TWO WEEKS TIL BRISTOL ANARCHIST BOOKFAIR 2014

This month will see the return of the (6th) annual Bristol Anarchist Bookfair on Saturday 26th April 2014 at the Trinity Centre, Trinity Rd, BS2 0NW. The following advert is from their blog:

“As politicians proclaim ‘economic recovery’, the gap between rich and poor in Britain continues to grow. It’s not surprising really. Another housing bubble, combined with Cameron’s ‘permanent austerity’ package was unlikely to do much for anyone but the top 10%. As we continue to bailout the bankers and the true extent of MPs (false) expense claims becomes clear, those worst affected by cuts are demonised as ‘scroungers’.

To shift attention from the real fraudsters, the right-wing press fuels immigration hysteria – another vulnerable group is criminalised, and the borders are increasingly fortified. Despite the recent floods and the scientific consensus on climate change, the state and corporate response is to extract more fossil fuel by ‘fracking’.

All over the world, resistance and experimental alternatives to this broken system are well under way. From everyday resistance enacted in the home, workplace or school, to more spectacular forms of direct action. From a thousand spanners in the works to a million spades in the earth, people are occupying, creating and organising new ways of living without hierarchy, domination and capitalism.”

Bristol-Anarchist-Bookfair-2014

They go on a bit, but we thought best to stop there, before you start to think it’s not a bookfair but a kind of hippie therapy sesh. As it is, there will be over 60 stalls, a large discussion room, 30+ workshops (the programme is up here)/activities, a Radical History Zone and the Permanent Culture Now marquee. There will also be freshly cooked food by Kebele Cafe & Anarchist Teapot, and some Kids space and outside adventure playground, too. And we at BARF will be there, too, of course.

So spread the word.bnr3

LEADERSHIP AND THE MYTH OF APATHY

Copied from Libcom/Phil’s Blog:

“Why aren’t we rising up? Whether the ‘we’ in question is young people, the British people, or the poor, this is a question asked an awful lot by both mainstream and leftist commentators. Austerity, job cuts, pay freezes, workfare, poverty, food banks, police brutality, political corruption – it’s all the rage, so why aren’t we all enraged?

There are two standard answers on the left: apathy and the lack of leadership. Either people are too engrossed in their own little world of X Factor, I’m a Celebrity and ‘I’m alright Jack,’ or they just don’t have the right hero to lead them into battle. The left wing rabble rousers of the past are dead and gone and we need people to replace them and rally the workers.

The trouble is, both of these answers are wrong. Moreover, they play into a convenient myth that helps the pale, stale males of the authoritarian left sustain themselves while doing nothing at all to stop the world around us decaying into shit.

PEOPLE ARE NOT APATHETIC

Well, sure, some are. Everyone knows at least one person who’s aggressively and proudly apolitical. They ‘don’t want none of that’ if anything halfway substantial comes up in conversation, yet it always turns out that they’ve internalised the narratives of the right wing press on how immigrants and scroungers are to blame for everything.

These people do exist, but to tout them as an archetype for the public-at-large and that’s just wrong.

There’s a level of truth, as with any stereotype. But when the world’s full of problems and there’s no effective counter to the dominant narrative (we’ll get to that) then of course you take the answers available. Even if they’re racist, classist and built on a foundation of lies.

But speak to the vast majority of people, and they’re not apathetic. They have opinions on political issues. A great many have a fairly solid unconscious understanding of class and their lot in life. Where they have internalised ruling class ideology, they’re smart enough to realise and change their mind if you engage with them and talk to them.

This goes against the labels thrown around, particularly by crackerjack hacktivists such as Anonymous and batshit conspiracy theorists but also by some on the left, such as ‘sheeple’ and suggestions that everyone not already out on the streets protesting is brainwashed. In fact, they’re alienated, exploited and oppressed under capitalism and this kind of activist mentality is toxic and does nothing to advance the class struggle.

SO WHAT ABOUT THE SUPPOSED ‘NEED’ FOR LEADERS?

Resistance doesn’t happen spontaneously. It happens when people organise, make conscious decisions and act upon them. This requires people to take the initiative, the sharing out of roles and responsibilities, and not a bit of education and agitation.

But while this could be considered a type of leadership – a ‘leadership of ideas,’ for want of a better term – it’s not leadership in the sense that most on the left mean it.

When the left’s kind of leadership emerges it’s easy to recognise – it involves representation by prominent spokespeople instead of empowering people to act for themselves. It involves executive power concentrated in the hands of a few. It involves a division of labour between ‘activists’ and ‘intellectuals.’ It involves a clear hierarchy with activity directed from above and disagreement of any kind condemned as ‘divisive’ or ‘sectarian.’

By and large, people don’t want this. When this kind of leadership emerges, if it fills a vacuum then it will attract people – at first. The vast majority of people will tire of being directed like pawns, treated as an expendable resource and having little to no say in decision making. This is not only why the leftist confessional sects such as the Socialist Party, SWP and so on have such a high turnover of membership, their cadres a minorrity next to their paper membership, but also why the fronts they set up lose momentum once the formulaic authoritarianism loses its novelty.

It’s also why movements which have arisen in the wake of the crisis have lacked this kind of hierarchical structure. UK Uncut and Occupy being the most commonly cited examples. In the fight against the Bedroom Tax, local groups acted for themselves and built up horizontal federations while the Trot fronts seeking to capitalise on the struggle floundered on the sidelines.

But there’s still a gap that needs filling. The Occupys of this world have their own flaws, the ‘tyranny of structureless‘ meaning that invisible hierarchies tend to emerge and those who seek to ‘represent’ others by imposing their own views on the collective don’t have to deal with formal representative democracy.

We need organisation and democracy, but it should be non-hierarchical organisation and direct democracy. Organisers should seek to give people the confidence to act for themselves, not merely to follow the organiser and keep them in their position for a long time to come. Officers should be mandated delegates with limited tenure, no executive power and the ability to be recalled by the mass. Democracy should mean making the decisions for ourselves, as in a strike ballot, rather than electing someone else to make decisions for us, as in a general election.

People as a broader whole are not apathetic, nor are they waiting for a leader. If we are led, then the destination is never freedom but a different kind of domination. If we want an uprising, then it requires hard work, patience, agitation and most importantly a desire to organise so that we can all fight for ourselves rather than being chewed up and spat out by any one of the myriad, toxic would-be leaderships that the authoritarian left has to offer.”

bnr3

THATCHER IS STILL DEAD, BUT THATCHERISM LIVES ON

Cut ‘n’ pasted from Bristol Afed‘s page, with the original article appearing on the 8th April:

Margaret Thatcher's death divides opinion across the UK

“Exactly one year ago today the working classes of Britain woke up to some of the best news of the year. The Iron Lady has finally bitten the dust! Margaret Thatcher was dead! Jubilant scenes were witnessed across the country as the people celebrated the passing of one of the most despised Prime Ministers in living memory. People literally danced in the streets with joy and despite the right-wing media’s attempts to demonise the revelers nobody with half an ounce of decency could fault them.

In Bristol a street party on Chelsea Road in Easton attracted hundreds of people and lasted until the wee hours of the morning. The celebrations were cut short however when the Avon & Somerset Police decided to turn up in riot gear without warning and beat the party-goers down the street, sparking a mini-riot that lasted for several hours.

Those involved in the riot claimed that this was: ‘one more battle in the ongoing class war that Thatcher escalated. It won’t be the last,’ according to the Bristol Post who spoke to two of them anonymous in an article published a couple of days after the event.

And heeding the decade old call from Class War for a ‘Party in Trafalgar Square, Saturday after Margaret Thatcher Dies’ thousands more descended on the square, the scene of the Poll Tax Riots in 1990, to celebrate despite the rain.

Goldthorpe fake funeral Thatcher effigy procession

Probably the most impressive display was in Goldthorpe, South Yorkshire. A former mining town, devastated by pit closures, the hatred for Maggie was strong. An effigy of Thatcher was paraded through the town in a coffin before being burned on a bonfire. Former miners turned out National Coal Board clothing and celebrated the death of the person responsible for the demise of the mining industry in Britain, and with it the livelihoods of thousands of people.

We cannot let the death of Thatcher be confused with the death of Thatcherism though. Several of her policies are still alive and well today and we still suffer the consequences of her neo-liberal regime. Maggie may be long gone but she lives on through her spiritual successors like Cameron and Osborne who are more than happy to carry the torch for their lost hero.

The working class communities decimated by Thatcherism are still under attack through austerity and the cuts; workfare and benefit sanctions; privitisation of the NHS and Royal Mail; rising living costs and stagnant wages; increased policing and the gradual eroding of our rights. And with UKIP’s recent success in the polls pushing the political discourse to the right, we are likely to see a string of policies so bad they’d make the Milk Snatcher herself blush.

What is the solution? Get organised! Only through the collective action of the working class can we hope to make life better for ourselves and each other. Life under capitalism will only get worse unless we stand up and say otherwise. But don’t just ask for reforms, don’t settle for a slice of the pie, demand the whole damn bakery!

By working together we can bring down this whole corrupt system and finally put Thatcherism where it belongs: in the ground with the rest of the neo-liberal ideologies. Its time to build a new world, a better world, built on the foundations of community, mutual aid and solidarity. We’re already working towards that world every day, why don’t you join us?

Rust In Pieces Maggie Thatcher
13th October 1925 – 8th April 2013

Just remember, only the good die young!”

bnr3

THE RICH SIP CHAMPAGNE WHILE WE’RE LEFT TO STARVE!

If you’ve got nothing to nice to say, then just steal what someone else has said – in this case, from Bristol Anarchist Federation:

toast the rich“The Huffington Post reported yesterday that the Houses of Parliament have spent increasingly large amounts of money on champagne under the current Coalition government. That should come as no surprise considering that there are eight bars serving alcohol to an extremely exclusive clientèle. But the fact that MPs are spending more and more money of bubbly while millions of people rely on food banks for survival, is sickening if not outright disgusting.

A Freedom of Information request revealed that staff at Westminster spent £275,221 buying in more than 25,000 bottles of champagne since the coalition took over in May 2010. The House of Commons currently has 582 bottles of champagne in stock, at a total worth of £6,513. What’s even worse is that the many bars frequented by these toffs are subsidised by tax payer money, meaning we have to pay so they can enjoy a cut-price pint!

Meanwhile the Trussell Trust, the leading charity behind the country’s almost 300 food banks (with three new ones opening every week), said they fed at least 346,992 in 2012-13 and the price of alcohol keeps on rising. Pints now cost 20 times more than they did 40 years ago, but of course that doesn’t bother somebody who lives off a tidy £66,396 of taxpayers money a year (and they have the audacity to claim about “benefit cheats”!).

While the rich sip champagne the poor are left to starve. The only solution is to supersede the state and start organising to meet our own needs. No party will ever give us what we need, because they are first and foremost a party of the rich, and the interests of the rich and powerful will always be against the needs of the working class. Voting won’t change anything, only direct action will!

In the words of Emma Goldman:

‘Ask for work. If they don’t give you work, ask for bread. If they do not give you work or bread, then take bread.’

I say let us toast the rich this year, with our choice of cocktails!”

bnr3

FREEDOM IS DEAD, LONG LIVE FREEDOM

Repeated from Trade Onion:

“In the mid 1990s when I was 18 and studying A-Levels in rural Lincolnshire one of my teachers told me about Freedom Bookshop and the newspaper.  It seemed a long way away at the time.  He had a stash of anarchist literature hidden away in the school and when he realised I was heading to London Guildhall Uni (now London Metropolitan Uni) he told me that the bookshop was just around the corner.  I ended up visiting a few times over the three years I studied there and always got a copy of the paper.  The last full regular issue is out now and the collective running the paper has taken the decision to operate online from now on.  That brings to an end a physical publication that’s been running since 1886.  Buy the last ever full paper issue!

The last issue has made me want more.  I’m glad we’re not losing Freedom as an outlet for anarchist views because whilst it’s almost impossible to print relevant news stories on a monthly basis (as things change so quickly and people tend to get their news with more immediacy) the comment and range of articles in that final edition are fantastic.  I’m not sure whether the new version will be updated regularly or have a set publication schedule but in whatever form it now takes I hope the collective seek to expand not just the range but also the depth of articles.  Clearly getting more writers will be key to the new version. People interested in contributing can contact them via copy[at]freedompress.org.uk

In the final edition there are articles on anarchist ideals regarding education, skip diving for food, civil rights, plus book and movie reviews. There’s also an article about evolutionary naturalism and social anarchism as well as updates from around the world.  It’s a good read.  I really hope Freedom prospers in its new form, not for the sake of nostalgia but for the sake of needing a journal that captures anarchism in its widest sense and one in which the ideas inherent in the philosophy and action of anarchism can be spread and understood better.

Here’s to the journal of anarchist socialism!”

bnr3

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