian, was evolved by people who had no immediate prospect of attaining power.  It was therefore, an extremist ideology, utterly contemptuous of kings, governments, laws, prisons, police forces, armies, flags, frontiers, patriotism, religion, conventional morality, and, the whole existing scheme of things.'

Anarchism, like the rest of the British left, inherited a certain evolutionary faith associated with the Whig theory of history, or as George Orwell writes:

'Moreover the Left had inherited from Liberalism certain distinctly questionable beliefs, such as the belief that the truth will prevail and persecution defeats itself, or that man is naturally good and is only corrupted by his environment.'

Elsewhere, Orwell points out in his essay 'Inside the Whale' (1940) that no 'real revolutionary feeling' had not existed for years and that the 'pathetic membership of all extremist parties show this clearly'.  In that situation the British Communist Party became a subservient tool of Russian foreign policy and the rest of the left became for most part insignificant.

It seems to me that it is hard to see how English anarchists can escape the 'fate of history' or what Mr. Quail calls 'its pin-prick defiance and piecemeal defence' anymore than the British left can transform itself from the perpetual reactionary role of resisting changes imposed by the British establishment.  Mr. Heath and his Anarchist Fed. show no sign of capturing the public imagination with his own belief in what Wyndham Lewis once called the 'associational habit' of membership organisations.

The Spanish anarchists, as Garcia Oliver says, benefited from having the trade union 'battle ground' of the CNT, and British anarchism gained vast influence when it had the peace movement to work inside in the 1960s.  Today, anarchism lacks any focus or serious social movement to seriously promote its energies, in that situation some of us have found it more prudent to adopt politics with a regional tinge.

*    Nick Heath leads a small sectarian grouping called variously the Anarchist Federation or A.fed. which grew up in the 1980s.  Unlike John Quail, he does not embrace the broader Church of British anarchism.

[1]  Since this review was first written over a year ago the Anarchist Federation: 'fight[ing] for a world without leaders'  has split in two, with Nick Heath and what was the old class war trend have now formed a group called 'communist anarchism', leaving the more modern trans-tendency inside the A.Fed, with its distinguished international affiliations, to soldier-on under the old AF label.

It was once said that the old Liberal Party MPs could just about fill a taxi, but now Nick Heath and 'communist anarchism' tribe could just about get by on a tandem made for two:  Battlescarred in London and Serge Forward in the provinces.   

For example, we learn that on Saturday 17th February [2018], 'anarchist communist militants met in Leicester to found a new organisation, the Anarchist Communist Group (ACG).'

Friday, 16 March 2018

Protesting the Chop & Sheffield's Trees

Labour Council outsources tree felling to Amey / Ferrovial*

The outsource companies currently contracted to Sheffield City Council include:
  • Amey manage the city's 'Streets Ahead' project including management of highways.
  • Kier Sheffield maintains and repairs the social housing stock.**
  • Veolia manages household waste disposal.
  • Capita provides HR, payroll and IT services for council employees. ***

*       Amey, is a subsidiary of the massive Spanish company grupo Ferrovial
**     Kier is one of the seven companies that in 2015 admitted to blacklisting building workers.
***  Capita has been compared to Carillion, and its share price has plunged from around £11 to £2 in just two years and it dropped out of the FTSE 100 last March.

OVER 5,000 trees have been cut down in Sheffield since 2012, as part the city council's £2bn Streets Ahead project with the excuse of improving roads and footpaths in the city.

The council, which is planting sapling trees after removing existing mature ones, insists the trees earmarked for felling are either 'dangerous, dead, diseased, dying, damaging or discriminatory'.

Yet it seems many of the trees condemned by the council as 'damaging' or 'discriminatory' are healthy specimens which campaigners say should be saved.  They say that alterations should be made to surrounding pavements and roads instead.

Today an event 'Get Off Our Tree!' is being held at Sheffield City Hall.  Also playing are local artists The Everly Pregnant Brothers, lead singer of Reverend and the Makers, Jon McClure, and former Pulp drummer Nick Banks and the Compare is Jason Cocker , who was interviewed on Radio Four's 'Today' program.

These are just some of Sheffield’s tree protesters, members of local groups coordinated by the Sheffield Tree Action Groups (Stag), which are claiming that this is another example of local government gone wrong.  Stag have made it their mission to protect the trees from council-backed felling crews in what is often hailed, with more than a pinch of Yorkshire hyperbole, as Europe’s greenest city.

Labour Council's PFI Contract

The fellings are part of a 25-year, £2.2bn Private Finance Initiative (PFI) contract.  Signed in 2012 between the Labour-led council and a private company, Amey, the Streets Ahead programme is intended to upgrade 'the condition of our city’s roads, pavements, streetlights, bridges …'  –  no small feat in a place that was known as 'pothole city'.

The contract has serious implications for the city’s 36,000 roadside trees, which have in effect been privatised until the late 2030s. Amey, a subsidiary of the massive Spanish company Ferrovial, has so far removed around 5,350, including oaks, elms and limes. Alison Teal, a local Green party councillor, believes she knows why many were chosen:  'I can only assume that because it’s a 25-year contract, they’re felling mature trees because they are more expensive. They cause pavement and road disruption and a hell of a lot of leaves fall off them.'

Loose and wonky kerbstones and cracked pavements owing to tree roots are among the reasons given for the fellings.  But there is a belief among the Sheffield protesters that the 14 alternatives priced into Amey’s contract – from flexible paving to root pruning and pollarding – are being underused.

The council says it only resorts to removing trees if they are 'dangerous, dying, diseased, dead, damaging or discriminatory' (meaning that they damage pavements and potentially obstruct disabled residents).  Of the eight mature limes destroyed on Rustlings Road, however, the council’s own independent tree panel found that seven were in good condition with a good life expectancy.

The heavy redaction of the contract between Amey and Sheffield council doesn’t help clarify things.  With many details kept from the public in the name of 'commercial confidentiality', there is no way of verifying, for instance, the council’s warnings of “catastrophic financial consequences” if the fellings are delayed.  The gaps leave room for conjecture about why the PFI deal isn’t being called off, or its terms renegotiated.  Protesters think they have found legal reasons that would allow the council to annul the contract – a recent petition focuses on Amey’s alleged failure to disclose a 2011 health and safety conviction following the death of an employee.  A council spokesperson said it was aware of the death before the contract was awarded, but it failed to provide written evidence of that knowledge in response to Freedom of Information requests made by campaigners.

 Thatcherite Law Used by Labour Council

Many cite “the battle for Rustlings Road” as a turning point – following a pre-dawn raid and scenes that the former local MP Nick Clegg described as “something you’d expect in Putin’s Russia”, pensioners were arrested for peacefully protesting. Eight trees were chopped down.
It has been a long and gnarly road to today’s situation, with frustrations running high.  In 2016, arrests of peaceful protesters started under the 1992 Trade Union and Labour Relations Act, which criminalises anyone who persistently stops someone from carrying out lawful work – in this case, tree surgeons contracted by Amey.

'We have the harsh irony of Thatcherite anti-union law being used by a Labour council against its own citizens,' says Ian Rotherham, professor of environmental geography at Sheffield Hallam university.  'Only about 30 years on from Orgreave, our local councillors seem to not see the bitter twist in all this.'

We have the harsh irony of Thatcherite anti-union law being used by a Labour council against its own citizens.

None of those arrested have ever been prosecuted, however, with the Crown Prosecution Service saying there was insufficient evidence.  Then, last summer, the council brought an injunction against nine named protesters – including the Greens Alison Teal, and Brook, as well as 'persons unknown'.   It prohibits protesters from entering safety zones around condemned trees, or encouraging others to do so, either on social media or in person.

Labour's 'One Party State' !

In Ms. Teal’s opinion of local democracy is low – and no wonder, after a year in which the council on which she sits took her to court for breaking the injunction, only for the case to be thrown out'This is a one-party state,' she says. 'Sheffield has 84 councillors; 56 are Labour.  They can’t be outvoted.'  She mentions Nasima Akther, a Labour councillor who defied the whip to abstain on a vote about the fellings.  'For her courage she was suspended from the party.  It’s bullying and she subsequently resigned.'