Anarchism

Writing on anarchism, anarchist politics, anarchist theory and so on.

The Grupo Cultural de Estudios Sociales de Melbourne have released a new publication as part of the celebrations to make the 80th anniversary of the Spanish revolution.

A grass root C.N.T. militant Remembers: The oral memoirs of Luis Parés is newly translated into English, and represents an oral account of one militant’s experiences as a militant in the CNT during the Spanish revolution.

The flame of the Spanish Social Revolution has never stopped burning.

Eighty years since it was lit one can still find anarchist innovations in the folds of its contents. All its political adversaries through the decades have been unable to discard or permanently hide the constructive and positive social achievements implemented by the libertarian movement.

Thousands of printed works describing the events that transpired during those captivating days have traveled around the world, many of them written by renowned authors. Others books have been written by research academic historians giving their individual interpretations of the proceedings. Unfortunately not too many books have been written by the individuals that experienced the events at first hand, that were in actual fact making history with their militancy, with their direct participation, with their contribution in spontaneous actions and decisions be it at meetings, behind the barricades or on the battlefield.

At the beginning of the second half of the 1970’s a small group of compañeros in France, in Spain and where ever there were exiled Spanish anarchists set themselves the task of recording the verbal memoirs of militants whose singular actions contributed to the social changes, the collectivisations as well as the constant struggle against fascism. This is the history of personal experiences.

We now have the pleasure of presenting in the following pages the testimony of Luis Parés Adán who recalls his war. These memoirs were first published in the pages of “Espoir” the weekly publication of the French C.N.T. – A.I.T., number 825, July 1978.

You can download a .pdf of A grass root C.N.T. militant Remembers here. I hope to have some hard copies printed and available soon.

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There is a federal election tomorrow. A few people have asked how I intend to vote, or if I intend to vote.

The standard line you will get from most anarchists is “Don’t Vote! It only legitimizes the bastards!”. The Anarchist FAQ spills some 18,000 words to this effect. As a position it misses the point.

Anarchists are utterly marginal within the Australian polity. The decision of a couple of hundred people to abstain for this reason or that, or to vote for this reason or that, is utterly without consequence. Even if we were a sizable political force, the legitimacy of the state rests on a hell of a lot more than the overall rate of participation in this or that election. States do not miraculously collapse when electoral participation rates fall below some magical number.

Whether you vote or not is of little consequence. If you do vote, you have no effective control over the representatives you participate in electing. The choices you are presented on the ballot are no choice at all. The major political parties operate as a cartel to lock out rivals, and only parties that accept the logic of the capitalist status quo gain access to the financial resources and media time necessary to compete. This includes The Greens.

The most important question is not who you voted for on election day, it’s what you do every other day of the year. Playing by the rules of the established political process is a mugs game; the deck is stacked in favour of the existing bourgeoisie political parties. If you want to change the world, don’t just vote, get organized and get active.

Join a union or start one. Go to a protest, sit-in, occupation, strike or demonstration. Join a political group, if there isn’t one that reflects your politics, start one. The social force necessary to effect real change has to be built, it can’t simply be voted for.

Further reading: Errico Malatesta, Reformism.

A few thoughts about tomorrow…

Acknowledging that voting or not voting is, by itself, unlikely to have any impact on anything, here are a couple of thoughts about your options tomorrow.

1. Whether you vote or not, you can decorate your ballot. So long as your drawings, obscene slogans and hashtags do not obscure the boxes, your vote will still be counted (so long as the boxes are numbered). The AEC keeps stats on the defacement of ballots.

2. If you refuse to vote, consider casting a blank ballot rather than staying home. Not only does this avoid the fine, statistics on spoiled ballots make it possible to estimate how many people are consciously refusing to vote.

3. The harder it is for a major party to form government, or to pass legislation, the better. If you do vote, I’d recommend putting the Liberals and any other fascists running at the bottom, then Labor, then the Greens, then any left wing party or independent.

4. The Greens are NOT an anti-capitalist alternative and they are NOT good enough on asylum seekers. That said, if you decide to vote, the Greens are still a better choice than Labor.

5. If you are voting Green in the Senate in Victoria, consider voting below the line. Richard di Natale is at the top of the Greens senate ticket. He shouldn’t be at the top of yours.

Tomorrow’s poll will not bring about significant change. Climate change will not be addressed, capitalism will not be challenged, and gross inequality will not be overcome. It is up to us to build the social force necessary to achieve any real change in our society.

I still intend to vote. I’ll vote cynically. I intend to preference the Greens then Labor because it is easier to make the case for their inadequacy when they are in power. And I will vote for any left of centre independent or minor party, simply because the more chaos and gridlock there is in the parliament, the better.

After that, lets eat a sausage and get back to the politics that matters, on the streets, on the campuses, and in our workplaces.

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The Melbourne Anarchist Communist Group has published a statement on the Michael Schmidt matter. In part it reads:

The Melbourne Anarchist Communist Group is studying these documents and has not yet reached any conclusions. If the allegations against Michael Schmidt are true, he should be expelled from the movement and treated as both a serious danger and a thorough scoundrel. If they are false, he has been appallingly libelled and he deserves public exoneration – and his accusers are guilty of, at best, reckless behaviour.

We believe that a tribunal, composed so as to hold moral authority in the Anarchist movement, should be established to investigate the allegations thoroughly and impartially according to the principles of natural justice and to publish a report of its findings. The Anarkismo Network, to which the MACG belongs, is pursuing an initiative along these lines. The MACG therefore appeals to the Anarchist movement to withhold judgement until such a time as either the tribunal reports, or it becomes clear that the attempt to form a credible tribunal has failed.

I have a lot of time for everyone in the Melbourne Anarchist Communist Group, but on this issue I think they have it wrong.

In 2015 the nature and political content of anarchism is hotly contested by increasingly incompatible anarchist tendencies. This conflict over the soul of the anarchist movement is playing out in disputes on the Michael Schmidt matter.

In this context, there is no possibility of forming any tribunal, or any other body, that was “composed as to hold the moral authority of the Anarchist movement”. The disparate political and ideological tendencies that consider themselves the anarchist movement today do not have the degree of political or organizational cohesion required to undertake such a task. Any body established by or out of one tendency or group would be condemned by all of the others.

If there ever was an organization that was broadly held in sufficient esteem to undertake such a task, it was the AK Press collective. They have already, in a manner, assigned two people to conduct and investigation and publish a report. The articles by Alexander Reid Ross and Joshua Stephens have been greeted in much the same manner that any report by any “tribunal” would be.

In practical terms, any tribunal established amongst the Anarkismo network will leave groups and individuals wishing to understand the Michael Schmidt matter with roughly the same task. Approximately a hundred thousand words have been spilled on the Michael Schmidt matter in the past two months, most of it speculation, assertion, or “evidence” which defies verification. Anarchists will have to take a look at what Michael Schmidt admits he has written, make a judgement on it, and act accordingly.

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The Grupo Cultural de Estudios Sociales de Melbourne and Acracia Publications are a group in Melbourne, comprised largely of the children of the Spanish anarchist refugees who settled in Australia after the crushing of the Spanish revolution. In the last couple of years they have embarked on a project to translate and share material from their archives, and to stimulate some debate amongst anarchism in Australia today.

For your enjoyment, here are some of their recent publications.

Pamphlets

A Brief History of the Spanish Anarchist Refugees in Australia, Francisco Soler (ed), May 2012.

<a href="https://www .dropbox.com/sh/e8ey4c2zc2in1yh/btL0-49ui9/Interviewing-Salvador-Torrents.pdf”>The Anarchists and the Social Revolution: Interviewing Salvador Torrents in Australia, Campio Carpio, August 2012 (in English, originally in Spanish, 1975).

El Canton de Cartegina, Tomas Cano Ruiz, August 2012 (in Spanish, originally published 1973).

Libertarian Anthology, 2012 – present

Libertarian Anthology 1, ‘Anarchism: Aims, Principles, Historical Development and Objections’, July 2012.
Peter Kropotkin, ‘Anarchism’
Peter Kropotkin, ‘The Historical Development of Anarchism’
Albert Meltzer, ‘The Aims and Principles of Anarchism’
Albert Meltzer, ‘Objections to Anarchism’

Libertarian Anthology 2, ‘The ancient Greeks and the anarchist tradtion’, September 2012.
Ferraro, ‘Anarchism in Greek philosophy’
Henry Nevinson, ‘The Anarchist Play’
Martin Small, ‘Athenian Democracy’
Wilbur Burton, ‘Aristophanic pacifism’
Alan Morgan, ‘Anarchism and the Greek Temperament’
anonymous, ‘Anarchism in Greece today’

Libertarian Anthology 3, ‘Anarchism, Trade Unionism, Councilism, and Revolutionary Syndicalism’, November 2012.
Emile Pouget, ‘The Basis of Trade Unionism’
Rudolf Rocker, ‘The Origins of Anarcho-Syndicalism’
Alan Spitzer, ‘Fernand Pelloutier and the dilemna of revolutionary syndicalism’
Andrew Giles-Peters, ‘Councilism and Syndicalism: a historical perspective’
Gaston Gerard, ‘Anarchism and Trade Unionism’

Libertarian Anthology 4, ‘The Negativity of Anarchism’, December 2013
David Thoreau Wieck, ‘The Negativity of Anarchism’.

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I’m a member of Anarchist Affinity, an anarchist-communist grouplet 1 in Melbourne.

We’ve just published an initial position piece, a Statement of Principles. It’s not perfect. It’s not final. There will be changes, and subsequent position statements. But it’s where we are at now.

I wanted to take a few moments to highlight some bits of it, explain a couple of things, and point to the ideas that inform it.

Paragraph 1.

1. As anarchists we fight to create a self-managed, socialist and stateless society, in which all contribute freely according to ability, and through which all have full access to the material basis for pursing their individual and collective fulfilment. In this libertarian socialist society, individual freedom is harmonised with communal obligations through cooperation, directly democratic decision making and social and economic equality. We believe such a society is both desirable and possible, and we actively work toward overcoming the hierarchies, exploitation and systems of oppression that stand in its way.

The bulk of paragraph one, in particular the words “individual freedom is harmonised with communal obligations through cooperation, directly democratic decision making and social and economic equality”, is blatantly plagiarised from Schmidt and Van der walt (2009), ‘Socialism from Below: defining Anarchism’, from Black Flame: The Revolutionary Class Politics of Anarchism and Syndicalism. I believe that chapter of Black Flame is still available online at the Fantin Reading Group.

Paragraph 2.

2. To confront oppression in all its forms, the self-organised activity of all persons experiencing oppression is necessary. Systems of oppression manifest both as structures in the economic system and in the ideology of the dominant culture. Within the dominant culture of our society, intertwined oppressive systems include (but are not limited to) sexism, racism, queerphobia, transphobia and ableism. These oppressive systems, whilst occurring within the context of capitalism and shaped to serve its purpose, are not reducible to capitalism. Unless we actively struggle against all oppressive power systems, these hierarchies will be reproduced both within our own organisations and in any post-capitalist society. We see fighting against these forms of oppression as just as important to the creation of an anarchist society as fighting capitalism and the state. Only by working to eliminate oppressive power relations within the working classes will we be able to create a revolutionary movement capable of genuinely transforming society.

Oh imperfect attempt! Where do we stand on feminism? Is sexism merely a division of the working class, a product of class society, and an idea that will evaporate is a post-capitalist society?

I happen to think that an understanding of sexism is one dimensional if it doesn’t also integrate an understanding of capitalism. That said sexism is not reducible to capitalism, ideas are not merely products of material circumstances and economic structures, they also shape material circumstances, and oppressive ideas can also take on a life well beyond the material circumstances which created them.

If ignored sexism will not simply be washed aside by anti-capitalist struggle. If not specifically combatted, there is no reason sexism would not continue to be an oppressive structure in a post capitalist society.

We want to integrate an understanding of capitalism and sexism, that does not merely reduce one to the other. We’re not there yet. This paragraph was an attempt, it’s an imperfect snapshot of our thinking at one point in time. As anarchists we hope to be feminists and anti-racists as well as anti-capitalists.

For further reading on the topic I’d recommend Insurrections at the intersections: feminism, intersectionality and anarchism, it’s a chapter by Abbey Volcano and J Rogue that was included in AK Press’s new edition of Quiet Rumours: An anarcho-feminist reader.

Paragraph 3.

3. Australian capitalism is founded on an act of genocide – the murder and dispossession of this continent’s indigenous people. Capitalism on this continent was built on the seizure and exploitation of indigenous land, and continued attacks on indigenous communities are perpetrated by Australian capitalism and its racist state in the pursuit of what lands and resources that remain. We unequivocally support the ongoing struggle for indigenous self-determination in Australia, and recognise that indigenous sovereignty over the Australian landmass was never ceded.

Australian capitalism has genocidal origins… surely this is stating the obvious? To consistently oppose capitalism in Australia, we have to support the struggle for indigenous self-determination. To support indigenous self-determination is to oppose capitalism.

Paragraph 4.

4. Capitalism is a social system based on the private ownership of the means of production (land, factories, workplaces, machinery and access to raw materials). A tiny minority own the means of production and profit from the productive labour of the working class. The working class consists of all whose access to the means of existence requires that they place their ability to labour at the service of capital. This includes all who labour for a wage, all who are presently unemployed, and all who labour in the reproduction of the working class (domestic labour). Workers are paid the minimum the capitalist can get away with in a given situation, and the capitalist steals the rest. The private property owned by capitalists is the wealth stolen from past generations of workers. Capitalism denies the vast majority their economic and social inheritance through recourse to violence and coercion. Any incursion into private property is punished by the state. This system, capitalism, the state and the oppressive ideologies that support it, must be abolished in their entirety.

Anarchism critically appropriates Marx’s analysis of capitalism, Marx in turn owes much to Proudon.

From Schmidt and Van der Walt, (2006) ‘Proudon, Marx, and Anarchist Social Analysis‘, in Black Flame:

The imprint of Marx’s economic analysis can clearly be seen in the thinking of the anarchists. Bakunin’s only quibble with Marx’s Capital was that it was written in a style quite incomprehensible to the average worker, and he began a Russian translation of the book. Kropotkin despised Marx, but his understanding of class struggle, exploitation, and capitalist crisis was deeply imprinted with Marxist economics. Malatesta, who complained that anarchism had been too “impregnated with Marxism”, did not develop an alternative economic analysis, and … his close associate Carlo Cafiero even published a summary of Marx’s Capital.

Check out Wayne Price’s Marx’s Economics for Anarchists: An Anarchist’s Introduction to Marx’s Critique of Political Economy.

Paragraph 5.

5. The state is a centralised structure in which a small number of people, through their control of the police, military and courts (a monopoly on ‘legitimate’ violence), impose decisions on the vast majority. The state is not simply a “body of armed men” in service of the dominant class, it is also an institution that develops its own interest and that seeks to perpetuate its existence and expand its power. As anarchists we wholly reject the state, and instead we aim for “the most complete realisation of democracy—democracy in the fields, factories, and neighbourhoods.”

An attempt at differentiating between anarchist and Leninist understandings of the state…

Paragraph 6

6. Capitalism reaches across the entire globe. Military and economic imperialism (so-called globalisation) continue to subordinate most of the globe to the capitalist system, securing access to resources, labour and markets for the capitalist core. As capitalism is global, the struggle against capitalism must also be global, and we must act in solidarity and support for the struggles of oppressed people wherever they occur.

A commitment to internationalism, but also a wiff of world-systems analysis. Capitalism does not exist in discrete nation-state entities, it is constituted as a world-system, and that system now traverses the entire globe.

We’re not slavish followers of Immanuel Wallerstein (far from it!), but the method of analysis he advances is a useful tool.

Paragraph 7.

7. Capitalism has wrought upon our planet a global ecological crisis that now threatens the basis of existence for the majority of humanity. Capitalist entities grow or perish, whenever capital is not growing it is in crisis. Capitalism, as the effective cause the present environmental crisis, cannot effectively solve or even lessen the extent of environmental degradation. Capitalism’s demand for continued growth on our finite planet is at odds with human survival as a species, and therefore as a matter of necessity, and not just desirability, it must be abolished.


Prosperity without Growth
makes the case, without realising it. Tim Jackson’s belief that we can somehow change capitalism to operate in a steady state is of course farcical, but the argument he makes for the necessity of doing so is compelling. The obvious conclusion, unintended by the author, is that capitalism must be abolished if human survival is to be assured.

Paragraph 8.

8. The role of anarchists is to build the capacity of oppressed peoples as a whole to struggle for our collective emancipation. It is only when the collective and conscious social force of the mass of oppressed people exceeds the power of capitalism and the state, that a revolution with truly libertarian socialist potential be possible.

This paragraph is only the briefest nod to the argument about social force made by the FARJ in Social Anarchism and Organisation.

Paragraph 9.

9. We believe that revolutionary unionism, or syndicalism, is an essential strategy to build the collective power of the working class. We seek to build rank and file organisations that unite workers across existing unions, and advocate for directly democratic structures and militant strategy.

Platformists are syndicalists. This is often lost in debates about whether revolutionary unions are sufficient in and of themselves, or whether anarchists also require specific political organisations.

We favour organisational dualism, we organise politically as anarchists, whilst also seeking to build mass organisations of the whole (and not just explicitly anarchist) working class.

Paragraph 10.

10. We unite as a specific anarchist organisation on the basis of theoretical unity, tactical unity, collective responsibility and federalism. By theoretical unity we mean developing and organising around a shared understanding of anarchism, capitalism and the context in which we operate. By tactical unity we mean developing and collectively implementing a common strategy for achieving our goals. By collective responsibility we mean agreeing to act collectively – rather than individually in the pursuit of our common strategy. By federalism we mean organising on a directly democratic “grass roots up” basis, rejecting any “top down” command structure.

If this seems similiar to the anarkismo editorial statement, well it is.

If that in turn bears resemblance to the Organisational Part of the Platform of the General Union of Anarchists (draft), well, you get the drift.

Conclusions

I am convinced that if anarchism is to be anything other than a fringe phenomina on the far left in Australia, that anarchists must organise on a political basis. If we truly are libertarian communists, and not liberal individualists, then we need to learn to act collectively, to theorise collectively, to plan collectively, and to engage in struggle collectively.

To theorise and act collectively requires some degree of political agreement. That’s what this document is intended to be for the small group I participate in. If your political outlook accords with ours, and you’re in the mood to smash capitalism and the state, then get in touch.

  1. We’re realists
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Front cover of BAR, May 1989, number 17.

Front cover of BAR, May 1989, number 17.Movie Get Out (2017)

The second instalment of From the Archives, a weekly re-print of something different or obscure I’ve found in the past weeks research.

This weeks entry is an article by Jon Crump, ‘Communists vs. Syndicalists in the Japanese Anarchist Movement’, published in issue 17 of the Bulletin of Anarchist Research, May 1989.

BAR has since evolved into the journal Anarchist Studies.

COMMUNISTS VS. SYNDICALISTS IN THE JAPANESE ANARCHIST MOVEMENT

Recently I have been doing some work on the Japanese ‘pure anarchists’ of the 1920s and 1930s and in particular their ablest theoretician, Hatta Shuzo (1). This not has two purposes. First, to provide some basic information on Hatta and his comrades, who are largely unknown outside Japan. Second, to ask those with similar research interests to get in touch with me. It may be that I am the inly reader of the BAR who is currently working on Japanese anarchism, but I fancy there must be others whose research touches on the debates which have taken place in other parts of the world between anarchist-communists and anarcho-syndicalists. It would be interesting to compare the forms which these debates have taken, the historical junctures at which they occurred and their varying outcomes in different countries.

‘Pure anarchism’ appeared in Japan during the 1920s as a reaction against the tendency of some syndicalist-inclined anarchists to immerse themselves in trade union activity because they saw unions as offering the best organisational alternative to the party-building efforts of the social democrats and the Bolsheviks. The reason why this ‘pure anarchist’ reaction occurred at this time was that in earlier years trade unions had be suppressed by the state. When certain groups of Japanese wage earners had taken the first tentative steps towards organising trade unions at the end of the 19th century, the Japanese state had reacted by enacting the ‘Police Peace Preservation Law’ in 1900. This legitimated the police’s routine intimidation of workers who sought to improve their wages and working conditions and the situation did not appreciably change until the period towards the end of the First World War. As a result, when modern anarchism first took on an organised existence in Japan from about 1906, it was inevitably a movement that was forced to concentrate it’s efforts on theory and propaganda. As the noose of state repression progressively tightened, the only form of activity that was open to early anarchists in Japan was terrorism. Yet when a few militants took the first preliminary steps in that direction, it precipitated the disaster of the ‘High Treason case’ of 1910. The state proved far more adept at terrorism that were any of the anarchists and it used the rather inept plotting of a handful to round up many more who had no connection with plans to launch an armed struggle. The outcome was that eleven men and one woman were executed in 1911 and other disappeared into prison, sometimes for decades on end. Amongst those executed was Kotoku Shusui, the foremost anarchist theoretician of this earliest period and the man who first introduced Kropotkin’s ideas to Japan.

The ‘Police Peace Preservation Law’ remained on the statute books until 1925, when it was replaced by an updated piece of repressive legislation to coincide with the introduction of universal manhood suffrage. yet although at the end 9f the First World War trade union activity was still technically illegal, wage earners were in face starting to organise in their thousands. It was against this background that syndicalist theory proved a rationale for those anarchists who focused their attention on the labour movement. Although a number of these anarcho-syndicalists subsequently passed into the Bolshevik camp, others remained committed to anarchism and ensured that anarchists had a sizeable influence within the union movement. Just as Kotoku Shusi had been the most prominent anarchist thinker up till his execution in 1911, it was Osugi Sakae who had much the same stature in this second period in the development of Japanese anarchism. Significantly, Osugi was an outspoken champion of syndicalism until he, in his turn, was murdered by the military police in 1923.

Despite the fact that few books and articles have been published in the Western languages on Japanese anarchism,, both Kotoku Shusui and Osugi Sakae have biographies written on them by American academics (2). It is true that neither is dealt with sympathetically by his biographer, but even a hostile account is perhaps better than nothing. By way of contrast, up till now Hatta Shuzo does not seem to have been considered worthy of attention by any Western scholar. This oversight seems strange since Hatta was probably a more fertile thinker that either Kotoku or Osugi. Kotoku and Osugi are among the giants of Japanese anarchism, They both played an important role in introducing anarchist theories and applying them in a Japanese context. Nethertheless, most of the key ideas were derived from others, from Kropotkin in Kotoku’s case (Kotoku habitually referred to Kropotkin as sensei i.e., ‘master’ or ‘teacher’) and from Sorei and others in Osugi’s. Although Hatta located himself within the tradition of Kropotkin’s anarchist-communism, he was not a writer who was content to echo anybody else. Some of Hatta’s writings attained the level of genuine developments of anarchist-communism, taking it well beyond the theoretical frontiers established by Kropotkin. The fact that Hatta was able to break theoretical ground in this fashion was partly due to his audacity and strong character, but also reflected the maturity of the Japanese anarchist movement in the late 1920s relative to those earlier periods when Kotoku and Osugi had been active. By the late 1920s the Japanese anarchist movement attracted the support of thousands of militants and Hatta’s writings expressed the determination of many of these collectively to devise their own methods of overcoming capitalism and the militarist state, rather than relying 9n ready-made formulae lifted from the imported classics of anarchism. What makes this theoretical innovation on the part of the Japanese ‘pure anarchists’ particularly noteworthy is that it coincided with the qualitative decline in the level of anarchist-communist theorising in Europe following Kropotkin’s death in 1921 (3).

Hatta Shuzo was born in 1886 and drank himself to an early death in 1934. Like many Japanese intellectuals of this period as a young man he was attracted by the ‘modern’ and ‘Western’ aura that Christianity had acquired in Japan. with characteristic total commitment to whatever he believed in, Hatta studied theology and became a clergyman. However, after several years working as an evangelist in various parts of Japan, he became increasingly disillusioned with Christianity and was attracted to anarchism instead. Abandoning his church and his Christian wife, he moved to Tokyo in 1924 and spent the last ten years of his life in a whirlwind of activity for anarchism. as his comrades recalled in later years:

(Hatta) was a person fired with passion, You could say he was a model revolutionary, burning for the ideal of anarchism, and always with young people gathered around him (4).

Hatta put forward his anarchist-communist theories in a stream of articles and pamphlets, and also found time to translate suck works of Kropotkin’s as Modern Science and Anarchism, Anarchist Morality and Ethics: Origin and Development and Bakunin’s God and the State. Much of Hatta’s output was concerned with demolishing syndicalist theories and elaborating an alternative communist theory of how a stateless society could be achieved. These were not random concerns that Hatta had settled on by chance, but reflected major developments that occurred within the Japanese anarchist movement in the late 1920’s. In May 1926 the Zenkoku Jiren (All-Japan Liberation Federation of Labour Unions) was formed, comprised of more than 8000 workers organised in 25 separate unions. Zenkoku Jiren soon took a ‘pure anarchist’ coloration and, according to Hagiwara Shintaro’s rather unsympathetic account, ‘gradually became more like an ideological organisation than a labour organisation’ (5). This resulted in its syndicalist minority breaking away and setting up in 1929 their own rival union federation, the Nihon Jikyo (Japanese Libertarian United Conference of Labour Unions). Despite the fact that the syndicalists withdrew from its ranks, Zenkoku Jiren expanded and, at its peak in 1931, had 16,30 members, compared to Nihon Jikyo‘s 3000. For a brief period this organisational split was accompanied by a flowering of anarchist theory, only to be snuffed out as the state marched steadily towards total war with it’s imperialist rivals, crushing all internal opposition in the process. The roundup of many anarchists in 1935/6 led to the disbandment of Zenkoku Jiren, but over the years previous to it’s suppression some of Hatta’s most important writings had appeared in the columns of its journal, the Libertarian Federation Newspaper. Another vehicle for Hatta’s writings was Black Flag, an organ of Kokuren (the Black Youth League). Although its name gives the impression that it was exclusively a youth movement, Kokuren was, to borrow Akiyama Kioshi’s expression, the ‘link organ’ of the various anarchist groups of this period. As Akiuama has also put it, ‘pure anarchism… became the backbone of Kokuren‘s activity’ too (6).

If I were to attempt to summarise the principle strands in Hatta Shuzo’s ‘pure anarchism’, they would be as follows. For Hatta, the root cause of capitalism’s problems was the division of labour which it involves. human beings are compartmentalised into rival companies or different industries, with only the inhuman and authoritarian mechanisms of the market and the state to synchronise their activities imperfectly. As Hatta often wrote, under such circumstances people in one compartment have neither an interest in, nor an understanding of, nor a sense of responsibility for, what goes on elsewhere. If tis is the case for capitalism as a whole, it is equally the case for the working class as one of the constituent elements of capitalism. The structure of the ‘labour movement’ reflects this, with (shall we say) railway workers and coal miners locked into different organisations (unions) just as rigidly as their class enemies are locked into their (companies, nation-states).

This was the reason why one could never proceed from the class struggle to anarchist-communism. Even if the class struggle were fought to an apparently successful conclusion, with workers organisations such as unions or soviets (councils) taking over the administration of society, the division of labour would persist since these organisations were themselves expressions of it. Workers would continue to identify primarily with ‘their’ industry and ‘their’ union or soviet and the only way to solve this problem would be to devise some kind of coordinating machinery to mediate between the different branches of production and the different administrative bodies. However, this would be a solution worse that the problem itself, since such a coordinating machinery would be nothing other than the re-emergent state.

Arguing along these lines, Hatta maintained that class struggle and the revolution are in conflict rather than complementing one another. Classes struggle within capitalism by means of organisations (unions, soviets, parties, states) which are part and parcel of the social division of labour. In order to achieve a revolution against capitalism, a movement is required that transcends the social division of labour rather than being rooted in it. Thus it is not the working class, defined in terms of its insertion into the capitalist production process, which can revolutionise society. Rather, the overthrow of existing society has to be the act of the ‘revolutionary masses’, defined in terms of their ideological hostility to capitalism.

In contrast to unions or soviets taking over existing industries and preserving the social division of labour, albeit in a collectivised form, Hatta Shuzo and his comrades envisages restructuring society as to achieve a decentralised communism. The unit of social organisation was not to be the enterprise engaged in specialised production, even if one black flag fluttered on the roof and a workers committee in the boardroom. Instead, the basic social unit had to be a free commune engaged in generalised production, both industrial and agricultural, and largely self-sufficient. Clearly Hatta took as his model for such a commune the traditional Asian village, remote from the centres of state power and largely self-supporting, even if he expected it to be modified by the diffusion of scientific knowledge and small scale industry. The society resulting from the aggregation of free communes was to be anarchist and communist. State power and authoritarian relationships were to be eliminated and production and distribution were to depend on people working voluntarily and taking freely from the common wealth.

While there was nothing very original about envisaging communist production and distribution as conforming with the norms laid down in the slogan ‘from each according to his/her ability, to each according to his/her self-determined needs’, Hatta did attempt to think through some of the implications of such well worn phrases in a refreshingly independent fashion. For example, he argued that to say that people would freely contribute according to their abilities meant that, in effect, people would engage in whatever production they regarded as essential. In some areas o production, an individuals view of what was essential would very likely coincide with that of all members of the commune, but in other cases this would not be so. Where a single individual regarded a certain product as essential, he or she would take steps to produce it alone. A more likely occurrence would be to have groups of like-minded individuals within a commune cooperating to produce goods or services which they, but not other members of the commune, considered essential. Hatta expected much ‘cultural production’ to fall into this category, resulting from the efforts of spontaneously organised associations of artists, scientists and so on.

To focus briefly on an area of production which it would be reasonable to expect the entire commune to regard as essential, an appropriate example in the case of Japan could well be the rice crop. Since virtually every member of the commune would probably eat rice, everyone would take an interest in its production. ‘Pure anarchists’ like Hatta Shuzo were not implying that every last individual would engage in every single stage of rice production. Growing rice is a complicated process involving a variety of distinct operations (Planting, transplanting, maintaining the irrigation system, harvesting, servicing the machinery, to name a few). Hence, at any one time, there might well be a ‘division of work’ (tewake in Japanese) with different individuals engaged in different operations for which they had a particular liking or aptitude. Hatta distinguished, however, between a division of work, which he regarded as natural and harmless, and a division of labour (bungyo in Japanese), which it was communisms purpose to transcend. People might v=busy themselves with different facets of rice production, but there would be no specialist ‘rice producers’ within the commune, concentrating solely on growing rice to the exclusion of others. Similarly within society as a whole, there would be no specialist rice-producing communes with a monopolistic interest in rice production. Since virtually everyone would regard rice as an essential foodstuff, everyone would quite naturally, in the course of growing up in a communist society, would become familiar with its overall production process and would take constant interest in the current year’s crop. Thus although individuals might insert themselves into that production process at different points and in different fashions, the problems associated with a division of labour – where specialists in one field have neither an interest in, nor an understanding of, nor a sense of responsibility for, other fields – would not arise.

This is not the place to explore further the many interesting features of Japanese ‘pure-anarchism’. I hope enough has been said to demonstrate that Hatta Shuzo made some original contributions to the theory of anarchist-communism, particularly in his criticisms of syndicalism and his discussions of how a community society would be organised. Would anyone whose research interests overlap with any of the above kindly get in touch with me, addressing correspondence as follows:

Jon Crump
(address)

1. Japanese names are given in the customary East Asian fashion of family name (Hatta) first and personal name (Shuzo) second. The macrons over Shuzo indicate that the vowels are pronounced long. Hence the Shu in shuzo is roughly as in ‘shoe’; so rhymes with ‘saw’.

2. P.G. Noteheifer, Kotoku Shusi: Portrait of a Japanese Radical (Cambridge U.P., 1971); Thomas A. Stanley, Osugi Sakne: Anarchist in Taisho Japan (Harvard U.P., 1982).

3. See Alain Pengam’s chapter on ‘Anarcho-communism’ in Maximilien Rubel and John crump, Non-market Socialism in the 19th and 20th Centuries (Macmillan, 1987) pp.60-79

4. Musifushugi Undoi, November 1963.

5. Hagiwara Shintaro, Nihon Anakizumu Rodo Undo Shi (Tokyo, 1969) P. 138.

6. Kondo Kenji, Watashi no Mita Nihon Anakizumu Undu Shi (Tokyo, 1969) P. 91.

On an aside, I have decided to rename this feature to “From the Archives”, as “Something from the Archives” was a bit cumbersome.

Issue 8 to issue 22 of BAR can be found in an unmarked box in MAC‘s library. Sorry I can’t be more precise.

I am particularly keen to get hold of any materials produced by the Brisbane Self-Management Group.

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I’m so late it’s embarassing.

Melbourne’s third annual Anarchist Bookfair went off at Abbotsford Convent, August 11.

The Melbourne Anarchist Bookfair is a fair representation of the state of anarchism in Melbourne. That’s not a ringing endorsement.

Jura Books were down from Sydney (thanks guys!), the Melbourne Anarchist Club brought their spread, and a couple of small zine distros had a diverse array of photocopied pamphlets. But if you were a tourist having a sticky beak, you might be left with the impression that anarchism had more to do with Sea Shepard, a rail tunnel, and reformist projects like Real Democracy Australia, than fighting capitalism. There were a few insurrectionists, some interesting queer literature, and self described “post modern anarchists” like Joe Toscano. It’s all a bit of a swamp.

The Good…

There were at least a couple of hundred people not normally engaged in the anarchist “scene” there, showing some kind of interest in alternative ideas.

The group I participate in had a stall! We had a bunch of interesting conversations with people about anarchism!

There was a bit of an interesting discussion in our workshop on strategy and tactics in the refugee movement in Australia. I am not sure we did it very well, but we tried to convey some of the concerns we have with the conservative approach of what is apparently the radical wing of the refugee campaign.

Liz of Renegade Activists gave an excellent presentation in the “Get it Together” panel (which I totally disagreed with, but that’s beside the point!). Discussion about organisation is critical if anarchism in Melbourne is to break out of it’s current stagnation.

The organising collective has continued with the strong Safer Spaces Policy adopted earlier this year for Camp Anarchy.

The organising collective recognised the problems of sexism in anarchism in Melbourne and continued with a policy of prioritising female voices in things like speaking lists.

The Bad…

This year was not as well promoted. Attendence was lower. A lot of people who did attend just happened to be at Abbotsford, more moved on for lentils than attended a workshop.Watch movie online The Transporter Refueled (2015)

The absense of a clear political understanding of anarchism in the organisation of the bookfair shows. For example, the panel I was on was lumped with the title “anarchism for everyone”. Sounds warm and fuzzy? But this idea of “anarchism can mean whatever you want it to mean” has been the gaping hole through which fascist arseholes like these have walked through in their attempts to lay claim to anarchism.

The decision making process behind what was represented and what was not, was flawed. Whilst they didn’t attend, the absense of a clear political understanding of anarchism saw the likes of the Henry Georgite Prosper Australia cleared to participate, seemingly because some members of that organisation consider themselves anarchists. On top of everything else that is wrong with Georgism, it is capitalist and statist.

The downright ugly.

For all the good intentions of the organising collective, to many who call themselves anarchist seem to believe that “anarchism” protects their right to be an arsehole.

All the good a policy of gender balance does, when the only woman on a panel is basically told to shut up and piss off by once of the first males called to speak (saw it in two sessions). Only one of the three sessions I made it to had gender balance on the panel.

I don’t blame the promising young anarchists who go off and join Socialist Alternative and alike. If the anarchist “scene” in Australia was how I judged anarchism, I would not be an anarchist.

I still think the Melbourne Anarchist Bookfair is a worthwhile endeavour. It is the only event that reaches people beyond what is presently anarchism in Melbourne. But still the challenge remains, to bring some anarchism along.

To build an anarchist movement in this country, as opposed to a small and nasty swamp, we need to bring a clear political understanding of anarchism to events like the Melbourne Anarchist Bookfair.

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Melbourne Anarchist Club, 62 St Georges Road, Northcote.

MAC – have called for federation.

Towards Federation conference!

The Melbourne Anarchist Club is calling on anarchist groups down under to Federate. The proposed federation comes complete with constitution. It follows on from a 2009 conference with the same aim:

At [the 2009] conference an agreement was reached between Jura Books, the Melbourne Anarchist Club and Organise! to co-operate together to publish Sedition magazine. Based on the success of this project, an anarchist conference is being organised in Melbourne over the long weekend of 8-10 June to examine the possibility of founding an anarchist federation in Australia. – Towards federation FB group

I wont be in a position to attend the conference in May (I’m fleeing the country for a couple of months), but I would like to have attended. I mean that.

I want to see an effective Australia wide anarchist political organisation. But to be effective this organisation will require the participation of a number of vibrant anarchist groups, with shared politics, a common and reasonably well developed theoretical understanding of the situation we are in, and preparedness to commit to a common strategy based on that theoretical understanding.

These are not things that can be willed out of thin air.

Before such a national organisation can be forged, we need sizeable and active anarchist groups in Australia’s major cities, that communicate and cooperate, and that engage in the serious political discussion required to develop a common political understanding.

This hasn’t happened yet. Australian anarchism remains a small collection of unconnected grouplets with a theoretical understanding that is often as shallow as it is varied.

We need to ground our efforts in a realistic understanding of where we are at. Long before a federation, what anarchists in Australia first is a serious publication. From what I understand this was much the conclusion that was reached in 2009.

The problem for the proposed federation in 2013 is that Sedition was far from a success. There was one tepid edition with limited distribution, and then nothing.

I hope that the groups proposing a federation “right now”, will reconsider. Before we embark on a national project, we (anarchists in small groups) must first build our own capacity, so that common projects like Sedition become viable. In turn it is only when projects like Sedition have grown to involve something of an anarchist movement, will the concept of a political organisation of the anarchist movement (the anarchist federation) make any real sense.

* * *
Whether now is the time for a federation or not, it is always time to get together and discuss how to take anarchism in Australia forward. I can’t really comment about Sydney or Brisbane, but I have a few ideas for Anarchist groups in Melbourne that I would like to have taken to Towards Federation.

  • Melbourne needs reading groups. Initiatives like the Fantin Reading Group need to re-start, and they need to continue. The sad fact is that the people who could most benefit from understanding anarchism are anarchists. We need to study anarchism, and we need to study the present situation. Theory matters.
  • Melbourne needs a publication. Even a terrible photocopied zine is better than no publication at all. Sydney has Mutiny, Melbourne has multiple zines and newsletters that exist in name only, apparently on permanent hiatus. Anyone serious about class struggle anarchism in Melbourne, and everyone at this conference, should consider on what basis cooperation could be achieved for some kind of quarterly.
  • We need to bring some anarchism to the anarchist book fair. All groups that are serious about building anarchist in Australia should immediately get involved in organising the upcoming Melbourne Anarchist Bookfair. The bookfair is the only event on the Melbourne anarchist calendar with significant reach outside anarchist circles. Every group should get involved in the organising collective, every group should argue against the presence of reformist (and outright anti-anarchist) content, every group should publish for the bookfair, every group should be running workshops, and every group should have events that follow up from it.

If we’re not in a position to do the simple things, we’re not in the position to consider a anarchist federation that is anything more than an exercise on paper.

I want an anarchist federation, and I want it to be more than an empty website. To achieve this, rather than announcing a federation in June 2013, it might be more useful to agree on a program of action that will build the capacity of anarchist groups and build cooperation amongst them.

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A few disjointed thoughts on Camp Anarchy 2013.

Melbourne’s second Camp Anarchy was held at Camp Eureka over the recent Labour Day weekend here in Victoria.

Reviewing a conference is easy, right? You pick a broad theme and evaluate what you observed in at the event in terms of that theme, bang it out to 750 words and hit publish. Right?!

That doesn’t work so well for Camp Anarchy. There remains no coherent anarchist political current in Australia. The Camp did contain a strand of firm class politics, but it was by no means in the majority. Perhaps the best thing that could be said for the politics of Camp Anarchy is that it brings the eclectic mess together and gives it a good old stir. Political coherence takes time, effort and a hell of a lot of debate.

In this sense, the worst sessions were the best. Take “Building for Revolution” for example. The economic analysis presented by the host, and the conclusions drawn from it, were utterly erroneous.

Apparently some cascading series of bank runs is imminent and we should all sell our houses, hide gold under our mattresses and invest in permaculture. The session host argued the role of anarchists was to show through things like permaculture and mutual credit that another life is possible, and thus when the collapse occurs the mass of society will join us.

How this is “building for revolution”, I do not know.

The sessions “Building for Revolution” and “Climate Action: Social Revolution not Lifestyle Change” probably facilitated the most obvious clash between lifestylist and class struggle ideas.

On the surface all present rejected the idea that either capitalism through the market or the state through “direct intervention” offered any kind of solution to the environmental crisis. That said, the individualist and lifestylist positions advanced by some contained an oddly capitalist logic. There were plenty who seemed to think it was both possible and somehow politically useful to withdraw from the market.

These are the kinds of ideas people are advancing and calling “anarchism”, and what we must be prepared to contend with if the politics of the broad anarchist tradition is ever to be reclaimed.

In that vein, another session that was both interesting and oddly mistaken was “Real Democracy Now!”. That anarchists reject what passes for democracy in Australia is a no-brainer. It was also good to see that no one (at least who attended this session) is seriously advancing a Stirnerite individualist conception of anarchism that utterly rejects democracy as “majority rule”.

There was, however, something oddly reformist about the project proposed by “Real Democracy Now!”.

The group of anarchist comrades who hosted the session intend to establish a group to argue for directly democratic measures in Australia. They were particularly enamoured with ideas of participatory budgeting and the model pioneered by America Speaks.

That our practice should be directly democratic is central to class struggle anarchism. Federalism, recallable delegates and assemblies are both the methods of our organisations and our vision for political organisation after capitalism. But to establish a project that argues for this method without explicit anti-capitalist politics risks reformism. To argue for public participation in governance as a goal in itself, without embedded economic and social demands, does nothing to undermine either the state or capitalism. Quite the contrary.

I shall watch what comes out of Real Democracy Now! with cautious interest.

I attended two other sessions. I co-hosted “Platformism” with other comrades from Anarchist Affinity. I would be interested to know what attendees thought of it.

Also hosted by an Anarchist Affinity comrade was “Anti-mining: The struggle of farmers and workers in Indonesia”:

Unfortunately few came to the session, in which the comrade discussed the development of a grassroots network of farming communities across Java resisting Australian mining development.

***

It was a stinking hot weekend.

Politics aside, the Rec Hut at Camp Eureka was the absolute highlight. It makes me want to head out and build something in bush timber!

There are a couple of other things outside the formal sessions worth commenting on.

Kids. It was absolutely brilliant to see a political event that makes a serious effort to both provide a space for children, and to make it possible for children and parents to participate in the political program.

This wouldn’t have been possible without a serious safer spaces policy. It was good to see that at least on that question, there was amply political agreement.

***

Update: I don’t want to under-emphasize the anti-capitalist politics that were present. I only attended a narrow segment of the camp, and I missed all of Monday. Check out the programme here.

I seriously regret missing Sunday morning’s session on the state of the Union movement, but I have had a chance to catch up with the comrades who ran that session.

I would love to hear more from people who attended “Watermelons are Weapons”, “Islamaphobia” the sessions with Marjorie Thorpe and Clare Land and the session on Latin America.

I’d also like to point out that that for all I disagreed with the politics of a number of sessions I attended, there was never any sense of unpleasantness. I don’t doubt the integrity and sincerity of those who’s politics I might describe as “utterly erroneous”, and I certainly appreciate that we could have a passionate political disagreement with warmth and good humour.

I look forward to Camp Anarchy 2014.

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Go and read this post by Em BC at Blind Carbon Copy, <a href="http://bccwords.blogspot.com.au/2012/12/misogyny-and-left-we-need-to-start .html”>Misogyny and the left – we need to start practicing what we preach.ir-leasing.ru

A short extract:ir-leasing.ru

Most attempts at dealing with sexism tend to be through group education around feminism. Focusing on theoretical education, rather than individual behaviour, is seen as addressing issues “politically”. This kind of education is an invaluable tool for fighting sexism. But when abusive behaviour is directed at female members of an organisation, refusing to address individual behaviour is effectively putting the “education” of male comrades above the ability of females to participate in activism.

The argument that these are personal issues still comes up way too often. There was an incident where someone launched a brutal physical attack at his ex’s partner. When the organisation involved was asked to do something about this, it was decided that this was a personal matter and not organisational “business”. vidmate Maybe there was little that could be done in the circumstances. But how can we say we claim to defend women’s rights if misogynist violence just isn’t our business? If we allow people who commit it to be in positions of responsibility?

Harassment is too often simply placed in the too hard basket. When I was subjected to a minor sexual assault by a male comrade, the group involved decided that nothing could be done because it was too difficult politically at the time. I do under­­­­stand why those comrades involved felt this way. But the decision not to do anything had a much worse effect on me than the actual assault. To me the message that came across was that my safety and my bodily autonomy were secondary to organisational issues.

I’m highlighting this post for a couple of reasons.

Some f-cked sh-t has gone down in the British SWP. Suprise surprise, an anti-feminist Trot group has awful internal practice when it comes to accusations of sexual violence levied against a leading member of their hierarchy.

But any anarchist going around feeling smug at the moment must be living with their damned eyes closed.

Seriously, read Em’s article. There is some really basic sh-t that should happen.

When someone is violent or abusive towards women, they should be excluded from our groups, organisations and events. No need to quasi judicial processes or liberal rubbish about balancing rights, when someones behaviour threatens others, or prevents others from participating in safety, exclude them.

When a group with any degree of standing amongst anarchists expels someone for their behaviour, in the absence of evidence of manifest injustice, all other groups should respect and uphold that decision. For too long abusive and violent individuals have simply been able to hop from group to group, pleading victimisation to anyone who will listen.

Which brings me to the purpose of this post.

[150 words removed here]

Update 2013-2-7: I received a phone call from BD this morning. BD stated he will not be attending Camp Anarchy.

BD explained that he had only responded to the Facebook event in order to “stir people up” and agreed that this had probably not been the best course of action. He expressed that there was much he regretted in his behaviour to date.

It was my impression from the conversation that BD’s remarks were genuine, and that in fact he has absolutely no intention of attending Camp Anarchy. As such I have agreed to remove 150 words from post. This does not constitute a retraction of my original remarks, it is only my intention to support BD’s decision to in part address the primary concern I raised in this post.

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