This site started to collect notes from a series of workshops about how the capitalist system works. The idea was to discuss the economics and politics of capitalism — and so how we can destroy it — in a way that could be widely accessible. This is work in progress, and comments and suggestions would be appreciated.

Look at the pages in the main menu above for recent versions of the workshop notes. Very soon (writing in June 2014) they will be published together as a book called ‘Capitalism: what is it, and how can we destroy it?’

You can download the current edit of the book text (no pictures) here as a pdf: kaput NEW 2014

You can also still download and print out an old version of the book which we made into a printed zine back in 2012. Though the new version will be much expanded and improved if you want to hang on.

kaputvol1 (workshops 1-4 of old version)

kaputvol2 (workshops 5-7 of old version and further reading list)

Kaput all-in-one

New book coming soon …

The new book version of the workshops on this site will be called ‘Capitalism: what is it and how can we destroy it?’ It will have all the stuff from the old zines plus new chapters that expand on the idea of capitalism as a culture (not just an economic system), and discuss how we can destroy the rotten system. As always, everything will be available to download freely here.

You can download the full text of the new book as a pdf now, though it’s currently just text without pictures or layout, and still needs more proofreading. Comments or suggestions for the final version are definitely welcome.

kaput NEW 2014



How can we destroy capitalism and make new worlds of anarchy and freedom?

Notes for a workshop we will be giving on Friday 30 May 2014 at Newport Rising in Newport, Wales — and also the final chapter of the new book.


First let’s get one thing straight. We don’t have the plan. We don’t think there is “a” plan. Capitalism was not made by any individual, group, party or conspiracy with a plan, and it won’t be destroyed that way either. It is far too big, complex, uncoordinated, fast-changing and unpredictable for any plan to grasp. Maybe a conspiracy with a plan can topple and take over a state, but one thing we should know by now is that taking over a state will never destroy capitalism. It will be destroyed as the result of many acts by many individuals and groups, scattered in time and space, who may all have very different plans of their own. Though certainly they can confer, coordinate, copy and learn from each other.

So all we can do is make our own plans, alone or with friends and comrades, for our own actions, which we hope will contribute in some way to destroying capitalism. We will share a few ideas that we find useful in thinking about our plans. Perhaps they will help some others too, or spark some fruitful discussions.

1. Capitalism can only be destroyed by other cultures

If all banks, markets, capitalists, governments, policemen, and the rest of them disappeared overnight, people would recreate capitalism tomorrow. At least in many parts of the world where capitalist cultures have become deeply engrained. This is the story of all the ‘successful’ revolutions of the last century. We have incorporated capitalist values, desires and practices right into our bodies. To destroy capitalism, we need to have other ways to live instead.

2. So we need to make new cultures

An aim in every plan and action, then, is to develop and deepen, strengthen and spread new cultures that allow us, and those around us, to live freely. For us, this means: a culture in which we aim to live without dominating others or being dominated, free of hierarchy and oppression of all kinds. That is: an anarchist culture. That is what we dream of, that is what we try to live.

3. Social war

We don’t believe that an anarchist culture can coexist with capitalist cultures. We don’t believe that it is possible, today, to escape capitalism and create a utopian retreat in some hidden corner. Capitalism is an endlessly invasive culture that will leave us nowhere to hide. In any case, we won’t be free in any utopian retreat, while we know that others remain dominated and oppressed. In any case, capitalism is rapidly destroying our whole world. So if we are to make cultures that can survive and flourish, they have to be cultures that stand and fight, and can become powerful enough to destroy capitalism.

So what we are talking about is war. Social war between opposing cultures. Not democracy, ‘consensus’, or a rational public debate. ‘Reason’ and democracy are tactics that capitalist elites use in certain situations. Right alongside them they use other tactics from tear gas to torture cells to cluster bombs. We’re not going to win by smiling sweetly at the cameras.

4. Create and destroy

Being at war, we need to think in two ways at once: how to create, strengthen and defend the new cultures we are making; and how to attack and destroy the capitalist structures that threaten us. We can’t have one without the other. There is no point making cultures that will be easily wiped out. There is no point just attacking capitalism without also building cultures that can flourish and take over.

So, when we make our plans, we keep this twofold aim in mind: to strengthen and grow our cultures; to weaken and destroy the enemy.

This idea, that our struggles are at the same time creative and destructive, has always been at the heart of anarchism. We are fighting both for freedom and against domination.

5. Diversity of tactics

What kind of strategies, tactics and actions can work for this twofold aim?

Capitalist elites regularly use torture, imprisonment, indiscriminate killing, and other tactics of terror and cruelty. But using these methods wouldn’t strengthen and grow our ways of life: they would destroy and poison us, turn us into twisted copies of our enemies. Similarly, if we’re trying to get away from hierarchies, bureaucracies, bosses, leaders, elections, central committees, paid officials, market exchange, alienated labour, and all that shit, then the last thing we want to do is set up organisations that replicate these features. To make cultures based on mutual aid and solidarity, without hierarchy and domination, we need to live these principles in our practices right now.

Our basic criteria for thinking about strategies, tactics, plans or actions flow directly from the twofold aim.

** Will they help create and strengthen the kind of cultures we want?

** Will they be effective at weakening and destroying capitalism?

These are ‘our’ criteria, they flow intrinsically from our own aims. They are the only criteria that matter. What don’t matter are ‘external’ criteria or judgements from other value systems that have nothing to do with our cultures. For example, it doesn’t matter:

** What schoolteachers, journalists, politicians, judges, cops, or other pundits and enforcers tell us is right or wrong, moral or immoral, legal or illegal.

** What the fears and social anxieties we’ve incorporated tell us is right or wrong.

** What supposed revolutionary dogmas, authorities and gurus, whether they quote Marx or Gandhi or Bakunin, tell us is right or wrong.

6. Dangerous desires

Why talk about social war between cultures, rather than just ‘class war’? We do think that the idea of class struggle can still be a powerful one. But if there’s a class war going on at the moment, it’s rather one-sided: the ruling classes beating up and murdering the exploited classes without much come back.

To destroy capitalism you need the desire to fight. Being a ‘worker’ doesn’t mean you’re born with this desire, or acquire it automatically once you start working in a factory, or a call centre or coffee shop. Working in these places makes you bored and pissed off. But capitalism has found ways to channel that anger and frustration very effectively, providing consumer dreams and desires that feed off it. In the past, workers’ movements that fought against capitalism did so because they actively made new fighting cultures, with dreams and desires all of their own.

This is one really vital point to learn from the 20th century. People’s ‘material conditions’, our economic or social situations, our so-called ‘objective interests’, by themselves mean nothing for action. It’s all about our desires. As long as capitalism includes us within a system based on desires for consumer goods and social status, it has little to fear from us. The danger comes when the system no longer feeds those desires. This is what is happening in austerity Europe right now. Whether because elites can’t afford to any more, or because they think they don’t need to – or, indeed, a mixture of both – they are pulling the post-war rug of consumerism and welfare away from millions of people. Many millions are becoming newly excluded, dispossessed.

And this is a dangerous move – as it was, for example, when early capitalism dispossessed millions of people from the land. Why is it so dangerous? Because it creates an opening for people to develop new rebel desires that can shake the system apart. But it is only an opening, a possibility. These dangerous desires don’t appear from nowhere. They need to be actively developed, nurtured, and spread.

7. Propaganda

In the past, anarchists of most persuasions were very open about their desire to spread their ideas and desires to more people. They lived and loved anarchism with a passion, it was the ‘beautiful idea’, and they wanted to share it. And they knew that to have a chance of destroying capitalism they needed more comrades fighting alongside them.

So one of the most common activities of anarchists was what was called ‘propaganda‘. Propaganda by word: talking about anarchism, maybe informally in the workplace or the bar, or giving speeches, talks and workshops, or ‘soap-boxing’ in the street; and producing and spreading newspapers, leaflets, images, posters, books, etc. And propaganda by deed: examples in action of ways we can live and ways we can fight.

Nowadays many anarchists, and other anti-capitalists too, seem to have gone shy. We hide and guard our ideas rather than spread them. We write and talk only for other sect-members, about boring issues no one outside the ‘scene’ could care less about. Or we use esoteric language and jargon that no one outside the ‘scene’ can follow. We treat newcomers with suspicion, or interrogate them to gauge their ‘political correctness’ before we let them in.

Spreading anarchy doesn’t mean we become politicians or Jehovah’s witnesses. We are not looking for voters, followers, cannon fodder or cash cows. We are not trying to direct or control people, but to share our thoughts and desires. Some of the people we share with may become anarchists, or at least bring bits of anarchy and anti-capitalism into aspects of their lives. Then they will also be making and spreading new cultures too, in their own individual ways.

The strength of a culture is certainly not all a matter of numbers. As anarchists, we don’t want a mass of soldiers or followers. What we want are comrades: independent individuals who are making and fighting for anarchy in their own ways. But yes, it would be good to have more comrades.

8. Alliances

Anarchists have always been, and maybe always will be, a tiny minority. We are freaks, outsiders, with strange dreams and desires. We are not going to destroy capitalism on our own.

To destroy capitalism we need to work and fight alongside others who share some, but usually not all, of our struggles. We can make alliances that are more or less temporary or enduring, sharing particular projects and battles. If these alliances are to strengthen and grow our forms of life, they must work on the basis of mutual aid and solidarity, without domination. That means being open about our aims and intentions, not trying to lead or deceive others, but working as equal partners. We don’t aim to impose our ideas on others, but nor should we compromise our principles: if we can’t work together, we go our separate ways. (All this goes for working together with other anarchists, too.)

We think that the most powerful alliances for destroying capitalism are alliances with those who are dispossessed and excluded by the system, and have their own desires to fight.

9. Organising models

What kind of structures and practices of coordination should we use in our alliances? Here there are more important lessons from history. Mass formal organisations, like the syndicalist federations of old, have repeatedly degenerated into hierarchies and bureaucracies. The most alive and active anarchist, and other, movements of struggle today have moved well away from these models. We don’t need central committees, officials, secretaries, membership lists, elections.

This idea can sound very strange to people who encounter anarchism for the first time. And even to some anarchists. The need for centralised order is another very powerful myth. And not just a capitalist myth, it goes back through thousands of years of hierarchical cultures. Don’t we need bosses? (Even if we give them nice-sounding names, like recallable delegated officials.)

The best way to overcome this myth is to see it disproved in action. We’ve learnt from our own experience that we can coordinate much more quickly, securely, and powerfully as informal groups of comrades, who come together to form bigger networks and alliances when we need to for particular projects. And of course internet communication makes spread-out decentralised networking so much easier than in the past. All the most powerful actions and projects we have seen worked like this. Hierarchical decentralisation through markets is one of capitalism’s strongest powers. Non-hierarchical decentralisation, using network systems that we are still learning and developing, is one of ours.

Admittedly, what we maybe don’t know how to do – yet – is to scale up these network models to run major longer term infrastructure. For instance, if we had to coordinate a new Paris commune. Which doesn’t mean we can’t learn how.

10. Action

Ideas and desires only survive, live, develop and grow when they are put into practice. Capitalist desires are reproduced and nourished by being enacted, lived a thousand times over everyday at work, at home, in the market. In the same way, to make new ways of living means living them right now.

For example, a very important one, we can only develop fighting cultures that are able to destroy capitalism by actually carrying out attacking actions, right now. If we just dream and wait for the ‘great day’ when we rise up and make the revolution, meanwhile bowing our heads and accepting the system, we are training ourselves to be passive consumers and slaves. Only by acting can we break our habits of passivity. Acting to attack capitalism has to be right at the heart of the cultures we are making. It plays a number of vital roles:

** It weakens the enemy culture.

** It strengthens our culture by strengthening our values and desires.

** It strengthens our culture as we learn about what works and what doesn’t, and develop new kinds of action.

** It strengthens our culture by spreading our desires and practices: the most effective propaganda is to spread examples of how we can fight.

** It strengthens our culture by helping us form alliances: e.g., it shows potential allies that we are serious.

** It can strengthen other groups and allied cultures, as we learn from each other. E.g., if we act in ‘replicable‘ ways – using methods that can be copied and spread; and in general if we share information, skills and knowledge.

11. Terrains of action

Of course, in all these respects, some actions are going to be more powerful than others. There is no universal hierarchy of good and bad actions or projects: what matters is how, in a particular situation, what we do strengthens our own culture and weakens the enemy culture.

Here are just a few examples of different contexts of struggle in capitalism today:

** Classic tactics of workers’ movements have included strikes, factory sabotage, an factory takeovers or occupations. These tactics are still very present and powerful in parts of the world where industrial production remains a major part of life – for example, in China where industrial action is definitely alive and militant. We are not saying that they are not still relevant in countries like the UK where there is little industrial production, but they are not going to be the big front lines of struggle that they once were.

** In rural regions, and particularly highlands and other areas that are hard for states to control, rebel movements have been able to occupy and defend whole areas of territory. For example, these kinds of struggles are still going on in indigenous areas of the Americas, the Zapatista communities of Chiapas being the most famous example.

** But what about a city like London, which has neither industrial production nor mountains? It’s hard not to feel like this city is about the most difficult terrain you can get, with the world’s most advanced surveillance, policing and control systems, and a pretty solid tradition of apathy. But consider:

  • One of the key infrastructure nodes for global finance, with billions flowing through its capital markets every day. Concentrated in the centre of the city: the ‘Square Mile’ of banks and exchanges, and the hedge fund quarter of Mayfair. Heavily dependent on advanced technologies, an overloaded transport network, and compliant service workers.

  • The world’s biggest concentration of billionaires, oligarchs, third world tyrants and their offspring, arms dealers and warlords, and other blood-soaked bastards.

  • Thousands of refugees and exiles, often from war zones destroyed and depopulated by said bastards, many with their own strong traditions of struggle.

  • Surrounding the moneyed quarters, a population increasingly unemployed, excluded, dispossessed, gentrified, evicted, sanctioned, raided, beaten, tasered, and otherwise fucked over. After 2011, the lid stuck down with ‘total policing’ and 1000 prisoners, but for how long?

In some ways, London is a paradigm of many global cities. Not factory cities, but new mercantile hubs of financial power and money-laundering for ‘super-rich’ world elites. These cities are key nodes for global flows of wealth and power. Like mercantile cities of the ancient and medieval past, their vulnerability and fear is not industrial action but urban unrest, the ‘mob’.

These are just three examples of different terrains of struggle. Individuals and groups active in these zones might follow very different strategies and tactics, and develop quite different organising structures. But perhaps they can also learn a lot from, and inspire, each other.

And also: imagine what kinds of links and alliances revolutionaries could form between these different zones. For example, rural ‘free territories’ sometimes link up with and act as bases and zones of retreat and education for industrial and urban movements. (And the very existence of ‘free territories’ has a great symbolic and inspiring power.) Or what if workers in the ‘developing’ world find ways to coordinate actions with people in the global cities where their products are financed and the profits laundered?

12. Infrastructure

Effective action requires infrastructure and resources. To grow strong cultures we need:

** Spaces to meet, learn, think, plan, welcome new people. Historically many kinds of spaces have played these roles: cafes and pubs, meeting halls, free schools, social and cultural centres, festivals, fairs, camps, picnics (a big tradition of Spanish anarchism), hiking clubs, …

** Spaces to live, sleep, hide, recover.

** Resources for production and spread of information: printing presses, publishers, computers, servers, distribution networks, libraries, study groups, …

** Resources for action of all kinds.

** Transport infrastructure: e.g., vehicles, garages and repair workshops, cross-country and cross-border accommodation and travel networks.

** Communications infrastructure and secure networks.

** Means to live: food and drink and all the basics we need to survive and keep healthy and well.

** Health: access to doctors and medics, medical supplies and equipment, all resources to care for our bodily and mental health.

** Education, training, sharing of skills, knowledge and arts of all kinds, for struggle and for life.

** Music, art, dance, spaces for social life and community, places to get lost in nature, all things that bring us joy and keep us strong without dominating or exploiting others.

Well resourced movements are vital for action. To give a very basic example, in a city like London we have an everyday struggle just to survive. To pay rent and bills. Or spend much of our time just on finding, maintaining and defending precarious cold squats. To bring together friends and comrades scattered across the city. To make spaces that are welcoming for people outside our existing ‘scenes’. To find peace and beauty to replenish energy and soul in a desolate urban landscape. We can end up becoming burnt-out city drones, or we just abandon the field – leading to a transient turnover of comrades who don’t stay for long or make commitments.

What if we could have a culture with the spaces and resources to feed, nourish, house, equip, teach, support and inspire each other? Just developing some of this basic infrastructure could dramatically strengthen our movements in the city.

Again, there is no universal hierarchy of means that are best for doing this. The same criteria apply for actions and practices we use, for example, to find food, equipment and shelter. Do these practices strengthen the culture we are making? Do they empower us to attack?

Again, it is only ‘our’ criteria that matter. Not how a means is judged by external standards of the dominant culture. For example, whether it is legal or illegal. For example, many anarchists have found using illegal means to fund themselves both very effective, and a powerful part of creating cultures that challenge authority, obedience, and submission. Others create particular ‘cooperative’ structures for housing, employment, transport, etc. But we shouldn’t treat illegalism or cooperative structures as dogmas. In many situations it can be more empowering overall to stably own or rent a building, open a cafe that sells food, or do paid work.

In thinking about these questions, we can also look to what potential our practices have for future development. For example, as capitalism hits increasing economic and ecological crises it could get harder to live off work, welfare or plunder in big cities. It might make sense to become increasingly self-reliant, and get in place the skills and structures to do this. We could start developing these now.

13. Acts of creation and destruction

To sum up, here are a few things we can think about in terms of making, strengthening, and growing our cultures:

** Building infrastructure and resource networks, which create means and spaces for our cultures to flourish.

** Learning and training new skills, practices and structures.

** Studying, thinking, alone and together, experimenting with new ideas.

** Propaganda: sharing desires and practices with others, particularly those being dispossessed by capitalist culture.

** Making alliances: finding and getting to know other rebel groups and individuals.

The cultures we make need to be fighting cultures, which do not hesitate to attack and undermine capitalism. Acts of attack may involve, to note some very broad points:

** Attacking capitalist infrastructure and resource chains, means and spaces.

** Constantly outwitting, pre-empting and overcoming enemy tactics and attacks.

** Studying, examining and overcoming capitalist values, desires and practices in our own lives too.

** Negative propaganda: undermining capitalist values and desires, e.g., by exposing myths and lies, or by demoralising elites.

** Undermining capitalist alliances: helping divide elites and their allies and accomplices.

14. Dare

It’s good to make plans and think strategically about what we’re doing. But above all, it’s good to act. And the most powerful and surprising outcomes often come completely unexpectedly. Experiment, take risks, try new things, dare. If you don’t, what kind of a life do you have to lose?

Our hope was folly, but then revolutionists have their heads a little out of… equilibrium. And without this folly the world would never change, and revolutions would perhaps be impossible.”

Enrico Arrigoni, Freedom: My Dream.

Some influences and further reading

Where do the ideas in this chapter come from? Where do any ideas come from. A load of sources, some you can consciously identify, others you’ve unconsciously incorporated, and all of them digested and mixed up in your own ways. Once again, the texts noted here are just a few starting points for your own research. And there are definitely lots more we’ve missed out.

NB: almost all the texts mentioned here can be found at


Positive and negative

The idea that our projects are both creative and destructive, building and attacking, struggling at once for freedom and against domination, has always been at the heart of anarchism.

Bakunin made this point with his famous phrase ‘the passion for destruction is also a creative passion’ in 1842 – albeit in a rather abstract article laced with Hegelian philosophy of ‘the spirit’ (called The Reaction in Germany), and before he had actually become a revolutionary anarchist. The line immediately before is: ‘Let us therefore trust the eternal Spirit which destroys and annihilates only because it is the unfathomable and eternal source of all life.’ Destruction isn’t a end in itself, but necessary for new life.

The same point was made again and again by many ‘classical’ anarchists. For example, Emma Goldman in ‘Anarchism: What it really stands for‘ addresses two big criticisms of anarchism: it can never work; it’s just mindless violence and destruction. Her argument is very close to Bakunin’s, and also uses a grand metaphor – ‘nature’, this time, rather than Hegelian ‘Spirit’:

‘Destruction and violence! How is the ordinary man to know that the most violent element in society is ignorance; that its power of destruction is the very thing Anarchism is combating? Nor is he aware that Anarchism, whose roots, as it were, are part of nature’s forces, destroys, not healthful tissue, but parasitic growths that feed on the life’s essence of society. It is merely clearing the soil from weeds and sagebrush, that it may eventually bear healthy fruit.’

But this doesn’t mean focusing on negative destruction now, so we can have happy creativity in the future. Anarchism (usually) rejects this idea of deferred life. We want joy today, even as we’re in the midst of the war. Here’s how Kropotkin, for example, makes this point (in his ‘Anarchist Morality‘):

Struggle! To struggle is to live, and the fiercer the struggle the more intense the life. Then you will have lived, and a few hours of such life are worth years spent vegetating. Struggle so that all may live this rich, overflowing life. And be sure that in this struggle you will find a joy greater than anything else can give!

This attitude is at the heart of so many anarchist writings from before the Second World War. To see how anarchist lived it in action – and also thought about strategies for destroying capitalism, too – perhaps the best references are not theoretical texts but memoirs and letters. Just to name a few examples: Kropotkin’s Memoirs of a Revolutionist; Goldman’s Living My Life; the Prison Letters of Sacco and Vanzetti; or Enrico Arrignoni‘s autobiography Freedom: My Dream, quoted at the end of this chapter.

We seem to have lost sight of these points sometimes in recent anarchist writing. A very big problem here was that, as anarchist movements weakened after the 1930s, they became vulnerable to the spread of defeatist pacifism. See Peter Gelderloos – How Nonviolence Protects the State for an analysis of the ‘dogma of nonviolence’, how it has helped make anarchist and other anti-capitalist movements (at least in rich countries like the US) increasingly passive and submissive in recent decades, and so served well the state and capital.

In the 21st century some currents of insurrectionalist anarchism have swung right the other way, towards an attitude very largely focused on destruction. At least in part this seems to be a reaction to the passivity of previous generations of anarchists, anti-capitalists – and people in general under capitalism today. A destruction-focused view of anarchy is sometimes associated with the idea of nihilism. For a useful introduction to nihilist thinking, and its historical and current relationship with anarchism, see Aragorn! – Nihilism, Anarchy and the 21st Century.

The dispossessed

Alfredo Bonanno’s From Riot to Insurrection, from 1985, develops the idea of struggles of the ‘included’ and ‘excluded’ in contemporary capitalism. He looks at the growing gulf between those still ‘inside’ the ‘castles’ of capitalist consumption, work and welfare, and the dispossessed pushed out into the cold.

Wolfi Landstreicher is another insurrectionalist writer, influenced by Bonanno, who looks at class struggle in terms of ‘dispossession’ in The Network of Domination.

These two texts are examples of something that’s pretty rare: serious anarchist analysis of capitalism, how it is changing and so how our forms of struggle need to change too. Too often, as Jean Weir notes in her translator’s introduction to ‘From Riot to Insurrection’, anarchists have left ‘analysis’ to Marxists, or got caught up in the straitjacket of Marxist dogma themselves. In fact, even those texts by Bonanno and Landstreicher still have strong traces of Marxist thinking themselves.

‘From Riot to Insurrection’ was written in 1985. Though its core points are spot on, understandably some of its predictions now look rather off-target. To help bring the analysis of shifting ‘inclusion’ and ‘dispossession’ into the 21st century, again, we find Desert (by Anonymous) a good starting point. It adds two important elements: the role that ecological crises are playing and will play; and how these shifts are developing very differently in different global regions.

Informal organisation

In ‘From Riot to Insurrection’, and in other writings, Bonanno then goes on to argue strongly that only ‘informal’ organisation can destroy capitalism in its new forms:

If industrial conditions of production made the syndicalist struggle reasonable, as it did the marxist methods and those of the libertarian organisations of synthesis, today, in a post-industrial perspective, in a reality that has changed profoundly, the only possible strategy for anarchists is an informal one. By this we mean groups of comrades who come together with precise objectives, on the basis of affinity, and contribute to creating mass structures which set themselves intermediate aims, while constructing the minimal conditions for transforming situations of simple riot into those of insurrection.

The idea of ‘affinity groups’ has been central to anarchist practice probably from the start. The term ‘affinity group’ – or grupo de afinidad in Spanish – is often traced back to early 20th century Spanish anarchism. One of our favourite texts on the idea is from the 1960s, by a bunch of US rebels who called themselves ‘Up against the wall, motherfuckers!‘ it’s called ‘Affinity group – a street gang with analysis‘.


For one old-school anarchist approach to propaganda see Errico Malatesta – Anarchist Propaganda. Malatesta thinks that:

Our task is that of “pushing” the people to demand and to seize all the freedom they can and to make themselves responsible for providing their own needs without waiting for orders from any kind of authority. Our task is that of demonstrating the uselessness and harmfulness of government, provoking and encouraging by propaganda and action, all kinds of individual and collective initiatives.’

Malatesta also argues that ‘as a general rule we prefer always to act publicly’. Of course there are situations when we need to act secretly and clandestinely, but ‘cloak and dagger’ shouldn’t be the default mode.

‘One must, however, always aim to act in the full light of day, and struggle to win our freedoms, bearing in mind that the best way to obtain a freedom is that of taking it, facing necessary risks; whereas very often a freedom is lost, through one’s own fault, either through not exercising it or using it timidly, giving the impression that one has not the right to be doing what one is doing.’

As for more recent efforts, looking at it from the UK, one beacon still shines: the newspaper Class War. The best recent example, at least in English, of how to get across uncompromising anarchist and class struggle messages to a wide audience. Though not all that recent: there hasn’t been very much like this since the 1980s! See the book by Class War founder Ian Bone – Bash The Rich for more about the paper and the times.

Class War also shows that writing in an accessible style doesn’t mean you can’t do serious analysis and strategy too. A great example of this is Martin Wright‘s 1984 Class War article Open The Second Front. This is another rare thing: strategic thinking in the heat of the action, precise, direct, clearly written, incendiary.

Diversity of tactics

Leaving aside the idea of ‘the masses’, here is a resounding statement of much the same kind of point we’re trying to make, from the UK ‘libertarian socialist’ group ‘Solidarity‘ in their statement ‘As We See It’ of 1967:

‘Meaningful action, for revolutionaries, is whatever increases the confidence, the autonomy, the initiative, the participation, the solidarity, the equalitarian tendencies and the self-activity of the masses and whatever assists in their demystification. Sterile and harmful action is whatever reinforces the passivity of the masses, their apathy, their cynicism, their differentiation through hierarchy, their alienation, their reliance on others to do things for them and the degree to which they can therefore be manipulated by others – even by those allegedly acting on their behalf.’

One of the main ‘dogmas’ that can cause problems in thinking about types of action is the pacifist dogma of non-violence. To be clear: the point is not that ‘violent actions are always good’. That would just set up a new dogma in reverse. Once again, ‘good’ actions are those that empower and strengthen our struggle. Sometimes, these actions will involve the use of force. It should never fail to be pointed out that we face the much greater violence of the state, a murderous war machine. On these points see Peter Gelderloos: How Non-Violence Protects The State.

On issues of ‘legalism’ or ‘illegalism’, a text from 1911, Is The Illegalist Anarchist Our Comrade? by the individualist anarchist Emil Armand, still makes strong points. It concludes:

‘the criterion for camaraderie doesn’t reside in the fact that one is an office worker, factory worker, functionary, newspaper seller, smuggler or thief, it resides in this, that legal or illegal, MY comrade will in the first place seek to sculpt his own individuality, to spread anti-authoritarian ideas wherever he can, and finally, by rendering life among those who share his ideas as agreeable as possible, will reduce useless and avoidable suffering to as negligible a quantity as possible.’

To life

Enrico Arrigoni, who’s quoted at the end, was a wandering individualist anarchist who had an amazingly rich, joyful and active life, full of travels, love affairs, friendships, learning different trades, and participating in a dizzying number of revolutions. Again, a lot of the best ideas and examples for struggle are not to be found in theoretical tracts but in memories like his.


Austerity talk at Bristol Anarchist Bookfair 20 April

BBF Talk April 2013

Panel discussion topic: Is there an alternative to austerity?

What is austerity?

1) Public sector: cuts to government spending. But also private sector: wage and job cuts.

2) Austerity in Europe and other rich regions since 2009. Rest of world not suffering austerity, in fact the opposite: “developing” world continues to grow apace, and moves towards greater welfare compromises (e.g., Latin America).

3) But austerity now is very similar to neoliberal “structural readjustment” policies pushed by WB and IMF in 80s and 90s in “3rd world” and Eastern Europe after fall of Soviet regime.

Summary: more broadly, austerity = end of post-war consensus  in rich parts of world(high employment economy with half-decent wages and working conditions, and social safety net.)

What made the post-war consensus?

1. Class struggle. Ruling elites had to surrender some of their profits to keep workers from revolting.

2. Growth. What made it easier for the ruling elites is they didn’t really have to give up much of their wealth. So long as growth keeps up, can give some of the new stuff to workers, rather than redistribute existing wealth away from the rich. See this also in developing countries clearly today: e.g., welfare projects in Brazil, Venezuela, and through Lat Am funded not by redistribution of wealth but from rapid growth.

3. Neo-colonialism. Remember that most of the world never had a welfare state. Direct: how much of UK welfare state funded by colonial exploitation? Indirect: terms of international trade in which 1W (“first world”) countries dominant, could exploit resources and markets of 3W.

Why austerity? (1)

Immediate answer: policy decision by states. In poorer European countries, pushed on local govts by the Troika (EU, IMF, WB). In richer countries like UK, choice of local govt.

Partly genuine: within globalised financial markets need to reassure finance sector, investors, fear to lose rating, so raise country’s borrowing costs.

Corruption: revolving door, politicians and bankers all in it together.

Ideology: victorious neoliberal consensus, all main parties agreed. (Thatcherism).

Could a national government go against austerity within existing global capitalist system?

Ideology aside, if a country defaults it will be shut out from global financial system. But there are successful examples from Latin America: Argentina, Ecuador.

2 reasons Argentina succeeded:

1) more recently, local funding from Venezuela, so didn’t need to access global markets (and increasing strength of regional financial markets in the “South” means increasing independence);

2) cheap exports: because it had stuff to export.

What would Greece, or UK, export? More generally, both these points connected to fact that there is a global shift towards economies of LatAm, they are booming – but same shift is away from Europe.

Global shift.

1) Neoliberalism: from 70s on, expansion of global capitalist financial system bringing more countries into global market. Accelerated in 90s with fall of communism.

2) Outsourcing: manufacturing shifts to low-wage economies (see Exhibit A).

3) Financialisation: (in general) manufacturing no longer profitable in 1st world, but big profits to be made in financial sector, creaming profits off global trade through NY, London. 1960s: financial profits were 15-20% of all profits in the US; 2000s: they were 35-40%. (See exhibit B).

4) Consumer debt bubble: a) need people to keep on consuming; but b) workers in 3W too poor to buy shit, whilst in 1W unemployment up, wages stagnant; luckily c) booming deregulated finance sector with loads of money to lend. Solution: lend money to consumers, so they can keep on spending even though wages low.

Summary: (exhibit B) in UK, 7 million people working in finance, helping cream profits off the global market. Another 7 million people making them cappuccinos. Wages low, but consumer lifestyles funded by debt.

Yes, we have been living beyond our means.

Austerity politicians say we have been living beyond our means, borrowing more than we can produce. This is not true of public spending: public borrowing up not because of wasteful public sector, but because nationalised debts of banks. (See exhibit C).

But it is true of the consumer economy. Consumers in 1W have been living beyond our means. (See exhibit D). Our consumer lifestyles, the amount of shit we consume, have raced ahead, while we have produced less and less of the stuff we use. This stuff is produced in Asia and Latin America, by workers living in Dickensian conditions.

As the debt bubble collapses, we will no longer be able to afford all this stuff. More of it will be consumed in Asia and Latin America, as a middle class develops there.

So what now?

Could we keep alive the post-war consensus going?

Do we have class struggle?

Do we have growth?

Do we have neo-colonialism?

Answer 1: produce more stuff here. Rebuild manufacturing industry. Problem: no growth. In globalised economy, we can’t compete with low wages in 3W.

Answer 2: tax the rich. Redistribute from the rich elites to keep funding public services. Problem: no class struggle. (Another problem: globalisation, so easier capital flight.)

Answer 3: we can’t. There is no alternative to austerity, not within the globalised capitalist system.

So: choices for anarchists.

Choice 1: keep on believing in consumer/welfare dream, along with the remnants of the left, hoping that by some miracle that mass class struggle and growth will reappear.

Choice 2: give up on growth economics. There is more to life than consuming shit products. Focus on getting control of the resources to produce the things we actually need. Don’t mourn the collapse of the paternalist mega-state, but see this as an opportunity for creating self-organised communities of mutual aid, and ways of living that can survive economic and ecological crisis.


Exhibit A. Manufacturing wages per hour.

















US Bureau of Labor Stats. Data from 2010, except China from 2006.

 Exhibit B: Thatcherism under Blair



Financial, business service, and insurance

Retail, hotels and restaurants


4.2 million jobs







 (sources: Graham Turner; Office for National Statistics)

Exhibit C: government debt.

In 2007, the average government deficit (how much the state spends more than it receives in taxes) was 0.6% across the Euro countries. Governments owed on average 66% of their GDP. In 2010 the average deficit was 7%, and average debt 84%. The table below shows some of the changes in specific countries:

Deficit 2007

Debt 2007

Deficit 2009

Debt 2009



36.1 % of GDP




























Source: Eurostat / Economist Intelligence Unit estimates.


sub-prime collapse role-playing game

Aim of this game is to act out some of the relationships within the crisis.

Focus: the interconnectedness of different institutions and people, how we are tied to the financial system, the role different institutions played, the different financial instruments developed.

Props: Newspapers, String, fake money, AAA card, bike pump to pump the market,



Prospective homeowners

Mortgage seller (a banker) or a mortgage seller who liaises with the banks

Ratings agencies

Hedge funds, pension funds and other money market funds

Central bank


Deal out roles and props at the beginning?

The narrator can read out the action parts too as well as the narration parts just to make clearer what is happening.

~ end game~ discuss key points & any questions…

SCENE ONE: the Boom

Housing boom begins in 2001. Low US interest rates fuel the housing market. Predatory lending both by banks and mortgage dealers target the unbanked high risk population with the lucrative prospect of home ownership. They start giving out cheap mortgages to those who were seen as ‘sub prime’, meaning low credit worthiness and therefore very probable being unable to repay.

Actions: A mortgage seller waves around cheap money and offers mortgages encouragingly to the prospective homeowners. The prospective homeowner gives a sheet of newspaper to the mortgage seller. Newspaper represents a mortgage debt, meaning the promise that continual interest payments and the full value of the loan will be repaid at regular intervals. The prospective homeowner gets connected to the mortgage seller with string. This is repeated with a few people until it is visible that a few people are tied to the bank.

Narration card TWO: Securitisation

Narration: A lot of these mortgage sellers operated as long arms or fronts for big banks, others were more independent outfits funded through the financial markets. In any case, the mortgage boom was largely funded by the opaque method of securitisation. This process pooled all the mortgage debts from the prospective homeowners together, structuring them into bonds — mortgage backed securities — which were then sold on to other investors. (Explain a bit more here about how bonds work).


A banker comes and stands back to back with the mortgage seller. This mortgage seller passes on all the sheets of newspaper (i.e. the prospective homeowners mortgage debts) to the banker in exchange for money. S/he tears the newspapers into strips and mixes and matches different ones and crunches them up and creates several newspaper balls.



The newspaper balls represent mortgage backed securities: home-buyers pay interest on mortgages; their interest payments are mixed together by the bankers; and then banks pay on the interest to the investors who bought the mortgage backed securities. Another key player here are the Credit rating agencies. These are private companies that analyse the bonds and “rate” how safe they think they are, so giving the market confidence that the streams of interest will keep on flowing. Rating agencies get paid on commission by the banks whose products they will rate.


Credit rating agency now appears. The banker shows the newspaper balls to the rating agency person who looks at the pathetic crunched up newspapers and gives the thumbs up, showing ‘AAA’ card. This means these bonds are top quality investments, and act as a signal to other investors to buy them. The rating agency holds up high the AAA card for all to see. The banker gives the rating agency money.

Narration card THREE: Everyone gets involved

Narration: All the financial institutions, the big players get involved. These could be hedge funds, pension funds and other banks. So if we take the example of pension funds, they have collected everyone’s pension contributions into big funds and invest them in different financial instruments, like equities, bonds or other securities like CDOs. They see that these instruments are rated highly, and want to invest in them. They also buy them off the mortgage seller / bank. This allows the banks that originated the loans to earn more money and keep on giving out mortgage loans.

Action:hedge fund, pension fund, other banks persons appear, eyeing up the balls of crunched up newspaper. Seeing the ratings, they pay the banks to buy them. So some of the crunched up paper now goes to the different funds. The string is lengthened to include these people. Money cards and crunched up bits of paper are exchanged and going all over the place. More and more loans are given out to more and more homeowners. The bank itself will be buying these as well from other banks, so the bank too accumulates these. Accumulated debts go in a pile around people’s feet. This goes on and everyone is happy.


Narration card FOUR: Crisis


The music stops: housing market slows, and interest rates rise: prospective homeowners find it hard to meet mortgage payments. Rising defaults undermine the collateral base of the mortgage backed securities, i.e. the some of the strips inside the balls are now debts which will not get repaid. Asset prices are falling. Banks are feeling the beginnings of the credit squeeze and are now less willing to lend money against the mortgage securities.


A few of the prospective homeowners begin falling to their knees, pulling sharply on the string and making it uncomfortable or shaky for the bankers. Resize the crunched up balls: remove some of the strips and make half the size. Some bankers and fund people are still trying to borrow money from others, the other bankers / fund people refuse to lend them the money.


Narration: Things get really bad abruptly, when everyone realised they have accumulated numerous (trillions) worth of assets they no longer know if they can rely on. Parts of the income streams they contain are defaulting and they don’t know how much what they have is worth. They know in fact that they have become bad debts, and can no longer get rid of them, nor can they obtain new finance to repay old debts. Lehman Brothers collapses. The credit crunch is here. All the dollars are ‘hoarded’, they’ve got the money, they just don’t want to lend it.

Action: More and more prospective homeowners are unable to pay, also falling to their knees and bringing the banks to their knees as well. People should start pulling on their string and moving around to show how chaos in one area affects all others.


Narration card FIVE: Rescue

Narration: The central bank steps in and gives out money to encourage the bankers to lend to each other and for them not to collapse. The federal reserve pumps in massive amounts of liquidity to the banks. The banks use this money to hoard it. This fails to get the interbank market working again, and so the state comes in, bypasses the central bank and (part or fully) nationalises the banks.

Action: The central bank person comes in, and starts handing out dollar cards to the bankers who are on their knees, pumping air. Meanwhile home owners are falling flat on the ground. The bankers are still shaky and are on the verge of falling flat on the ground.

The state person steps in front of the central banker. The state buys major stakes in the banks, and therefore many of the crunched up newspapers get passed to the state, so the bankers now can stand up straight again. The homeowners remain on the ground. The state and bankers move close together, standing up.

notes from the dayschool

Plan of the day

1) principles of capitalism (2 hrs)

what is capitalism? group brainstorm 10 mins

what’s wrong with capitalism? 10 mins

production processes

example: stalinist central planning 10 mins

small groups: what does a capitalist production process involve? 20 mins

feedback and discussion 30 mins

short break (10 mins)

enclosures and the state: enclosures in history, and today (30 mins)

write up some examples of enclosures

what about enclosures today?

role of state

question to leave with: how are cuts related to enclosures?


2) crisis game (3 hrs)

– (during break, write up some figures on world GDP and post round walls)

brainstorm: what is crisis? – 10 mins

discussion of growth (and explain GDP etc.) – 10 mins

— sub-prime crisis (game part 1) 30 mins

clarify finance details, questions 10 mins

5 min break

— eurozone crisis (game game part 2) 20 mins +

questions / discussion 20 mins

5 min break

– discussion: — who’s responsible? / what are the causes? 1 hr

(could include — small group bit thinking about causes of crisis

then discussion: different levels of explanation; wage freeze; global shifts)

BREAK 20 mins

3) concluding discussion (1 hr)

questions from the day

positive end: alternatives? What do we do?


1) capitalism: an economic system

What does “capitalism” mean?

* Not just one “correct” definition.

* We will start by looking at capitalism as an economic system.

* Capitalism not “natural”, or the only system possible. Throughout history, many different ways of organising economics.

Organising production and distribution

Economic systems as ways of organising what a society or group produces, and how these products are distributed amongst different people in the group. Questions like:

  • Should we put our energy into making toys, or guns? How much time should we spend working, or playing? How should we use land, forests, oil, and other natural resources? Who gets to decide these questions? Who gets all the pies?

Example: Soviet Planning

Each individual soviet republic (Russia, Kazakhstan, etc.) had a planning commission. The central planning commission Gosplan, in Moscow, collected statistics about what resources were available in the economy, and then issued detailed plans for what was to be produced by different regions and sectors (minings, agriculture, manufacturing, etc.)

Other examples …

NB: Systems aren’t monoliths

So what is capital?

18th century: three “factors of production”: land, labour, and capital. Nowadays, land just another kind of capital. So: capital = inputs to the production process except for labour. E.g., factory buildings and machinery, raw materials like steel or electronic components. Neoliberal expansion: human capital, intellectual capital, etc. Finance Capital = “instruments” traded in financial markets = agreements about future distribution — IOUs – not physical things.

From cattle to capital.

So: capitalism.

No pure “capitalist system”, but many systems which are more or less capitalist. But some basic elements:

Markets. Decisions are made by interactions of buyers and sellers, using prices.

Commodification. Things that are bought and sold in markets are called commodities. Over the history of capitalism new kinds of resources have become commoditised, enclosed.

Private Property. The only people who can buy and sell in markets are those who have ownership rights over commodities. >> Property rules – laws, conventions, regulations about who owns what, and what they can do with their property >> Enforcement – the state.

Profits. Companies chase after profits, e.g. by producing and selling new commodities. Investors finance companies for a share of the profits.

Capital. To make profits you need to own capital, “tangible” or financial.

Profit and markets.

A car company needs to think about a number of markets. On the one hand, it aims to make as much money as possible in the car market. On the other hand, it wants to buy the inputs it needs as cheaply as possible in input markets.

inputs outputs

steel etc. = £2.5m

1000 cars = £10m

Electricity = £300k

machines (depreciation) = £500,000

labour = £700,000

Material Costs = £4m

Revenue = £10m

The thing is that, usually, the company will only get the revenue from its car sales after the cars are produced. But it will need to pay for inputs in advance. So it will have to borrow money to fund its production. This brings in another kind of (input) market – financial markets. Financial costs include interest and dividends on borrowing / shares.

costs revenues

Material Costs = £4m

Sales = £10m

Finance Costs = £2m

Total Costs = £6m

Total Revenue = £10

Suppose the car manufacturer got it right and it can sell all its cars for £10,000 each. Then it makes a profit of £4 million (Profit = Revenues – Costs). Governments may take some of that in tax. Out of what is left, the car company owners now have a new decision: how much should they invest in expanding the business, buying more up-to-date machines, etc.? And how much should they keep for themselves to spend?

Or: the factory can only sell 500 cars, or has to sell them all at half price, then it makes a £1 million loss. The input costs and interest payments still have to be paid. If the company can’t borrow more money to keep afloat, it will go bust.

2) enclosures and the state

The military and the monetary get together whenever they think it’s necessary”. Gil Scott Heron

1500s-1800s: Enclosures in England.

August 1842: The governments of China and Britain sign the Treaty of Nanking, after China loses the first Opium War. China agrees to allow opium imports, to declare free trade in five port cities, and to give Hong Kong to Britain.

January 1933: Adolf Hitler is elected Chancellor of Germany. Massive state spending on arms and infrastructure gets Germany back to growth and full employment. Similar policies also work economic wonders in Japan, the US, the UK, and elsewhere, ending the Great Depression.

July 1945: The Labour Party comes to power in the UK, introducing the post-war welfare state.

August 1953: The British government, working together with the CIA, organises a coup to topple the Iranian government headed by Mossadegh, which had nationalised the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company. This company was then majority owned by the British government, and was a major contributor to the cost of the British Welfare State – but paid little back to Iran. It has since been privatised, and renamed BP.

September 1973: General Pinochet seizes power in Chile from the left-wing Allende government, which had nationalised US corporate property in the country. The “Chicago Boys”, Chilean economists trained at Chicago University, are given control of economic policy. Their “neoliberal” programme of privatisation and deregulation will inspire Reagan and Thatcher.

November 2011: the leaders of two European democracies – Greek prime minister Papandreou, and the Italian Berlusconi – resign. Without elections, they are replaced by bureaucrat economists heading “technical governments”. With one mission: to push through the “austeritypackages” of cuts, privatisations and job losses demanded by Europe’s bankers.

What are “commodities”?

What things can be traded in markets? Can anything be a commodity? How has this changed? Over history? In your lifetime?

What roles does the State play in capitalism?

  • Enforcing property rights – legal system.
  • Regulating markets.
  • Acting as consumer/producer of last resort. (Military, welfare state.)
  • Original appropriation – creating new markets, enclosures.
  • Manufacturing consent – education etc.

Resistance to enclosure.

Make a list. E.g.,

England, 1549. Kett’s Rebellion. A peasant army of up to 16,000 rebels uprooted enclosure hedges, defeated a government army, and captured Norwich. Their first demand was that “no man shall enclose any more”. When they were eventually defeated, 3500 were massacred.

Chiapas, Mexico, 1994. The Zapatista Uprising. Around 3000 indigenous rebels launched an insurrection on 1 January. Their programme included communal village land rights, as well as rejection of NAFTA, (North American Free Trade Agreement).

3) some global trends

Global income statistics estimated (or “guesstimated”) by economic historian Angus Maddison. GDP per person (annual income measured in 1990 dollars).


1 AD 1000 1500 1820 1900 1970 2008
W. Europe 576 427 771 1194 2885 10,169 21,672
US 400 400 400 1257 4,091 15,030 31,178
Ex USSR 400 400 499 688 1237 5,575 7,904
L. America 400 400 416 691 1,113 3,996 6,973
China 450 466 600 600 545 778 6,725
India 450 450 550 533 599 868 2,975
Africa 472 425 414 420 601 1,335 1,780
World Average 467 453 566 666 1,261 3,729 7,614

Global income and growth stats from

Data Sources: IMF, World Bank, UN, OECD, CIA World Factbook, Internet World Statistics, The Heritage Foundation and Transparency International

  2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 (est.)
World $55,703 bn


$61,268 bn


$57,920 bn -0.52% $ 62,909 bn 5.01% $68,652 bn


Eurozone $12,372 bn


$13,614 bn


$12,476 bn -4.08% $ 12,192 bn


$12,938 bn


US $14,062 bn


$14,369 bn


$14,119 bn


$14,657 bn


$15,227 bn


China $3,494 bn


$4,520 bn


$4,990 bn


$5,878 bn


$6,515 bn


Greece $311 bn


$349 bn


$327 bn


$ 305 bn


$310 bn


World financial assets ($ tr)

1990 2000 2007 2008
Total assets 48 112 194 178
equities 10 37 62 34
private debt secs. 10 24 48 51
govt. debt secs. 9 17 29 32
bank deposits 19 34 56 61
World GDP 21.2 37 56.8 60.7

4) behind the crisis

Global inequality

Average hourly wages in manufacturing industry, as estimated by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. 2010 – except China 2006.

Germany $26.90
US $23.03
UK $21.14
Greece $10.38
Brazil $4.45
Mexico $3.93
Philippines $1.13
China $0.81

Recent employment figures from the UK (source: Turner; Office for National Statistics):

Manufacturing Financial, business service, and insurance Retail, hotels and restaurants
1997 4.2 million jobs 4.9m 4.9m
2007 2.9m 7.15m 7.1m


Wage squeeze, debt bubble (source TUC “Unfair to Middling” 2009, ONS)


Average annual real wage increase UK:

1980s: 1.9%

2000s: 0.9%


Wage share in UK (Wages as % of GDP):

1945-1970: 58-60%

1975: 64.5% (peak)

1996: 51.7% (post-war low)

2008: 53.2%


Household debt/income:

1980: 45%

1997: 91.1%

2007: 157.4%

anti-capitalist economics dayschool @ Cutscafe Saturday 13 October

Capitalism for anti-capitalists.

Saturday 13 October 11am — 7pm @ Cutscafe, Central London

check here for venue info:

A study day on the economics of the global capitalist system. Come along if you want to understand more about how the monster works, and think about how we can destroy it before it destroys us. No previous knowledge of economics needed.

Run by Kaput (anarchist economics education cell) and Corporate Watch (corporate critical research since 1996). Taking place at the Cutscafe, an occupied space building resistance to the cuts in the run-up to October 20.

Topics will include:

* what is capitalism?

*basic principles of capitalist economics

* the financial system

* markets and states

* global power and global shifts

* crisis

* creating alternatives beyond capitalism

This will be a whole day of study and discussion. There will be breaks.

Much of the day will be based on the study materials here:

See also: