The following are statements by the Anarchist Communist Group since and prior to its formation in February 2018, in reverse chronological order.
19 March 2020
Coronavirus and the ill health of capitalism
The COVID-19 crisis has thrown a glaring searchlight on the state of
health of capitalism. Here we analyse in detail the origins of the
disease, its global consequences and what we, the working class can do
First of all we have to look at how COVID-19 originated and at the same time dispose of various conspiracy theories that are circulating like how it was invented by the Chinese government to cull the elderly and infirm. The Coronavirus crisis must not be used to scapegoat Chinese, Italian or Spanish people here in the UK and throughout the world.
In 1970 there was a famine in China which affected more than 36 million people. The Beijing regime failed to adequately deal with the famine. As a result, it let go of its state hold over agriculture and food and allowed private entrepreneurs to trade. A section of this new layer of private enterprise began to domesticate wildlife, which included snakes, turtles and bats. At first illegal, this trade was allowed to flourish by the regime and in 1988 it legalised the trade, saying that wildlife was now a ‘natural resource’. This boosted this trade.
As a result, huge markets appeared, selling all sorts of animals, including rhinoceroses, crocodiles, snakes, ducks, wolves and mice, alongside domesticated animals like pigs and chickens. These were packed closely together, often in the same cages. In this way, it was easier for diseases to pass from species to species, from animal to animal and then on to humans.
The SARS virus appears to have originated in 2003 in a market in Guangdong province, with its source the masked palm civet. SARS, itself a coronavirus, spread globally and resulted in 774 deaths. In response the regime banned the trade of wildlife as food.
Those capitalists making big profits out of the trade then lobbied the Chinese government to relax these laws, resulting in a decision to allow the trade of 54 species as food. Later, more animals were added to the list, including in 2016 elephants and pangolins (scaly anteaters).
As a result the COVID-19 epidemic broke out in 2019 and has now spread globally, with many thousands of deaths. It is believed that the disease was transmitted from a bat to a pangolin, and then spread to humans via a market in Wuhan. The Chinese government failed to learn from the original SARS outbreak, and seems unlikely to draw any further lessons for the future.
It should be seen that the long-term answer is not the development of vaccines, but the cutting off at the source of the growth of these viruses. This means that animal welfare is of the highest necessity. Swine flu probably originated in Mexico as a result of industrialised pig pens, and similarly the origins of bird flu and mad cow disease are down to similar reasons. AIDS was a virus that jumped from monkeys to chimps to humans as a result of the bush meat trade. The equation must be that animal welfare = human welfare.
The spread of COVID-19
The development of an increasingly globalised capitalism allowed the spread of the disease. As it spread from country to country, it was shown how many healthcare systems, after years of austerity measures, were not up to the task of coping. And of course, the continued need for capitalism to create profit has hindered measures to control and quarantine the disease.
The Coronavirus crisis has tested capitalism and its state structures to the limit. In Britain on both a national and local level, government has been shown to be wanting, as both the Johnson government and local councils have dithered, have failed to act or have remained silent. The media has highlighted the rash of panic buying, itself due to the encouragement of selfishness in neo-liberal economies and the attack on community outlooks. On the other hand, the ideas that we advance, those of mutual aid and solidarity, are illustrated by the growth of (at time of writing) over 500 mutual aid networks that have emerged rapidly in the UK. As one ACG member noted recently: “In the village where I live, Facebook organising has produced more than 350 names in four days, volunteering various kinds of help, including visits to elderly and disabled by local known people, street by street, free exchange of surplus daily necessities, a local shop and a community centre offered for food collection, assembling food parcels and deliveries, free taxi to Iceland to pick up supplies, meals for free school dinner kids, even dog walking (there are 1000’s of dogs here). Meanwhile, deafening silence from Local Authority and councillors, and the cuts to the NHS and social care have been laid bare for everyone to see.”
Capitalism itself has received a body blow from the COVID-19 crisis. Already in a stagnant state, the world economy has been damaged as profits and Gross Domestic Products are affected. Industrial production has slowed right down and a small initial recovery has been set back by this crisis. Any fall in profits will be answered by the boss class attacking the wages and conditions of the working class in the months to come.
At the same time, some capitalists, especially those in the pharmaceutical and health industries, have or will raise prices on hand gels, soaps and face masks and will do the same with any vaccines that are developed (as was illustrated in the past by the AIDS crisis).
The Government’s Response
Whilst some governments have closed downs educational establishments and all restaurants, pubs, bars and cafes, the Johnson regime has vacillated over this. In part this was influenced by the number of so-called experts gathered around the new regime, a collection of cranks and social-Darwinians encouraged by the closest adviser of Johnson, the Gollum-like Dominic Cummings. These fostered ideas of “herd immunisation” where mass infection will create immunity in the long run, failing to take note of the large number of deaths in the process, or rather seeing this as a way of culling the elderly and infirm. The government has been forced to backtrack on this. As well as this, the Johnson government does not want to order the closure of catering establishments because it will then have to offer substantial compensation. The Government’s announced an emergency £350 billion financial package most of which will end up in the private sector, just like Alistair Darling’s £500 billion to the banks in 2008. The bulk of Darling’s handout went into shareholders pockets and there was little to show in terms of employment growth or improved wages. Instead, the working class had ten years of imposed wage freezes and benefit cuts to pay for bailing out the banks.
Johnson has already shown his first priority. By refusing so far to order pubs and restaurants to close, he has tried to protect the profits of big insurance firms from claims by thousands of small businesses. He may well be forced to change tack, locking down city by city due to the rapid spread of the virus and massive pressure from small businesses. Whatever happens, just as in 2008 it’ll be us that will have to compensate the rich and pay the price for the economic meltdown.
Meanwhile 8,000 private hospital
beds are being rented to NHS for £2.4million per day during the crisis.
The Johnson regime has failed to act decisively, offering advice rather than decisions, in terms of calling for people of over 70 to self-isolate, failing to close down restaurants, pubs, bars and cafes, as has been the case in other countries, and has only just announced that schools will be closed from next week.
Many people will voluntarily self-isolate, but there are big problems there already. One of the pieces of advice given out by the Johnson government was for self-isolators to order food online. However, the supermarkets are already massively overloaded, with many sites down, and for example, Sainsbury’s not being able to offer any more home deliveries right through the month of April. Rationing of essential items like soap, hand gel, painkillers etc has been slow in coming or not taken place at all, the responsibility of both the government and the supermarkets.
Many older people, disabled people who have a wide range of impairments including learning difficulties/disabilities, those who have mental health issues and long-term health conditions, will face loneliness and possible depression as a result of isolation. For others, the home is a place of danger, as for those suffering from physical and sexual abuse in their families. Any travel restrictions would further aggravate the chances of people escaping from their abusers.
The closure of day care centres, social centres, libraries, etc will further exacerbate this feeling of isolation and loneliness and unless the mutual aid networks are built up massively over the coming months, many may die in isolation.
For the homeless, of whom at least 5,000 are rough sleepers on the streets, the Coronavirus crisis will be a disaster, as they are among the most vulnerable, cannot self-isolate and if living in temporary accommodation or homeless shelters, face overcrowding and higher risk of contagion. Many homeless charities have withdrawn on street support in order to protect volunteers adding to the potential risks faced by rough sleepers. Meanwhile many buildings lie empty, as for example Balfron Tower in Tower Hamlets, sold off by the housing association Poplar HARCA for homes for the rich which still lies empty.
The State will attempt to strengthen its position by using the Coronavirus crisis to reinforce its powers. This is already the case in China, Spain and Italy where police and troops are controlling the movement of populations. In Italy some strikes have been banned under old legislation that has been resurrected, and the UCU strike in Britain has been severely affected by the crisis. The ballot in favour of strike action among postal workers is already being affected by the union bureaucrats and the State may well intervene to back them up.
While the media trains its unblinking focus on panic buying, thereby magnifying and amplifying the worst in human nature, most of us will also have seen the stirrings of mutual aid and solidarity in our communities. Perhaps a leaflet has been put through your letter box offering to collect shopping and prescriptions. Perhaps you’ve seen groups set up on social media. Perhaps you’ve volunteered to be a friendly ear to those who are isolated. These bottom-up, self-starting initiatives have not had the same media focus, perhaps because they demonstrate that precisely when we’re supposed to be at our most anxious and atomised, we somehow find ways to connect and share and work together.
These stirrings of solidarity and mutual aid are in stark contrast with the government’s response of abandoning working-class people to hardship and uncertainty. This is of course a health crisis, but it is also a looming economic crisis and potential social disaster. As measures to create more “social distancing” threaten to decimate many sectors, such as retail, catering and health & social care, or indeed anything requiring social contact, causing many to worry how they will pay bills, how they will afford housing, how they will put food on the table, not to mention who will provide much needed personal care and support for those vulnerable people in supported living and residential care etc, the government seems oblivious to the stark reality faced by ordinary people: if we can’t earn, we are very quickly in a dire situation.
Our stirrings of mutual aid and solidarity are rightly looking for ways to support the vulnerable, to give reassurance to each other, to build community at a time when we need our essence as social animals nurtured. But if the government will not bail us out during this Coronavirus crisis as they found themselves able to bail the banks out during the financial crisis, then we will need to use our new networks to shout that message too. And not just to point out the state’s inaction, but to show that there is action we can take ourselves. Standing together we are stronger and more able to face down demands from banks and landlords, from utility companies and councils. We can give our mutual aid networks real teeth.
Some of the demands we should put forward for the Coronavirus crisis:
- Guaranteed continuance of sick pay from the first day for those affected by the virus. No victimisations or sackings for self-isolation.
- Guaranteed income for those affected by closures in educational establishments, the catering industry, health and social care industry etc. This includes a guaranteed income for gig workers in these workplaces.
- Increased funding of domestic violence services as result of increase in abuse as result of crisis (as in China and Italy already).
- Those receiving benefits should not be required to sign on during the current emergency and should be automatically be given their benefits
- Requisitioning of all empty property for the homeless, one of the most vulnerable sections of society most vulnerable to the crisis.
- Private hospital beds should be requisitioned and put at the service of the NHS without charge.
- An immediate moratorium on rent, mortgage payments and utility bills. Where these are not enforced, organising of rent and mortgage strikes, resisting disconnections of utilities. No evictions! No Disconnections!
- Rationing of essential items like soap, hand gel, toilet paper, pain killers. An end to profiteering by companies around these essentials.
- Reinforcing of the mutual aid networks.
While the state continues to act slowly and, in an ad-hoc manner with no regard for the working class here are some practical measures we can all take:
- Get in touch with your local mutual aid group to see how you can help – Find your nearest group here.
- Donate (if you can) blood.
- Provide support for those self-isolating.
- Take acts of solidarity such as resisting evictions and disconnections
17 February 2020
Second anniversary of the founding of the Anarchist Communist Group
February 17th marks the second anniversary of the founding of the Anarchist Communist Group. In a preamble to our founding statement we wrote:
“We are a revolutionary anarchist communist organisation made up of local groups and individuals who seek a complete transformation of society, and the creation of anarchist communism. This will mean the working class overthrowing capitalism, abolishing the State, getting rid of exploitation, hierarchies and oppressions, and halting the destruction of the environment.
To contribute to the building of a revolutionary anarchist movement we believe it is important to be organised. We are committed to building an effective national and international organisation that has a collective identity and works towards the common goal of anarchist communism, whilst at the same time working together with other working class organisations and in grass roots campaigns.
We do not see ourselves as the leaders of a revolutionary movement but part of a wider movement for revolutionary change. In addition, we strive to base all our current actions on the principles that will be the basis of the future society: mutual aid, solidarity, collective responsibility, individual freedom and autonomy, free association and federalism.”
When we founded the organisation we were a dozen anarchist communist militants, organised around three groups, in Leicester, London and Surrey. In the period between then and now we have more than trebled our membership and have created further groups in Devon, Glasgow, Kent, West Yorkshire, and West London with potential for another group in Norwich. Apart from these groups we have members in Bristol, Edinburgh, Invergordon, Orkney, Peterborough, and Winchester. We have organised two annual Day Schools and our groups have put on a large number of public meetings and discussion meetings.
We have produced nine pamphlets, a number of both local and territorial leaflets, and a whole range of stickers. We have published seven issues of our agitational newssheet Jackdaw and the first issue of our theoretical magazine Virus. In addition, the West Yorkshire group has produced 4 issues of its paper Rebel Rose, whilst London comrades have a big input into the London anarchist paper Rebel City.
We have consolidated and have begun to put on flesh on our frame. Of course, we would be the first to admit that we are a tiny group but we feel that we are punching above our weight.
We advocate the development of a mass revolutionary movement organised at the grass roots, with a dynamic libertarian communist organisation acting within it to coordinate, radicalise and draw lessons. We realise what we are up against in this task but we know that it can only happen through persistent and dogged hard work.
As we said on the first anniversary of the founding of our organisation:
“The level of class consciousness and any sense of class unity is low, while racism and xenophobia are sadly on the rise. Ongoing austerity, poverty, the housing crisis and homelessness barely register a blip in the media (and consequently in many people’s minds) compared to the insecurity of Brexit. Meanwhile, the global tendency towards right wing populism is almost as strong in this country as it is in others where populist leaders have come to the fore. And the supposed ‘antidote’ of a Corbyn led Labour Party is just more placebo, a palliative and ultimately a dead end for the working class and for any hope of moving in a revolutionary direction.”
Now Corbynism is reeling in shock from its electoral defeat. We live in hope that radicalised elements within the Labour Party will break with it and move in a revolutionary direction. That would be positive and we would do what we could to assist this. We can but live in hope. But what really counts is the development of revolutionary theory linked to a practice in grass roots movements, to organisation around the everyday problems of the working class. That is what will put libertarian communism on the map.
In order to do this, we need to strengthen and solidify the Anarchist Communist Group. If you are a serious libertarian revolutionary, disturbed by the lack of clarity and organisational malaise that rules in what passes for British anarchism, you should think seriously of joining the ACG.
11 August 2019
Statement on Transphobia
We in the ACG oppose transphobia. In our aims and principles we stress the importance of ending all oppressions as well as an end to capitalism and the State.
In an anarchist communist society there will continue to be differences between people, a flourishing of diversity as people are freed from the indoctrination and limitations of this society. However, these differences will not mean new hierarchies or inequalities. We fight today against all oppressions and inequality both because of the hardship and suffering it causes and because we need to unite as a class if we are to be effective in our struggles.
We fully recognise that the experience of transgender people has been one of inequality, discrimination and violence. The struggle for equality is difficult and needs to be supported.
The particular relationship between trans women and women who are born female and socialised as women has been fraught and has resulted in extreme polarisation, making it very difficult to unite against patriarchy, gender oppression and capitalism. Sensitivity and understanding of the oppression that different groups experience – females socialised as women, trans women, trans men, and non-binary – is needed in order to move forward.
We must come together to end all oppression as well as help create a united working class movement which can effectively challenge capitalism and hierarchical society.
18 April 2018
Syria: No War But The Class War!
A hundred cruise missiles were launched against the military installations of the Assad regime. In the aftermath the US Ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, stated that the United States was “locked and loaded”. Together the US, France and Britain have engaged in bombings that will be of no benefit to the Syrian masses suffering under the murderous regime of Bashar Assad.
It can be seen that all three regimes in the USA, France and Britain have their own domestic problems, and that a military adventure is always a good ploy to divert attention. Trump is wrestling with the ongoing Muller investigation, the revelations of ex-FBI Director Comey, and ongoing legal wrangles with porn star Stormy Daniels and polls that show his lack of popularity. Theresa May is faced with serious divisions in her own Party, deepening problems over Brexit, not to mention that she is hanging on to power thanks to an alliance with the DUP. Macron faces increasing unrest at home with what looks increasingly like a re-run of May 1968.
Trump was elected President on a populist programme, but part of that programme was that he would withdraw troops from Iraq and not be involved in military adventures in the Middle East. This was in stark contrast to Hillary Clinton who maintained an aggressive stance towards Russia and calls for a no-fly zone over Syria that would have caused confrontation with Russia, Assad’s ally. Now Trump has betrayed his populist base, to the horror of some of his previous conservative backers.
Haley has stated that the US would maintain its troops in Syria and would start sanctions against Russian firms doing business with Assad.
Some of the most virulent critics of Trump have been papers like the Washington Post. In a lead editorial just after the bombings it criticised the joint US, French and British attack as inadequate and attacked Trump for saying that he had been ready to withdraw American troops from Syria. Similar views were aired in anti-Trump paper the New York Post. It is clear that a substantial part of the US ruling class wish to pursue a more aggressive attitude towards Russia and its allies. They are concerned by the new alliance between Russia, Turkey and Iran and the weakening US influence in the Middle East.
For the last quarter of a century, the US and its allies have been engaged in constant warfare, using fabricated excuses like the bogus weapons of mass destruction to dismantle the regime of their former ally Saddam, overthrow Gaddafi in Libya because of an “imminent” massacre of civilians and now the gas attacks by the Assad regime.
The attacks on the Syrian regime were not a last minute response but the result of plans prepared over many months as can be seen by the high level of coordination between the three state powers.
Large sections of the US ruling class including the leaders of the military have little confidence in Trump being able to oversee moves against Russia and its allies. That is why the campaign against Trump is increasing in intensity at the same time as aggressive moves by the US and its allies. This has been explicitly stated by neo-conservatives who link the removal of Trump to the expansion of war moves.
In the USA, France and Britain there is widespread anti-war feeling and this has been aggravated by the bombing attacks. In Germany, sections of the ruling class there have expressed the need to re-arm and, at the same time, pursue foreign policies less dependent on the USA. This turn is justified by lauding German “high moral and humanitarian standards”.
Assad is a bloody dictator and it is highly possible that he used gas attacks against the Syrian population. However those who condemn Assad are the same States that justified mass bombings of Hamburg and Dresden and two atom bomb attacks on Japan during World War Two, the use of the chemical Agent Orange in Vietnam, as well as the deployment of napalm there and previously in Greece, and the use of white phosphorus in Fallujah by Saddam, then the ally of the West. More recently, the British government has had few qualms about providing the weaponry used by the Saudi Arabian military to kill numerous civilians in Yemen.
The USA realised it has lost influence in the Middle East. It and its allies initially backed the Islamist militias in their attempts to overthrow Assad. Now ISIS is a shadow of its former self and Assad controls 75% of Syria. Russia had been warned before the bombing attacks with the hint that its own forces and bases there would not be touched. Nevertheless it was implied that the USA was still the only surviving superpower and that Russia should not overstep the mark.
Russia will not easily abandon its ally, Syria. It needs the Mediterranean ports that Syria provides. On the other hand the USA would like to confine Russia to the Black Sea and is seriously concerned about the new alliance, temporary though it may be, between Turkey and Russia and the increasing strength of the Shiite axis in Iran, Iraq and with Hezbollah in Lebanon.
Israel launched its own attacks on its old enemy, Syria, obviously with the approval of the USA. For its part, Turkey is looking to increase influence and presence in Syria and has moved against the Kurdish controlled enclave of Afrin, exploiting the tensions between the great powers.
Whatever the outcome, it is clear that the different world and regional powers are gearing up for more armed conflict. In Syria over 400,000 people have been slaughtered and many more have been displaced. The situation is the same in Iraq. The masses there have nothing to gain from the murderous and barbarous depredations of the different armed gangs, whether they be Russian, American, Turkish or Islamist etc. Only revolution to overthrow all these regimes offers any alternative.
For now, we call on all internationalist and class conscious workers, communists, anarchists and revolutionary socialists to come together under the ‘No War But The Class War’ banner to promote working class resistance to the bosses’ war machine.
War Is The Health of The State!
No War But The Class War!
3rd April 2018
Afrin: An Internationalist Position
We deplore the invasion of the city of Afrin by the Turkish state and its armed forces. The main reason for this military adventure is Turkish government concerns that the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) – primarily controlled by Kurdish forces, which include the PYD (Democratic Union Party), the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) and Women’s Protection Units (YPJ), closely affiliated to the PKK, the Kurdish nationalist party operating within the borders of the Turkish state – have attempted to set up a zone of influence close to Turkey’s borders. Having a Kurdish zone so close by scares the Erdogan regime in Turkey, which dreads the encouragement this would give to the 16 million Kurds living within the borders of Turkey.
For its part, Russia has entered into alliance with Turkey, which represents problems for its client, the Assad regime in Syria. Russian air forces controlled the skies above Afrin, so the capture of this city by the Turkish army is with the tacit approval of Russia.
The Assad regime is concerned about US support for the YPG. The USA has backed the SDF in its attacks on the ISIS jihadists, as well as furthering its interests and influence in the region. It has established ten temporary bases in order to facilitate these aims.
The Assad regime wants to see the withdrawal of all occupation forces in Syria, including those of the Americans and Turks. Russia, who up to now fully supported Assad has established relations with Turkey and wants an end to the war in the region which until recently involved its own intervention in the region with the use of air strikes and the deployment of special forces. The Assad regime is itself concerned about the development of Kurdish enclaves but is aware that the Turkish state wishes not just to destroy those enclaves but to dismantle Syria, with its support for jihadist armed forces.
The USA has supported the Kurdish forces not out of some concern for “democracy” but to use these forces to combat ISIS and to gain access to oil and gas resources. The YPG for their part were happy enough for this support. Now though, the USA is concerned that its alliance with the Turkish state is jeopardised by the Turkish government’s increasingly cordial relations with Russia and this accounts for the US decision to end support for the Kurds.
For us as internationalists our first aim must be to condemn and mobilise against the Turkish invasion and against continued British arming of the Turkish state.
As our comrades in the anarchist communist group in Turkey, Yeryüzü Postası, note:
“We can see that power-holders in different countries are rubbing their hands with glee about the Afrin operation. It is understood that Russia and USA are constructing their plan on dividing Syria in line with their spheres of influence and probably they have agreed on it. As far as we’ve inferred from statements of England, they are willing to take a share from oil reserves and other natural resources – possibly, again, via a partnership between Shell and Koç Holding. France wants to re-establish its activity in the region.”
For its part, the Democratic Self-Administration of the Afrin province, which is the de facto government of the area and controlled by the SDF has actually called on Assad to come to their aid. In other words, support from a murderous regime that they want autonomy from.
As one Kurdish anarchist has remarked,
“I can conclude that in Bakur and Rojava a couple of high-disciplinary and authoritarian political parties, PKK and PYD, are behind building democratic confederalism in both Kurdistan, Bakur and Rojava. It is these parties that are the ones making major decisions, planning and designing the policies, and also setting up diplomatic relationships with other countries and other political parties. It is they who negotiate with their enemies or the states, and make war or peace. Of course, these are very big issues and extremely important as they shape the future destination of the society. However, unfortunately it is the political parties which are making these decisions and not the people in their own assemblies and mass meetings, or through direct action.”
The imperialist powers are as usual taking sides according to what suits their interests and not what is best for the people of the Middle East. As anarchist communists we do not support any faction in an in inter-imperialist war, even if some of them might appear to side with those being attacked by ISIS or by Turkey. We also do not support nationalist political parties who have the goal of establishing new States, no matter how libertarian the rhetoric may be. There may well be examples of self-organising in areas of Rojava but the problem is that they are still ultimately controlled by authoritarian political parties who have made a cult out of their leader Öcalan. It is not a move towards genuine self-organisation if you are able to do it because the great leader has said that this is what you should do. The situation is very complicated and though we must stand in solidarity with all those who are being killed and resisting Turkish forces, Syrian forces, ISIS etc, we do not then support uncritically the nationalist parties such as the YPD which have assumed the leadership of the resistance.
It is the masses of the Afrin province and of Syria, the peasants and workers who suffer from the depredations of all these murderous gangs, whether they be those of the Turkish state, the different jihadi outfits, the USA and Russia, the Hezbollah and Iranian units. It is the masses who suffer displacement, massacre, bombing, mass rape and the destruction of their land and homes. Neither can there be reliance on the Kurdish nationalists who seek time after time to form alliances with different regional and world powers, only to be betrayed on every single occasion. The only answer to the unfolding situation is the development of a strong working class movement against war and against capitalism itself.
20th February 2018
Founding Conference of New Anarchist Organisation, the Anarchist Communist Group
On Saturday 17th February, anarchist communist militants met in Leicester to found a new organisation, the Anarchist Communist Group (ACG).
Those present adopted Aims and Principles and a constitution. The preamble to the Aims and Principles reads:
“We are a revolutionary anarchist communist organisation made up of local groups and individuals who seek a complete transformation of society, and the creation of anarchist communism. This will mean the working class overthrowing capitalism, abolishing the State, getting rid of exploitation, hierarchies and oppressions, and halting the
destruction of the environment. To contribute to the building of a revolutionary anarchist movement we believe it is important to be organised. We are committed to building an effective national and international organisation that has a collective identity and works towards the common goal of anarchist communism, whilst at the same time working together with other working class organisations and in grass roots campaigns. We do not see ourselves as the leaders of a revolutionary movement but part of a wider movement for revolutionary change. In addition, we strive to base all our current actions on the principles that will be the basis of the future society: mutual aid, solidarity, collective responsibility, individual freedom and autonomy, free association and federalism.”
The discussion document “Potential Activities Of A New Organisation” was discussed and adopted. Initial emphasis would be on agitational literature and activity around Land Justice, housing and the NHS. In addition, there was a commitment to street agitation-stickers and posters.
It was decided that the ACG should focus on the campaign against Universal Credit using the Disabled People Against Cuts slogan “Stop It and Scrap It”. Leicester ACG agreed to make and circulate leaflets and stickers in regards to Universal Credit, capable of being locally adapted.
It was also agreed to hold Annual Day Schools. The first of these will be in early November 2018 in London on the subject of “Advancing The Class Struggle: Problems and Issues for the Anarchist Communists”.
It was agreed to bring out a newspaper that will be primarily agitational. The first issue should appear in April of this year. In addition we will be establishing a new website soon. We will also soon be producing a series of pamphlets.
It was agreed to seek affiliation to the International of Anarchist Federations and to attend the forthcoming international conference in Slovenia.
A motion was passed on Anarchist Communist Unity. It reads:
“Whilst recognising the differences between our organisation and others on the libertarian communist spectrum in Britain – Anarchist Federation, Solidarity Federation, Libertarian Socialist Federation, etc. – we should seek to promote where possible: joint solidarity work with comrades facing repression, imprisonment, bad health, either here or in the rest of the world; joint solidarity work over workplace struggles – joint bulletins where possible, joint fundraising and publicity etc.”
The conference was marked by a spirit of enthusiasm and by a business-like approach. We intend making ourselves known through our activities, propaganda and development of theory.
Enquiries about the ACG, membership, etc. should be sent to email@example.com
Class Struggle Anarchist Statement on Bookfair Events and Aftermath
It has been over a month since the London Anarchist Bookfair and as a movement we are still reeling, with deep divisions between people who had respect for each other and once worked well together. We are still shocked, horrified and saddened by events as are most people, no matter what perspective or interpretation they have on what happened and the role of the Bookfair collective.
We were, until recently, members of the AF who did not sign the initial statement that was issued by Edinburgh AF and signed by two other AF groups, nor did we support the statement issued by other campaigns and organisations. We did not want to respond immediately as there are so many issues involved and emotions are strong. We hoped that after some time we could give a political assessment of the situation rather than just a knee-jerk reaction based on our emotional response to events and statements from other groups. Whether this is in fact possible is another matter.
Firstly, it is important to outline the political tradition that we are part of. We call ourselves class struggle anarchists or anarchist communists. We are a distinct tradition within the anarchist movement and have always been critical of other currents in the anarchist ‘movement’, including liberalism, individualism and anarchism as a life style choice. Our aim is to create an anarchist communist society. This can only be done by the mass of the working class (broadly defined as all those who have to sell their labour power) developing an effective revolutionary movement that overthrows class society, the State and all forms of authoritarianism and oppression, where people take control of society and their lives and can live co-operatively, without inequality and injustice and with freedom to be who they want without coercion. It is not just a question of overthrowing capitalism as an economic system but also the other oppressive structures and ideologies that are an integral part of the current system.
This goal has proven to be remarkably difficult. Most people in the working class, though suffering under the system and often critical of it, are still reluctant to join us in building a revolutionary movement. And, within our own class, there are major divisions that are the result of centuries of social systems and ideologies such as patriarchy, racism and the colonial legacy, hostility towards those who go against the norm in terms of sexuality and gender. This is why we support oppressed groups to organise autonomously. However, we still need a united movement. The big question is how do we actually build a united movement when such serious divisions exist and in which many are suffering at the hands of other working class people, including people within the anarchist movement itself?
Our answer to the first issue is that we need to make sure as anarchists we are directly involved in struggle, in the workplace and the community. Without being part of working class struggles we cannot hope to convince people that a revolution is both desirable and possible. In addition, we need to be explaining to people what anarchism is, giving possible ideas of what a future society might look like as well as give an anarchist analysis of what is going on at the moment. We cannot get anywhere by staying within our own ghettos, relating only to people who agree with us and writing for social media sites that are only read by the already ‘converted’. The tendency towards practices that are inward-looking, destructive, self-referential, etc is not revolutionary. You need an outward-looking, expansive, genuinely inclusive approach that accepts degrees of difference if you want to change the world – or simply save your local library or support a group of workers in struggle.
Our answer to the first question influences our answer to the second one. We need to be fighting against patriarchy, eg for reproductive justice and against domestic violence, and against bigotry of all kinds that leads to discrimination, bullying and violence, from within the working class. We need to challenge how capitalism and the State create, use and reinforce any oppressions that they can make use of. However, we need to do more than this- we also need to challenge these ideas and practices within our class. The key thing to stress here is that the people we are talking about are still our class. Yes, there will be some who go over to the other side and became major obstacles to social change, eg those who become fascists. Nevertheless, we still have to see the majority of people as basically potentially on our side or we will never have a revolution and create the kind of society we want to live in. This was the mistake of the Bolsheviks (amongst others!), thinking that they could impose a social system on people.
This task is enormously difficult as we are all, to some extent, prisoners of an all-embracing ideology that we are often not aware of which means everyone will bring with them into a working class movement, and more specifically an anarchist movement, a range of prejudices and practices that are incompatible with creating anarchist communism. So how do we address these issues without treating the people we are working with as enemies in the same way as the ruling class is our enemy?
In recent years, within the anarchist and general activist movement, there has been an increasing amount of people called to account for their actions and beliefs. This could be seen as a positive thing- oppressed groups are gaining confidence to speak out and not willing to put up with unacceptable behaviours from those they are working with. However, what could be seen as positive has now become a hindrance to positive engagement with people whose actions are unacceptable in some way.
Using the concept of safer spaces (again potentially a positive development) more and more people
are ‘called out’ and, rather than dealing with problems in a more informal and personal way, are put through accountability procedures that in the vast majority of cases don’t lead to a desired outcome where the person is reintegrated into the group. Instead, much resentment is created. Often news is spread through social media- ‘outing’ the person who has been accused. The social media gossip machine comes into play and the person is ostracised and treated as an ‘untouchable’. It is not a way we should be treating people who are our comrades and not the class enemy. If a movement or organisation is too inward looking, there can even be a tendency for people to look for examples of inappropriate behaviour that they can expose.
The intentions behind the various policies that have been put in place are usually based on a sincere desire to try and eradicate oppressive behaviours in the movement. But the end result has become an oppressive, authoritarian system in itself, resembling the Cultural Revolution in China in which Red Guards (guardians of the revolution) set out to expose ‘reactionary elements’. The way they went about it involved humiliation, emotional and physical abuse and even death for the accused. People were afraid to speak out and people denounced their neighbours and workmates and even their own family. This is certainly not something that is compatible with the way we envisage an anarchist communist society.
Events at the Bookfair
The women who came to the Bookfair to distribute leaflets against the Gender Recognition Act certainly came to provoke a debate and ended up negatively disrupting the Bookfair. Helen Steel in her support of their giving out the leaflet (though she herself did not write it or hand it out) has been criticised. However, the reaction of what can only be described as a mob is completely unacceptable. Keeping in line with what we argue above, no one of our comrades should be treated as the class enemy and be intimidated physically or emotionally. Helen has been a comrade and an active class struggle anarchist, involved in campaigns and struggles for decades. At the Bookfair itself she was involved in giving two meetings and personally has been under serious attack from the State. This does not mean that she was right but she should not be challenged by a mob. If people disagree with her views on transgender issues, then there are other ways of expressing them. And this leads on to the next question. What exactly is a correct line on transgender?
Increasing numbers of people are questioning their gender identity and seeking to re-identify as the other gender or to reject all gender labels and refer to themselves as non-binary or gender-fluid. However, the way the debate is often framed is, ‘there is no debate and it’s not up for discussion’. In other words, there is only one ‘correct’ position with no room for a nuanced understanding, and the trans activists and their ‘allies’ in the anarchist and other political scenes hold exactly that position. However, it’s worth pointing out that not even all trans people agree with this ‘correct’ position. Yet anyone who disagrees or attempts to take a nuanced view is labelled a transphobe or a TERF which means that they immediately move to a ‘beyond the pale’ status where they are the enemy. Therefore it is perfectly acceptable to hurl abuse, physically evict them from spaces and send death threats.
We acknowledge that within the wider feminist movement, there are some deeply offensive views and comments with regards to trans women that can only be described as hate speech. At the same time, to disagree even slightly with the view that transwomen are women in the same way as those who were born female and have been socialised to be women is often seen as hate speech. Clearly, it isn’t. Trans women and those born and socialised as female often face very different challenges which may need to be dealt with in different ways, even sometimes separately. To acknowledge this is not ‘transphobia’ and doesn’t make someone a ‘TERF’ (although we are aware that such ‘difference’ is made a point of emphasis and weaponised by some of the more unpleasant elements in the feminist scene). The choice seems to be to accept, without question or nuance, the view that transwomen are women or be moved to the category of enemy that is normally reserved for the likes of fascists, rapists and capitalists.
It seems that most people prefer, therefore, to just keep quiet. This situation is toxic. We should not be in a situation where people who are all struggling for a better society are unable to have open and comradely discussions about their views. It may be difficult but it is essential if we are not going to tear ourselves apart.
The statement written by Edinburgh AF and also the Open Letter signed by a number of other groups not only supported the actions of those who sought to physically evict Helen. In fact, its main purpose seemed to attack the Bookfair organisers. There are many serious problems with these statements. Many points were already addressed in the reply from the Bookfair Collective. Here we will discuss the political issues with the statements.
Firstly, again we have a situation where individuals are ‘called out’ or denounced in rather aggressive and abusive tones, treating real people, most of whom are well known personally by many in the movement, as if they were strangers- strangers who deserve no respect or consideration for their feelings. And, these criticisms are made by people who have had no involvement in organising the Bookfair. Many of those signing statements are not anarchists and did not have stalls or meetings. It is not acceptable to make such a negative statement from such a position. People certainly can criticise, but it should be constructive criticism, recognising all the positive aspects of the Bookfair and offering to help to improve things. Now some are saying they will organise bookfairs; they will soon realise how very difficult it is.
One area that was criticised was the issue of security. People running bookfairs have many difficult decisions to make about having an open, public bookfair and maintaining security. You can draft all the statements and policies that you want but it is impossible to prevent anyone who is intent on disruption doing so. Last year’s disruption of the Syrian meeting was an example. The collective has tended to go for openness. They are a very small collective and would find it very difficult to ‘police’ everything that goes on or to stop individuals coming in. In order to stop any disruption you would need a very big ‘security’ force as well as know who you were going to stop going in. And before that you need to decide who can’t come in. The implication of the statements critical of the Bookfair collective implied that the collective should be checking any publication that was being sold or distributed as well as having a long list of banned individuals that different people find offensive. This would make for a very different atmosphere- very authoritarian. So it is not so easy to get the balance right.
There is also a serious political contradiction in the statements. The Bookfair collective was accused of racism. This referred to their ‘allowing’ slogans such as ‘religion is stupid’ as this might be considered offensive to religious people, many of whom are Black or Asian, it is racist. There are several problems with this. Firstly, as anarchist communists, and we assume other anarchists, we are against religion. This is because all religions are irrational, based on authoritarian structures and are one of the main ideological supports for patriarchy and bigotry. One of the main anarchist slogans is ‘No Gods, No Masters’. Therefore, though ‘religion is stupid’ is not the best of slogans, we would expect literature and meetings exposing the problems of religion. And, being against religion does not make you a racist or a supporter of colonialism. The entire colonialist enterprise was crucially supported by both the ideology of religion and its practitioners, eg missionaries. The Bible was used to justify the slave trade and the incredible exploitation and repression of those colonised. Also, what does the common accusation of Islamophobia actually mean? If we are against religion then we are against Islam. Islam also is a religion originally spread by war and aggression, forcibly converting people as its jihadists spread out from the Arabian peninsular. And no one would agree with ISIS and the regime of brutality and reaction. What is important is that we think about how to go about making our points about religion. We have to make sure that we expose the general problems with religion without picking on just one, such as Islam which many racists do. Also, we may be anti-religion but we are not anti the people who are religious. Most people who practice a religion do not share the beliefs of the more radical right form of religions. This is why we would of course show solidarity with religious groups that are being attacked and discriminated against. In the campaigns and struggles we are in we will often be working with people who are religious. It is not the place to engage in attacks on religion. But that doesn’t mean we can’t do general propaganda against religion and support those who are experiencing repression because of it.
Given the sentiments expressed in the statements, it is surprising that they are so supportive of religion. Certainly Christianity, Islam and Judaism would not be particularly supportive of men and women changing their gender. Patriarchy and distinct gender roles are a key part of all of these religions. However, they would not ‘call out’ religious believers or they would then be accused of being anti-Semitic, racist or Islamophobic!
This contradiction is illustrated by the incident at Goldsmiths College a few years ago. There was a meeting organised by the secular society with a woman speaker from Iran. She has rejected Islam and was explaining the difficulties for women in Iran and the problems people have in rejecting religion. One would have thought this would be someone anarchists and all those fighting patriarchy would support. Instead of white European anarchists and feminists parachuting in and telling people what to do in a particular culture, the speaker was from the culture and was fighting religion and patriarchy from her own experience. This meeting was severely disrupted by the Islamic society, invoking the college’s ‘safer spaces’ policy. This is not surprising but what was surprising is the amount of support the Islamic society got from the Feminist and LBGTQ societies, as well as from other anarchists in the usual internet exchange. So we have anarchists supporting oppressive ideologies and practices in order not to be called ‘Islamophobic’!
The main point of this statement is to stress that we have to keep in mind what we are actually fighting for. In the current period, with the world threatened by capitalism-fuelled climate change, wars and conflict, repression, nationalism and religious bigotry, immense suffering for vast numbers etc etc, we cannot afford to be fighting amongst ourselves. We would argue that creating a fundamentally different society is the only way out of an extremely serious situation: we would call this society anarchist or libertarian communism. Of course, we must stress all of these issues will affect certain groups more than others. That is why it is important to base a strategy and an analysis on an awareness of the way capitalism and the State amplify and reinforce systems such as patriarchy and racial oppression. We have to take into account the diversity of the working class and different experiences different groups and individuals have. Nevertheless, it is still necessary to come together effectively in order to have any chance of overthrowing the current system and creating a new society.
This means that it is vital that we work out ways of overcoming serious divisions within the working class. These divisions are not trivial or secondary to class. However, without an overall class analysis which sees us united as a class against a ruling class and a system based on exploitation and power, it is too easy to get isolated and immersed in one’s own particular situation. The end result is a narrow political outlook, intense and bitter conflict (as we have seen) and a working class so divided that it is ineffectual.
We need to think about how we can create such a united working class that at the same times takes oppressions within society and the class seriously. We believe that this would involve a critical look at the current political culture which is increasingly authoritarian and inward-looking.
One key way of doing this is to get out of anarchist/activist ghettos and become involved in campaigns and struggles in both the workplace and community. Those of us who have been involved in community campaigns for example Residents Associations, fighting evictions or demolitions, saving markets etc find that we are working with a diverse range of people. We will not agree on a range of issues such as migrants and borders and the role of women in society and belief in religion. And, we would certainly find that many would have very conservative views on sexuality and gender. However, by working together with a common aim (and not on the internet!) there are opportunities to informally discuss many issues and explain our anarchist ideas on these subjects in a non-aggressive way. Also, many of the people involved in such campaigns and groups will not be the usual university-educated and/or white activists. Instead, we all get first-hand experience of different views and perspectives, offering first-hand experience of what we pay lip service to with the pious statements about building a movement that is more diverse, often couched in obscure, political language.
A second important point is that even when we are engaged in important struggles against particular oppressions we must keep in mind that there is a bigger picture. It is not just a question of fighting an individual’s behaviour or attitude. Oppressions have their basis in a whole system, within structures and institutions. Adopting a wider perspective is important within the political movements themselves. Your male comrade may be acting in a sexist way, the white activist may not appreciate the impact of colonialism and racism on struggles and feminists may not understand the issues facing trans people but ultimately they are struggling for the same thing you are. In this way we can perhaps find less aggressive and authoritarian ways of dealing with oppressive behaviour and ideas within the movement itself. Keep in mind how you would handle unacceptable behaviour amongst workmates or in a residents association. An aggressive, ‘call-out’ approach, humiliating a person on Facebook or banning them from spaces, would not be acceptable and could completely destroy any chance of your struggles succeeding. (Obviously, there are times when actions may be so extreme that banning people may be necessary but we have to make sure that this action is carefully considered.)
We need to take a critical look at the language we use. The tendency has been to come up with a label for a viewpoint that we don’t agree with. This is usually labels like ‘racist’, fascist’, ‘sexist’ as well as ‘TERF’, ‘Islamophobe’, ‘middle class feminist’, ‘identity politics’. It is an easy way of dismissing the other viewpoint without actually engaging with the issues. This behaviour is found throughout political movements as well as in our daily lives. Even the practice of shouting abuse at the class enemy, eg scum or wanker, though immensely satisfying, does not actually help explain our views to the rest of the working class. What is needed is a very practical and thorough discussion of what the views and practices are and then if there is disagreement, the counter-argument can be explained clearly and logically.
We also need to think about the use of the internet. The tendency to be aggressive, to denounce, apply labels and be quite abusive has escalated with the use of the internet. Unfortunately, it seems a large percentage of anarchists and other activists spend a large part of their political activity on forums and Facebook. These mediums make it much easier to inflame conflict rather than resolve it. Again, we need to come out of ghettos, and the internet is a kind of ghetto as people are only communicating with certain people within the activist milieu. Instead we need to be working together on activities, having discussions and socials and in general getting to know people who we never see but only exchange abuse with.
It may sound melodramatic, but in many ways the fate of humanity depends on the ability of anarchists to get their act together and begin to build an effective revolutionary movement. We would like to work with others who want to do the same.
1st January 2018
Resignations from the Anarchist Federation
We are a significant number of Anarchist Federation members, including all surviving founding members, who resigned from that organisation on 17/12/17.
This was due to disagreements over the recent political direction of the AF. These disagreements came to a head over the differences in responses to events at the London Anarchist Bookfair in October.
We disagreed with the statements put out by Edinburgh AF and the ‘Trans Action Faction’. We put forward an alternative statement for discussion which was received with extreme hostility and uncomradely behaviour from a vocal minority. We were no longer able to work in that environment.
Those of us who have left the AF are re-grouping and re-organising in early 2018. We will focus less on what is essentially a small, vague anarchist sub-culture, but instead, will re-orient towards an outward looking, wider working class politics.