The Peoples’ Flag is Deepest Black

The first Mayday march, led by anarchist International Working Peoples’ Association activists Albert and Lucy Parsons and their children, took place down Michigan Avenue in Chicago on 1st May 1886 as part of the strike campaign for an eight hour working day.


On 4th May Albert Parsons spoke at the famous Haymarket rally, called to protest against 8 hour daypolice violence during that series of strikes, which ended in another police riot, killing and injuring scores of people. As a result eight anarchist trade unionists were charged with conspiracy to commit murder, four being hanged, one taking his own life, and three imprisoned – before being pardoned a few years later.

This gross miscarriage of justice was commemorated in 1890 by the first official Mayday parades, held all over the world and attended by millions of working people. On Sunday 28th April Duncan McCabe, of the Free University Dundee, will discuss those events and their impact on the wider anarchist and trade union movements in a talk in Aberdeen. The event will start at 6pm in the Belmont Cinema complex.

Before then you can join the nameless anarchist horde at the Tin Roof Collective, Bellfield552847_163611213800977_1603643297_n St, Dundee in Making for Mayday from 6pm on Wednesday 24th April. Banners, puppets and other arty stuff waiting to be given those vital finishing touches.

64187_163611280467637_1526088049_n Mayday 2013  in Dundee takes place on Saturday 4th and starts at Hilltown Park at 11am with the march heading down the Hill to a rally in Albert Square.

On the Sunday, 5th May, the Anarchist Federation in Dundee are holding a retrospective look at Margaret Thatcher and her political legacy. This discussion starts at 2pm in the Deaf Hub, Brown Street:

As the Iron Lady didn’t say, “Where there is Conflict let us build Community. Where there is Competition let us bring Co-operation.”

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The View From Balkello

A sharp, cold winters morning at the top of Balkello Hill looking from the Syd Scroggie Memorial Cairn south over rural Angus, Dundee sitting snugly in its natural contours almost hidden from sight with the Tay and North Sea beyond. A vista to be cherished, yet the silence and wildness of this spot, within three miles of a city of 150,000 people, punctuated only by the calls of a crow and the bleating of sheep on the lower slopes, could be lost forever by an ill-considered proposal to build a four lane bypass from Longforgan to Tealing.

Syd Scroggie may have been unsighted but he could ‘see’ his environment better than most and would surely have been appalled by the crass insensitivity of planners who could even consider such environmental destruction. The Sidlaws and the rural linkage between the hills and the city is a haven for wildlife and acts as a corridor connecting that hint of the Highlands that the Sidlaws represent, with the forest fringe of Dundee at Templeton and its nationally important red squirrel population.

It is not just squirrels of course that are iconic creatures of our local environment. Otters too are making a comeback and are been sighted around the many watercourses which cross the Howe of Strathmartine: otters whose habitats are protected by law from any disturbance. Are we really to construct a major trunk road right through their habitats?

Dundee Council seek funding assurances from the Scottish Government of 250 million pounds for this project which they claim is necessary to alleviate congestion on the Kingsway, Dundee’s original ring road dating from the 1930s. Traffic volumes have certainly increased dramatically since then, but the main cause of congestion in recent years has been the locating of superstores and retail parks at or near important interchanges.

From the Morrisons development at Linlathen, we can now add the new ASDA currently under construction at the Myrekirk roundabout to the list of developments that city planners have allowed to aggravate traffic problems. Plans for hundreds of new houses near the Swallow roundabout are sure to place further strain on the transport network.

Tayplan and other development planning documents are full of glib talk of the environment and sustainability, but the reality of much of their proposals is set to encourage further car use and the further despoilation of our landscape and environment.

Much of Dundee’s appeal, especially to the incomers buying high council tax banded properties that the council seem keen to attract to the city, is its proximity to a range of non-urban environments and the ease by which walkers, cyclists and others can find peaceful solace from the pressures of daily life. A bypass to the north of the city will take away so much of this amenity and diminish the attractiveness of the city as place to live and work.

Are the interests of those most affected, and the opposition of Angus Council and local Community Councils to be over-ridden by the juggernaut of intransigent Central Government politicians and civil servants? With the consultation period of a review of Scottish planning policy recently ended, it is to be hoped that local communities are to be given full democratic rights to effectively oppose and stop the dictatorial approach of outside and vested interests.

We must also ask who gains most from this proposal? The road is really necessary only to allow more greenfield land to be built upon to the great profit of private developers but at the expense of the ordinary taxpayer and our natural environment. This is effectively a public subsidy to private business and must surely be unacceptable especially at a time of cuts in frontline education and other local authority services.

It has been claimed that shaving 10 or 15 minutes from journey times between the Central Belt and Aberdeen is essential for our economic wellbeing, but studies are increasingly showing that the economies that gain most form this are those of the centre rather than the regions. We also live in a world of emails and Skype and it must be questionable whether in 10 or 20 years the need for rapid business travel will be as great as at present.

If the Scottish Government has a quarter of a billion pounds to spend on infrastructure in North East Scotland then lets improve the rail network to allow a shift of freight transport from road to rail, improve and make affordable public transport, alleviating both road congestion and climate change.


This article was written in response to a report in the Dundee Evening Telegraph published on Hogmanay that Dundee City Council were seeking finances to be made available from the Scottish Government to permit either the upgrading of the A90 through Dundee or to construct a bypass to the north of the city as proposed in Tayplan.





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Workfare, Tax Avoidance and the Secret State

Since the beginning of this year the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) have been refusing to respond to requests for information about companies using the various government workfare schemes.  In August, the Information Commissioner told DWP that names of companies must be released, but the DWP responded by saying that if they were to comply with the law then the entire workfare scheme would collapse.

Given that the £5bn scheme has been shown to be a complete failure, with success rates lower than actually doing nothing at all,  you might think that the Government would leap at this golden opportunity to rid itself of such a failed and unpopular policy. But no, instead the DWP will carry on regardless, and in order to keep its dealings behind closed doors for a wee while longer, has decided to appeal against the Commissioners verdict. 

In Scotland, the mandatory work programmes have only found jobs for 3,320 people ( approx 3.7% of those taking part) once their workfare placement ended. It is not clear how many of these jobs are actually ongoing or long-term.

Following Public Accounts Committee grillings of mega-wealthy multinationals Google, Amazon and Starbucks over tax avoidance, HMRC have  entered into private discussions with these businesses to determine just how much tax they would like to pay in future.

Starbucks, who have only managed to contribute $8.6million in UK tax on sales of £3.1bn in their 13 years of operation here, are now able to claim that they have reached a deal with HMRI which will see them make some changes to their accounting procedures. The detail however is not available to public scrutiny. Will all the corporation tax which should have been paid over these 13 years now be paid. We don’t know for sure (its a secret), but we can make guess that it won’t be.

We do know however that on Monday 3rd December, Starbucks changed their terms of employment for all workers. Cuts to paid lunch breaks, sick leave and maternity benefits were all to be implemented.

If you tax us we’ll undermine our employees rights rather than fractionally reduce our profits and the dividends paid to shareholders is clearly the company position.

It’s not just the state that loves secrecy of course. It’s how all global corporations get away with contributing next to nothing to the countries where they locate. Financial transfers  within the corporations are hidden in their internal accounts and are untouchable by the tax man. Starbucks (UK), for instance, buy ALL their coffee, at great expense, from that well known coffee producing country Switzerland. Actually they buy it (deliberately overpriced) from a Starbucks subsidiary in Switzerland which pays a 5% tax rate compared to a 24% tax rate if it was accounted for in the UK.

It is a profit maximisation scheme, as is their other internal scam which sees Starbucks(tax haven) lend huge sums to Starbucks (UK) thus allowing the UK bit of the operation to deduct interest on the “loan” from their UK tax liability. This is not only legal, it is the way that all global corporations operate. Its’s not an aberration – it’s the SYSTEM. It’s wrong, it’s immoral and it’s fundamentally responsible for the worldwide austerity programmes which hit the most vulnerable in our societies while $30trillion sits in offshore tax havens.

What can we do about it? Quite simply we must continue to Organise, Agitate and Educate. Pressure has been mounting over the last two years as more and more people question the entire structure of global capital. Direct action, by UKUncut, Occupy and Boycott Workfare campaigners, has been successful in naming and shaming big business. Lets keep up the pressure:

Demonstrate 1pm Boots Corner, City Centre, Dundee on Saturday 8th December.!/events/113882218773754/



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Report: Radical Independant Conference 24/11/12 – Glasgow

Anarchist Federation

Report: Radical Independence Conference 24/11/12 – Glasgow

With the continuous nearing of the referendum on Scottish independence, the nation’s future and heated debate on pros and cons of the topic have dominated the media and the everyday lives of those involved in politics. Particularly in regards to the rise of Alex Salmond’s government to power, it can almost be said that the political scene we are all used to –discussions on healthcare, education and international relations – has been put on the backburner for an indefinite amount of time. As the movement has gained momentum, the Scottish Left has been quick to ride the wave towards a more determinable future through the Radical Independence Conference.

The conference, which took place in Glasgow’s Radisson Blue hotel on the 24th of November, was structured along the themes of worker’s and civil rights in an independent Scotland, withdrawal from American-led imperialism through ties forged in the Special Alliance, NATO and Trident, and the concept of better representation through a decentralised republic and the internationalisation of its politics. These topics were divided into ten workshops, shared out between two sessions and a separate event dedicated to members of internationally affiliated organisations.

It was pleasing to notice the abundance of youth representation featured at the event. Young members were present from most of the major parties of the Left, and it was admittedly inspiring to see the emergence of cross-ideological platformism and consciousness over the political engines that for so long have laid rusting in the countryside of our history. The younger generation also appeared to enjoy a relative permeability into the higher circles of the organisation, with several such individuals being invited to opening speeches and constructive input in discussions.

Of the most positive impressions taken away from the conference, the value of input from the audience presented some insightful and equally radical opinions and, of equal importance, questions to pose to the chairs and top-end speakers hosting the workshops. The ‘Scottish Republic: What is Real Democracy?’ session, one of the two I had time to participate in, was hosted by various republican organisations based in Scotland. As the discussion evolved, the public was quick to respond to several concerns including the necessity of a decentralised republic based on grass root parish-level democracy and the desire for an alternative to any form of head of state.

A desire for an overall repatriation of decision-making powers to bottom-up sources of representation was also expressed in the second session I went to titled ‘Organising the 99 percent: building in trade unions and communities’, with those present pushing for the radicalisation of unions into more transparent political organs and their separation from dominant political parties.

Reforms of a radicalness in Scotland’s foreign policy equal to the push for change within the United Kingdom in its current form were also suggested in the wake of accounts by representatives hailing from different continents and nations of the world of their own struggles. Among the nations present were the Basque Country, Quebec-Canada, France and Greece. It was also encouraging to hear a push towards the reversal of positions concerning the Palestine –Israel conflict, proposing a boycott on the latter, and a significant step towards the demilitarisation of nuclear arms worldwide.

With topics ranging from national to international and individual to republican, the scope of the conference’s programme left the greater majority of the delegates positive, hopeful and inspired. Applauses erupted systematically in the last turns of the closing ceremony. There were, however, some fundamental concerns that were voiced by a significant number of the 800 individuals present on the day, the dismissal of which will likely jeopardise the potential the RIC could fulfil should they not be confronted with seriousness and dedication.

Whilst the need for a decentralised republic was frequently expressed, the impression was given that the participants hosted a degree of radicalism which exceeded that of the majority of the speakers present. Whilst the worlds ‘participatory democracy’ were uttered with frequency, they were not in coherence with elements of the audience which pushed for direct democratic processes. Criticism crystallised also around the impression that the event featured too many top speakers, and too little time for discussion – the first workshop I was in managed only ten contributions from the audience. There were also concerns as to the what legitimacy such an organisation could offer, when its political activity and issues raised are predominantly tied to the central belt of Scottish politics. A delegate with whom I spoke briefly at the end of the conference raised a point that, should Scotland demand independence from the Union on the premise diversity and sovereignty, so will the Highlands, Outer Hebrides, Orkney and the Shetlands demand the same of their mainland countrymen. A consideration of their communities’ needs and situation was all but missing in a conference dedicated to a future, radical Scotland.

There is also another question to be asked, one that was the dominant presence amongst the concerns raised by the general public. How will the RIC be able to challenge a neo-liberal dominated government and protect the communities and sections of society it is currently reaching out to? It will most certainly have to radicalise in accordance to the demands of its supporters, a move that will require a formal, ideological divorcing from the Scottish National Party. The speakers’ excitement at a supporting tweet by Alex Salmond in support of the conference received a reaction that was more polarised then the chains may have realised.

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A report from the Radical Independence Conference.

Over 800 people attending the RIC in Glasgow last Saturday certainly thought so. The feelgood factor amongst delegates was palpable as the vast majority  left the conference with a rekindled belief in the progressive possibilities of independence and a growing belief that a Yes vote in 2014 was within our grasp.

I have to admit that even aging cynics such as myself were somewhat swept away by the youthful enthusiasm and international solidarity so openly displayed, from platform speakers to those participants who had to stand around the fringes of the overflowing main conference suite.

After years, or is it decades, of fighting rearguard actions against the relentless assaults on democracy, workers rights and all the social advances of the twentieth century by the neo-liberal New World Order, we began to hear messages of hope and an expectation of a new dawn for the Scottish and international left. As much of Europe descends into acute economic collapse, social breadown and the immenence of fascism, Scotland has an almost unique opportunity to break free of the confines of the British State and the City of London and develop a radical alternative to austerity and capitalism. This emerging narrative of hope is a welcome antidote to the other much circulated story of defeat and pessimism.

One of the most important political factors to emerge was the placing of the independence debate within the context of the post-Seattle anti-globalisation and anti-capitalist movement. As Pat Kane has already expressed  there was a sense of a generational handover to this younger generation of activists for whom personal empowerment and anti-hierarchical processes are inherent in their makeup. For me, this was probably the most significant single outcome of the conference.

It was apparent though, at least in the workshops I was able to attend, that the top-table speakers, mainly drawn from the ‘official’ left were significantly out of touch with their audience and the most telling and incisive contributions came from the body of the hall.

In the Scottish Republic -A Modern Democracy workshop, four speakers were each given 15 minutes to say pretty much the same things whilst the grassroots sat on their hands. Some of their critiques of monarchy and Crown Powers were quite interesting but significantly none had anything to say about how a modern democracy could actually function. It was left to the contributers from the floor to raise the issues of community-led decision-making and participatory democracy, and, tellingly, to overwhlmingly reject an elected head of state as in any way a progressive or radical idea for a 21st century democracy.

The afternoon workshop session on Education and the Future of Work, despite having a six member platform, managed to allow more time for contributions from the floor which probably could have led to a real discussion but for a shortage of time as the day came to an end. Here too, ideas of direct participation in decision-making were expressed from the floor for both the workplace and the school. The need for education in making consensual decision making to allow the breaking down of hierarchies was also a general theme.

Clearly the grassroots are more politically advanced than their would-be leaders and have somehow imbibed an anarchistic analysis of political and economic structures. This undercurrent of thought should encourage us as anarchists to take an active role in the development of policies for radical independence and participate in local round table forums to develop the political ideas which will engage and enthuse all those currently dis-satisfied with politics and politicians of all sorts.







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Cooperative Developments


A Social Alternative to Capitalism – Workers and Community Cooperatives

You may not have noticed, but 2012 has been the International Year of Co-operatives. The Scottish parliament held a back-slapping session at the start of the year in which MSP’s of all parties made speeches in support of cooperatives and expressing delight at the 4% GDP (employing 25000 people) for which the sector accounts in the Scottish economy.

Even Tories found themselves able to highlight the role cooperatives play though they did focus on farmers machinery coops rather than the worker controlled variety.
Only Patrick Harvie of the Scottish Greens pointed out that such celebratory language was unsuitable until much more of our economy was based around home-grown co-operative ventures.

Much pleasure and delight was expressed, particularly by SNP MSP’s, at the recent discovery that the first cooperative was set up, not in Rochdale as formerly believed, but in Fenwick, Ayrshire in 1761. There the local weavers’ society began by buying and sharing materials and looms, but in 1769 branched out into food and “victuals”, first buying a sack of oatmeal wholesale to sell in smaller quantities at cut price. Savings were divided among the members.

In the early 1800s, the villagers took further steps towards local, popular democracy by establishing what became known as the “Fenwick parliament”: open meetings to debate local affairs held at the water pump, strategically located at a crossroads.

The co-operative sector in Scotland today is dominated by businesses within the Co-operative Group operating as member co-ops. This means that all members have a vote at AGMs and thus a say in the running of the business. Lets look then at Scotmid, an independent Scottish cooperative business which incorporates Semichem and The Fragrance House.

The Scottish Midland Cooperative Society was established in 1859 and currently has around 4200 employees. Although a wholly independent business, most of their purchasing is made via the Cooperative Retail Trading Group, who have shared values and principles and are at the forefront of ethical and fairtrade purchasing. Around 75% of Coop fairtrade goods are sourced from smallholder cooperatives in the developing world.

However, although Scotmid claim 48000 members, only a tiny percentage actually participate in General Meetings. Only 100 members attended the 2011 West of Scotland meeting and 60 the East of Scotland Regional meeting. Directors are eligible for bonuses and the company operates a traditional hierarchical business structure with vast differences in renumeration. They also have a large property portfolio including flats which are “very much concentrated within Edinburgh where there is a thriving private sector rental market”. (1)

Although a co-op in name, and somewhat less directly affected by the financial crisis than shareholder-owned companies, Scotmid do not really present an alternative business model which puts workers at the heart of the business.

Not all co-ops are the same however, and a good example of a workers co-operative (2) is the ‘Scottish Wholefood Collective Warehouse’  Limited, trading as Green City, which was set up in 1978 with four founder members. The work force has now expanded to twenty five members and turnover to £2.25 million.

As a workers co-operative, decision making is by consensus. There is a management team consisting of elected members from each department. It meets on a regular basis to ensure the smooth running and development of the Co-operative.

When needed, there is also a General Meeting where all the members are present. This deals with issues concerning the Co-operative as a whole and also gives everyone the opportunity to express their views on issues that interest them. Each full member is entitled to call a General Meeting when they feel there is a need. Such meetings discuss employing new people, acceptance of probationary members to full membership and policy decisions about finance and resources.

All members are paid the same hourly rate; most work part-time but for at least two days per week; hours are very flexible to accommodate childcare needs etc.; profits are shared on a pro-rata basis amongst co-op members.

Collectivist and non-hierarchical values seem to permeate the wholefood sector with Suma Wholefoods in Leeds, which employs more than 100 people, also operating “a thoroughly democratic system of management that isn’t bound by the conventional notions of hierarchy.”

But it is not just in the wholefood sector that workers cooperatives can be successful. The biggest cooperative business in the world is the Mondragon Cooperative Corporation which is the top Basque business group and is based on manufacturing. It has an annual congress with 650 delegates representing all the member coops. It has recently entered into an agreement with the United steelworkers of America with a view to setting up Trade Union Coops; an innovative initiative which may alter Trade Union reservations about cooperative business models.

Not everything is rosy in relation to Mondragon however, and concerns have been expressed about its increased global role and increasing salary differentials from 1 in 3 originally to up to 1 in 8 today.

A further form of cooperative is the community coop, which often seeks to provide services or infrastructure that conventional businesses find unprofitable eg Angus Broadband Cooperative Ltd which, working closely with the local authority, seeks to provide fast broadband services in the highland parts of Angus.

Energy purchasing cooperatives are also beginning to appear, and an energy buying coop for London was a cornerstone of Ken Livingstone’s campaign for Mayor earlier this year. The possibilities of similar schemes which could involve selling via feed-in tariffs as well as purchasing of energy from the grid must be considerable and could allow the less well off in our society to benefit from alternative, sustainable energy and making a contribution to fighting climate change and fuel poverty at one and the same time.

The cooperative sector is then well placed to make a major contribution to a sustainable economic future. Although the Scottish Government are encouraging coops through Cooperative Development Scotland , it must be ensured that new coops are based on genuine participative democracy and operate non-hierarchical structures. This will take time and training as concensual decision-making is a skill of which most of us have little experience.

(1) Scotmid – Past, Present and Future, George Davidson,

(2)  World Declaration on Workers’ Cooperatives

  This was approved by the International Co-operative Alliance General Assembly in September 2005. Below is the section on the basic characteristics of workers’ co-operatives:

 1. They have the objective of creating and maintaining sustainable jobs and generating wealth, to improve the quality of life of the worker-members, dignify human work, allow workers’ democratic self-management and promote community and local development.

2. The free and voluntary membership of their members, in order to contribute with their personal work and economic resources, is conditioned by the existence of workplaces.

3. As a general rule, work shall be carried out by the members. This implies that the majority of the workers in a given worker cooperative enterprise are members and vice versa.

4. The worker-members’ relation with their cooperative shall be considered as different to that of conventional wage-based labour and to that of autonomous individual work.

5. Their internal regulation is formally defined by regimes that are democratically agreed upon and accepted by the worker-members.

6. They shall be autonomous and independent, before the State and third parties, in their labour relations and management, and in the usage and management of the means of production.

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Freedom from Fascism: Seminar 2

This is the second part of the Free University, Dundee seminar presented at Dundee Together on 1st September 2012.

Tyranny at the level of human relationships

The impulse to control others

  • Where do we see it (at individual and group levels)?
  • What motivates it?

We see it in ourselves and others when we cannot bear to listen to others words and opinions, or stand their dress sense or accent, or tolerate their (harmless) behaviour. Our own discomfort and our own intolerance of discomfort drives the need to silence or abolish its source. An urge to strike and eliminate it rises in us, to restore peace and comfort. Mostly this is tempered by our civilised rule bound conscious thought which settles to attenuate it by ignoring, dismissing or game playing. We could call this the selfish destructive impulse.

This can be differentiated from a feeling of being unable to bear others’ suffering or tolerate harmful behaviour towards anyone. The impulse to eliminate the distress of others is the definition of compassion in Buddhism, and tolerating harm is damaging to individuals and society at large. We could call this the social or beneficial destructive impulse perhaps.

In one impulse to destroy harm is intended, in the other impulse to destroy the intention is to stop harm. Clearly there are historical value judgements about the two impulses. In one extreme you are a mad or bad, and the other extreme a hero. However society condones the selfish expression of the destructive impulse in the repression of many voices and by tolerating many harms with little question, such as wide spread abuse of women, children and disabled people by both individuals and by the state. The two destructive impulses (selfish or social) are not so easy to discriminate in practice. E.g. a political group wants to smash the state, this could be seen as beneficent in terms of liberating all society, or maleficent in terms of eliminating their personal irritant at the expense of others. So the subjective point of view defines the act, and no one but the actor can really know the motivation behind an action.

Often the two impulses are mixed within us. We can examine our own motivation by applying the litmus test of whether we are alienating, scapegoating and de-individualising a group of unique individuals or one individual, applying a label and wishing to eradicate their presence from our life; or if we are including each and every person in our hopes for a better world.

Labelling people comes from a wish for order and control and works as a heuristic to categorise the world. It is a method to limit uncertainty and impose a sense of safety in the unpredictable social world. We like to pigeon hole- we introduce ourselves as belonging to some group or affiliation so that people can place us and make predictions about how we should interact. We take cues about social class and address people according to the expectation of the social order, deferring to those we perceive as having greater power and influence. The affect is that of dehumanising society. We cannot sit as equals, simply as human beings in a professional context. We lose our capacity for self-determination and defer our accountability. The professionals we tend to appreciate are those who are confident enough to step out from behind the mask and be real with us.

We can subvert these dehumanising tendencies by refusing to outcast any person, despite how ridiculous, wrong, misguided or harmful their opinions or actions seem. We can keep together with them, not by agreeing, but by including them in our hope for a better world. Without allowing harmful behaviour, which harms the individual anyway, we can still accept and wish the best for the person. When we consider and hold in regard others opinions and choices, holding others self-determination aloft over our own need to be ’right’, ‘clever’, ‘successful’ ‘dominant’, then we are living in freedom from fascism.

This applies in parenting as well as we have to control harmful behaviour, but allow as far as possible the expression of the individual’s will, emotion and view. We stifle each other’s expression daily, with a withering glance, criticism, an absence of support and encouragement and with the imposition of social control through the policing of social norms. We become our own gaoler according to the degree we hold concerns about others acceptance of us. We police our appearance, our home, our food, our relationships, our friendships, our hobbies, our exercise, our health, applying the norms we learn from family, magazines and friends. These norms can make it very difficult to exist in the social world without a sense of failure in some respect.  We have a need to belong to a group and we sacrifice others to fulfil this need e.g. bullying. We conform to a startling degree (e.g. Zimbardo prison experiment, elec shock expt, Asch conformity tests e.g. position of spot of light). Fascism draws deeply on this tribal sense of belonging, often using mythology and symbol to awaken ancient sense of connectedness to a unified group. The feeling of power multiplies among a solid group, where unquestioning support is awarded to each member.

The norms are the operationalized form of dominant ideologies in a culture. They are the signs and symptoms of shared values woven into a story of how the world was, is, and should be. These stories, like our labels and categories, serve to reduce uncertainty and bring a sense of control to the unpredictable social world and a mechanism through which to order our knowledge and understanding. The human brain is predisposed to assimilate information in a narrative form with a beginning, middle and end, in linear sequence. We naturally use this means to learn, remember and transmit knowledge to each other, whether that is the story of our day, or the story of creation, or cautionary tales.

The dominant story in Western culture today is the rational scientific view. In this view the best way to work on any problem is to break it down, set an outcome or result, and measure the effect of our actions. This presumes a linear cause – effect sequence where there is only one variable. This is the scientific paradigm: that you can isolate one variable and observe its effect on another variable. This view is goal oriented and target driven. It presumes that control is desirable and possible. It is reductionist- breaking situations down into discrete factors.

The inevitable consequence is that other possibilities outside the story are marginalised and silenced. So, what if actions are not a one way street but are reciprocal? What if webs are a better description that agent and subject? What if the subject has consciousness and the process of making meaning and interpretation are involved? Hence qualitative methodology arose as a counter force to the rational-scientific paradigm.

In practice this mean heavy bureaucracy in designing and measuring targets, monitoring and controlling each input and output from a system. It means design of production and daily lives to the order of efficiency, the mostly highly prized value of the rational scientific doctrine. As Weber described, this process of rationalisation leads to the iron cage of bureaucracy and Ritzer described the McDonaldization of society, where standardisation and mass production economise and increase profit. The cost is to individuality, self-expression, creativity, and quality.

The dominant story is also culturally considered a male ideology. The qualities of rationality over emotion, of leading with the head rather than the heart, of focussing on outcome over process, on observable action rather than intention and motivation behind actions, on controlling nature rather than embracing it, of dominance and hierarchy over interdependent webs of relations. Rather insulting to the male of the species to be associated with all that, but that is what the (white) males in power have proclaimed as their values with which to shape the world and dole out funding.

When we listen to our feelings, live in our whole bodies not just our heads, notice our dreams and listen the subtle inner tugging’s of our soul, then we are living in freedom from fascism; When we follow the pattern of the daylight and seasons rather than 9-5, when we make our own products or trade with familiar local producers, when we enjoy the process as much as the result, then we are working in freedom from fascism.

All our needs to order, label, control and eliminate ‘problems’ serve to quell an unceasing source of unease. The sense of vulnerability and powerlessness of being a fragile tiny human in an unfathomably large world of complex, unpredictable and ever changing world; the inevitable dangers of disease, death and ageing that await us all, and at the root of it all, the sense of impending destruction of our identity as the sweeping hand of time destroys all or the disturbing glimpse of the truth that neither us, nor any of our mentally constructed world, is ‘real’ or trustworthy in some steady unchanging state. This existential angst prompts us to grab for a solid ‘truth’, a sense of what is right, a story that makes sense. It causes us to cut reality down to a manageable size and cut out the anomalies, reducing both uncertainty and diversity in our communities. Anxiety motivates people to try to control their social world by imposing rules and regulation, and by struggling for higher positions in the power hierarchy from which they can wield greater control. Angst motivates competition and oppression. If we want to free ourselves from our ‘inner fascist’ need to learn to tolerate and accept the deep abyss of existential uncertainty.

Footnote, this piece is intended as a critical reflection for a politically informed group and I would like to add that there are of course much more explicit examples of facism at a personal level in all abuses of power, which af course are most abundant behind doors (e.g. domestic abuse, child abuse, rape within marriage etc.)

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Freedom from Fascism: Seminar 1

Freedom from Fascism

This seminar was given by the Free University, Dundee at the recent Dundee Together Against Racism and Fascism Festival.

The title of this seminar suggests that freedom and fascism are opposites. We could spend a lot of time tied up in defining freedom so instead we’ll concentrate on defining fascism. Lots of people have given definitions and we will look at two. The first is from Noam Chomsky ; “fascism is state organised economies run in cooperation with big conglomerates“. This could be called macro-fascism and is the basis for our first seminar.

The other definition is from Wilhelm Reich who defined fascism as;  “The organised political expression of the average man’s character.” This brings the issue down to the individual, can be called micro-fascism, and is the basis for the second seminar.

In relation to macro-facism, lets examine three key defining features :

hierarchical authority and repression,

militarism and 

totalitarian capitalism .

Under fascism, the state controls the population in the interests of big business.

Where does the word fascism come from? The word is derived from the Latin fasces meaning bundles. In ancient Rome bundles of rods with an axe bound up in the middle were the symbols of authority of certain of the higher magistrates.  This symbol was adopted by the original fascist movement which emerged in Italy from the chaos and discontent felt at the end of WW1. This symbolism is also heavily used in the USA – above the door to the Oval Office for example.

It was in March 1919 that Musolini founded the first Fasci Di Combatimento (combat groups) and the movement contained in the most part  ex-servicemen like Benito Mussolini himself, a former Socialist activist who became increasingly nationalistic during the war.  Their early aim was to combat communism and a military style of organisation was adopted.

They began with early street-fighting tactics that grew to the point at which they could march on Rome and overthrew the government. Once in power the more left leaning policies towards republicanism (a state without royals) and anti-church (seen on the left as another institution for controlling the people) were quickly dropped. They introduced new electoral systems that created a dictatorship which prevented their new government from being overturned.

1. The Italian fascist government controlled workers through state trade unions and the motto No Discussion, Only Obedience was adopted, in relation all spheres of life (all home, school and government decisions) with a Leader cult .

2. They developed a Corporate State (in which the government control the social and economic conditions to help business thrive), a system of totalitarian capitalism.

3.  Although they embarked on a militarisation programme to promote their imperialist ambitions in  North Africa, the Italian fascists displayed little anti-Semitism, and avoided the master-race ideology found in Nazism.

The rise of the Nazis in Germany is something we have all been brought up with –  Master race, gas chambers , Nuremburg rallies etc – but let’s go back to the immediate post WW1 period, where the parallels with Italy in are clear. Discontented soldiers who had found a comradeship in war and for whom war had become their career formed bands of militias, ‘The Freikorps’ (Free Corp), which were used by the government to crush left-wing revolutions and revolts in Berlin, Munich and the Ruhr. The Freikorps adopted the swastika as early as 1920 for the attempted coup known as the Kapp Putsch, rejected government by the elite sections of society, whist violently opposing all forms of socialism or democracy. Many Freikorps veterans became the armed wing of the Nazi Party, the SA under Rohm.

The early National Socialist German Workers Party adopted anti-capitalist rhetoric, claimed to draw a distinction between creative industry and rapacious finance (characterised by the Jew), and combined this with an intense German nationalism. Indeed many within its ranks did have genuine anti-capitalist beliefs e.g. the Strassers and even Goebbels for a time. However the support given to Hitler by big business led to an internal power struggle in which the socialistic elements were purged.

Why did big business back Hitler? Pre WWI, Germany had economic problems due to their monopolised capitalist system, and these did not cease after the war. During the 1920s (Weimar period) foreign capital kept Germany afloat, but when the recession hit in 1929 the Western (American) capital fled. This left Germany in its original dire economic circumstances. The Nazi’s economic goal was the return of profitability for German business interests, rather than the interests of foreign capital that had fled before. This was achieved by;

1. breaking the freedom of labour to organise through crushing the trade unions

2. increasing monopoly of big German business corporations, and

3. the militarisation programme to achieve a base for imperial expansion. (War Keynsianism)

The development of a war economy creates a climate in which conscription of labour and other anti-democratic measures of social control appear acceptable (parallel anti-terror law). These measures further strengthened the position of the controllers of industry and finance. Indeed all war production, then and now, is effectively a public subsidy to big business interests.

The persecution of Jews and other minorities in this period were, arguably, merely a way of deflecting attention from the failure of the Nazis to fulfil their promises to their supporters in the middle classes, and cover up their promotion of the interests of their backers – big business.

Post-Civil war Spain too followed a similar pattern and it was argued by the Veblinite school of economists that all major economies developed fascist tendencies in the thirties with state coordination of unions and corporations and a big role for big business.  Everybodys fascist – it just takes different forms depending on the cultural patterns of the individual country.

This system then continued into wartime and Chomsky has argued that the USA, for one, then continued this type of economics in the post war period  by

1.  Controlling trade unions and stifling political dissent,

2.  Increased US corporate monopolisation ;

3.  Cold war militarisation – military/industrial complex – and  a new imperialism

The state then became a channel for funnelling public money into private hands especially the arms and related industries.

Now in the present day, at least from the time of the rise of the neo-liberal global hegemony from the early eighties, nation states have become less important as global corporations especially in the financial sector dictate economic terms through the vast and immediate transfers of money across the world seeking high interest, low tax environments and compliant workforces. The super-rich elite sit in their tax havens counting the $30trillion they’ve stashed away.

The Neoliberals claimed that we would be best served by maximising market freedom and minimising the role of the state and that the free market, left to its own devices, would deliver efficiency, choice and prosperity. However the state and the market are not, and possibly never have been, in perpetual conflict.

Rather , they have increasingly united around the demands of  the giant corporations. Big business has recruited the state to provide the essential prerequisites of their global power  interests.

In Britain corporations lobbied for privatisation programmes that replaced public monopolies with private ones. They also persuaded the government to create hybrid schemes eg PFI that guarantee state funding for business.

In the US, giant corporations persuaded Congress to remove the key regulations governing auditors and the banks leading to the financial crisis.

Big business has used its power to persuade the state to let it keep dumping its environmental (and social) costs on the rest of us and  with the financial bailout they dumped the economic costs too. As in Nazi Germany, and arguably post-WW2 USA, global profitability is also maintained by ;

 1.  breaking the power of labour – rights/pensions ; diminishing democratic choice

2.  increased monopolies – this time on a global scale

3.  militarisation – war on terror, huge public subsidies to arms industry

As George Monbiot, no anarchist, has recently pointed out, the neoliberal programme has closed down political choice and diminished democracy.  If the market, as the doctrine insists, is the only valid determinant of how societies evolve, and the market is dominated by giant corporations, then what big business wants is what society gets. A programme that promised freedom and choice has instead produced something resembling a totalitarian capitalism, in which no one may dissent from the will of the market and in which the market has become a euphemism for big business. “

It may be a bit more subtle and somewhat less brutal – depending on which part of the world you live – but isn’t this fascism – on a global scale. Indeed can fascism be defined as business as usual but with added brutality? Is it a necessity for the global elites when capitalism runs into difficulties and popular dissent increases?

If we are all fascist at a global economic level, are we all fascist at a personal level too. After all no system can exist without some measure of popular support. Are fascist tendencies present in all of us and are they perpetuated and if necessary amplified by the system of hierarchical control which is always in operation – in every country, in school, at work, and in the family? This is the focus of the second part of this seminar .


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Massive Music Line-up at Dundee Together


The Love Music Hate Racism stage will kick off around 11am with Hanney’s energetic seven piece band combining dirty electro beats, guitar riffs, thought provoking lyrics and rap to produce a unique sound the band themselves  label as “Hanney-Core”.

After the short march to the International Brigade Memorial at noon, it’s back to City Square for totally oary sounds fae the Cundeez, followed by a tasty reggae set from Lefty and Friends and a sitar/tabla set from Polsitar.

Also starring are The Twist, an exciting indie rock band.who have got the riffs,the hooks and the harmonies to get you dancin’ in the streets; Bi Tilo, a Scottish East Coast band playing Traditional West African Rhythms using a variety of African instruments, such as Djembe, (lead drum) Dunduns, (bass drums) Serouba, and the 21 stringed Kora; and a set from Kim Alexander and Albert Williamson.

There will also be Street Theatre.Performance art with Theresa Lynn launching a month-long project, ‘Dundee: What has it got in its pockets?’: Lizzy Ross colouring the square; and Calum Dwyer who will be a man in a clear acrylic box 2.5 feet square x 6 feet high, inviting people to write comments on the outside of the box….

With stalls, childrens art shack, Free University seminars, a peoples picnic and more, this Saturday in the Square promises fun for everyone to share in and help celebrate Dundee’s pround tradion of inclusiveness and anti-fascism.

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The Greek Crisis: Unspoken Consequences: From our Athens Correspondent

If anyone were interested in researching the mechanisms of the state in action, Greece would have been a primary candidate for a case study. The public domain from the mid seventies to approximately2008 had been the largest in Europe, whilst the realm of society and politics has been rendered  accordingly sterile by a two-party system described by Slavoj Zizek as a Pepsi-Coca Cola government – established to imitate the muted environment of the political scene of the United States of America – under the careful vigilance of PASOK and New Democracy. It is of no coincidence therefore, that the gradual unfolding of the crisis and its consequences were first brought into the open in a nation so extensively influenced by the state domain.

With the public sector accounting largely for health, employment, education and many other aspects of everyday life – though the quality and source of funding was at times questionable – the hybrid state-capitalist system has been systematically rendered vulnerable to neoliberalism’s destructive competitiveness.

Though Greece’s unemployment, social unrest and economic disintegration have been the most frequently discussed topic in connection with the Eurozone, it is now, three years and two hundred and forty billion euros worth of loans into the crisis, that the most severe symptoms of the economic crisis are coming to the surface. Public servants and some elements of the private sector have suffered a series of reductions in wages and bonuses, whilst the state-owned health, education and transport sectors have been largely stripped of their subsidies, resulting in one in five workers losing their job so far. From an external perspective, investment has been deterred and tourism, one of Greece’s main sources of capital, has been suffering an economic embargo by tourist offices worldwide.

One of the later, and very significant, indicators of a system in crisis has been the recent polarization of the political scene after the 2012 elections, echoing patterns observed during the Weimar period in Germany. For the first time in Greece’s history as a modern state, the oligopolistic structure of political governance has deteriorated following the dramatic decline in PASOK and New Democracy’s influence.

SYRIZA, the Coalition of the Radical Left, has seen a surge in popularity, whereas the right has taken a step closer to the realm of neo-Nazism currently represented by Golden Dawn. Caught between the threat of the Left Current of SYRIZA, composed of elements of radical leftism, and the possibility of a forced default at the hands of the European Union, the prime minister has gradually adopted policies more and more akin to those of the extreme right.

In a defence mechanism featured commonly against the domain of the left, the first act of the current government’s application of divide-and-conquer policies has been to dilute the fronts of class warfare that are becoming ever more distinct, as well as draw support from the far right with the unifying illusion of national identity. The topic of immigration has presented itself in the form of the ‘Xenios Zefs’ project, under which immigrants who are found to be without the correct paperwork are rounded up and sent to police training centres in the north of Greece.

In an attempt to target the mobilising populace, doctrines consisting of  ‘the nation-state, religion and patriarchal family’, three historically oppressive concepts, are being continuously propagated and enforced as a means of restoring the traditional values of national pride in the face of periods of difficulty. (This is also seen in Britain through Cameron’s ‘we are all in this together’ approach.) State-owned universities on the other hand, typically known to cultivate and more radical younger section of society, have been starved of teaching personnel and basic materials such as textbooks and examination boards.

The result has already begun to force political consciousness to choose between a conforming social democracy or revolutionary insurrectionist approach, the latter of the two being more easily compartmentalised with Greece’s increasing turn towards becoming a police state. Warnings that the left embraces bankruptcy and the destruction of society, has been increasingly present in the areas of media and propaganda. The Golden Dawn has benefited greatly from this evolving environment and is now threatening to show its true identity (1) and leave the parliament which it claims to resent and take to the streets.

Paying tribute to elements of fascism, from which it also draws elements in its programme,  it is laying the foundations of its future by setting up groups and networks in every part of Greece and taking policing into its own hands, often forcibly clearing out squats, attacking immigrants and philanthropic organisations and escorting citizens to shop and collect pensions.

An economic crisis in a capitalist neoliberalist system works in three stages. Firstly, it dismantles the industrial sector to bring the nation down to its knees. It then wipes out the workforce that generates production and consumes, shattering the middle class. Finally, it impregnates the staggering economy with high interest loans to shackle it in its current state and drain its capital. Greece is now left with two choices, to inextricably bind itself to a contract with no expiry date that feeds it enough to survive and no more, or default and suffer tremendous socio-economic consequences and an unpredictable future. If it chooses to follow the second, it will need a new system and new allies. The following months will tell the tale.

(1) A phrase used at their recent political gathering in Thermopylae


Golden Dawn (Hrisi Avgi): Headed by Nicholaos Michaloliakos, it is an extreme-right party, drawing elements from both Nazism and Fascism. Currently in parliament

New Democracy (Nea Dimokrateia): Headed by Andonis Samaras, is a conservative centre-right party which aligns itself with the European Union and the policies of the IMF, currently the leading party.

PASOK (Panellinio Sosialistiko Komma): Panhellenic Socialist Party, previously headed by Georgos Papandreou, is a social-democratic party that was one of the two participants in Greece’s two-party system, which headed the austerity programme in Greece.

SYRIZA (Coalition of the Radical Left / Synaspismos tis Rizospastikis Aristeras): Headed by Alexis Tsipras, is a platform party consisting elements of social democracy, and in its Left Current a combination of euro-Communism, left-Ecologism, Feminism, Leninism, Marxism, Maoism and Trotskyism. Currently the opposition party.




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