Red Black Green is produced by Paul Gravett, an anarchist, activist and writer. I have been writing about politics and society since the eighties, contributing to publications, producing leaflets, newsletters and papers for workshops. This is my first blog and it is appropriately published just in time for May 1st, International Workers’ Day, a traditional day of revolt, dissent and mischief-making!
Why now? Partly because writing and sharing ideas is what floats my boat. Fewer leaflets and written media are produced these days. But primarily this is a response to the current situation we are in. I am an anarchist who been very active in animal rights and very aware of the commonalities between them.
In my view animal rights needs libertarian ideas more than ever before. In the past 10 years the movement in Britain has suffered unparalleled repression. This country is not unique in this either – as animal liberation has spread across the world, so in its wake has followed a state and corporate backlash. Anarchism – with its critique of power, hierarchy and capitalism – can help us understand how repression works and how we can work to resist it.
The threat of far right and racist infiltration has grown as well. Attempts in the past to use AR as a vehicle for fascism failed. Now thanks to the internet, social media, low morale and fragmentation – and the naïve belief some hold that fighting for animals takes precedence over everything else- extreme right wing groups are trying to gain a foothold.
These problems don’t affect animal rights alone. Anarchism and the libertarian left also face them. This week The Earth First Journal published an article entitled “The New Face of the Radical Right” about Anarchist Nationalism. Sounds like a contradiction in terms, doesn’t it? But some on the so-called radical right are suggesting building alliances with groups such as Earth First! and Occupy Wall Street to spread an anti-state but also nationalist/fascist agenda.
Animal rights needs also needs anarchism because unfortunately those who should know better are now trying to push it in a statist and electoral direction. Over the decades politicians of all parties have lied and betrayed us again and again. It used to be the case that only the established, reformist national societies like the BUAV, LACS, CIWF, etc, advocated political campaigning. Sadly it is now some grassroots activists too. The last few years have even seen the emergence of animal-focused parties such as the Animal Welfare Party (formerly Animals Count) and the Animal Protection Party, which fought a few seats at the 2010 general election.
As elections loom nearer, politicians start crawling out of the woodwork to make promises on which they won’t deliver. We’ve seen this with the impending European elections but it will be even worse next year. UKIP, Tory, Labour, Lib Dems, Greens, any of them – let this be a forum to dissect and discredit their mendacious policies.
Does anarchism need animal liberation? In my opinion, yes! A philosophy which is based on removing hierarchies between people can’t ignore human domination of the rest of nature. Ecology and animal rights are no strangers to anarchism. Peter Kropotkin wrote Mutual Aid: a Factor in Evolution over 100 years ago. 19th century anarchists Henry David Thoreau, Leo Tolstoy and Elisee Reclaus were vegetarians and advocated animal rights too.
The greening of anarchism continued in the 20th century with anarcho-naturism, a society composed of vegetarian communes or ecovillages where humans lived close to nature. Though influential, it remained outside mainstream anarchism, which remained class-struggle centred, and was disparaged as “lifestylist”.
A key figure of the 20th century was Murray Bookchin who developed the idea of social ecology. He was opposed to lifestylist or primitivist anarchism and believed that technology wasn’t inherently destructive. Domination of nature, he said, was preceded by human domination. This was the beginning of class society, when those in power began controlling the means of production: “Just as men are converted into commodities, so every aspect of nature is converted into a commodity, a resource to be manufactured and merchandised wantonly.”
Bookchin is important as a conduit between class struggle and green anarchism and his theory of social ecology has influenced my views. I describe myself as a class struggle anarchist who understands that other forms of hierarchy and oppression exist too. Ultimately though it is class struggle that drives change and that means we will not see the end of capitalism and human and animal exploitation until the vast majority want it.
If you would like to know more about animal rights and anarchism, an excellent pamphlet I would recommend is “Beasts of Burden: Capitalism, Animals & Communism” http://www.oocities.org/capitolhill/lobby/3909/beasts/index.html or it can be bought here from Active Distribution for only 66p per copy! http://www.activedistributionshop.org/shop/in-the-spirit-of-emma/2557-beasts-of-burden-capitalism-animals-and-communism.html
Your comments are welcome!
To Anonymous Coward – there are all sorts of connections between human freedom and animal rights/liberation, and i don’t intend to get into a prolonged discussion on the issue.
Perhaps at the most fundamental level it’s about the issue of hierarchy. Destroy the concept of human hierarchy over other species and over nature , and all hierarchy within human society itself will inevitably be challenged.
On the other hand i could be talking bollocks – i don’t claim to have all the answers, or any answers at all! We’re all just fumbling and feeling our way through the darkness into an unwritten future!
Vegan Jelly on a Plate, Wobble off & Smash the State…
I like vegan jelly but not sure about the jelly analogy. Aren’t they rather nervous and timid beasts? If you’re wondering what the hell I’m talking about, it’s a character in a kid’s TV show called Ooglies that I watch with my son!
Couldn’t agree more Geoff! The animal liberation movement is in a state of disarray at the moment. State repression has led us directionless and impotent. We need to undergo a process of regroupment if we ever want to be efficient again.
Just look at The Bunny Alliance from the US for an example of what this might look like. They have been doing the hard work of networking face-to-face with animal liberation activists up and down the country to form new alliances and helping set up new groups. While doing this they also undertook the Gateway to Hell campaign.
Something like that in the UK would be breathtaking. Maybe the Animal Liberation Gathering in August could be the start of this?
I’ve noticed the good work that the Bunny Alliance are doing in the USA. Not sure about the name but they appear to be active and motivated. Would the same thing work here? Not convinced – every country and culture is different – but we can certainly learn from them.
The term “disarray” was actually used by somebody from the secret state (NPOIU I believe) and reported in a newspaper article in 2008. Perhaps that can be applied to anti-vivisectionists but what about vegan campaigning and the upsurge in activism for the badger cull?
Still, I get what you mean. AR does not have the sense of moving forward or momentum it had in the past. And direct action, especially of an ALF kind, is at a very low level. The reasons for this are complex but repression is definitely a key factor.
The Gathering is an obvious place to air these issues. And as its an international one we’ll hopefully have people from overseas who can share their opinions with us too.
Great to see this new blog up and running. For me, class struggle anarchism, without the animal liberation and environmental dimension, is only half the picture. So i hope this blog can do something to balance things up a bit. The animal liberation movement needs to regroup and reassess the situation. We need to chose our own ground on which to fight, and (perhaps apart from occasional large scale demonstrations) avoid face to face conflict with the massive power of the state.
Perhaps we need to get back to fighting for animal liberation generally, rather than just a few high profile (easily targeted) anti-vivisection campaigns. I mean no disrespect to the activists who have worked in those campaigns, and many of whom have done time (and are doing time) basically for straightforward protest activities.
Perhaps the chant needs to ring out again on our demo’s – “human freedom, animal rights, one struggle, one fight!”
Yeah slogans like that have an added resonance these days because freedom to protest is under the cosh. I can never understand those in AR who say human rights are irrelevant. If we don’t have them we aren’t going to be able to fight for animals. In my opinion many of these deluded people are middle class and haven’t had to struggle for very much in their pampered lives.
I also agree that the days of high profile anti-vivisection campaigns seem to be over. The movement needs to be rebuilt and I’ve always been a believer in decentralization – broad based local groups that draw support from their communities. By all means campaign against a lab if there’s one in your town but also do other things. Vegan campaigning is very important too.
And finally you’re right that class struggle without ecology and animal rights can be one-dimensional. But that doesn’t have to be the case. Fighting for your class doesn’t mean you ignore other issues. All are important and interconnected. By overthrowing capitalism and the state we can liberate ourselves, animals and protect the planet.
I do not understand this statement “Human Freedom, Animal Rights”, because I would have thought they were a bit at odds with one another because you have to have some strong laws in place to protect animal rights and some curtailment of human freedom in order to have animal rights. Please can you explain how else animal rights is possible, since most ppl are completely selfish and want to continue exploiting animals?