Author Archives: uamirishanarchism

Anarchism & Identity Politics.

This piece is intended to tease out the relationship between revolutionary anarchism and identity politics in the Irish context.


Identity politics will be synopsis-ed here as a set of political positions which aims to place feminist and intersectional politics as being of central importance within anarchist discourse and usually emphasising their equal importance to class politics.


Identity can be roughly defined as a repeated set of behaviours and cultural norms an individual(s) carries out in their daily life. This means that being working class, as well as being a material position in capitalist society, is also an identity. To call yourself ”working class” is automatically recognising the existence of identity politics, and placing yourself within that arena.

Similarly Irish republicans, or Irish anti-imperialists, recognise that identity, and the related ”Irish” identity politics, is of upmost importance when asserting their right to an Irish identity in the face of British occupation. In Ireland this takes many forms, from commemorations and parades held without asking for permission from either the British state or the Free state, up to and including armed resistance against the occupation to assert an Irish identity and an Irish republican one at that, in the face of harsh repression.


Suffice to say, that on the island of Ireland, identity politics is integral to all strands of revolutionary thought and practice.But how does it intersect with Irish Anarchist politics?


Traditionally Irish anarchists have placed enormous emphasis on working class identity and struggle, importing it from European strands of socialism and anarchism as almost the holy grail to revolutionary thinking and action. A revolutionary group or individual that did not have a strong, pro-active and positive position on trade union struggle for instance would be scorned for being ”ultra left” or even completely ignored for failing to recognise the central truth that is, ”working class” struggle–the great, main contradiction which holds the potential to rupture all of capitalist society leading to the birth of a new egalitarian one.

But is it really so?


Over 100 years ago during the Land war when economic warfare and struggle was widespread in Ireland, or in Spain, Italy or Germany during the 1st third of the last century when insurrections stemming from protests over food prices and working conditions could be ignited with a few well placed revolutionaries, maybe,  but not today, especially not in Ireland.


In fairness most Irish Anarchists have added on many identities, moving away from class struggle reductionalism, while maintaining class identity centrality. However this has been done without almost any analysis as to who are potential revolutionary agents and where potential revolutionary activity lies identifying who in society may be a potential revolutionary agent was, originally, one of the main aims of left wing intellectual debate and scrutiny. From this debate then, action could be organised around points of conflict within society around certain identities.


Marxists and anarcho-syndicalists placed emphasis on the working class as a whole to be the revolutionary agents, where the point of focus of conflict would be the workplace and economic struggle. Bakunin and his followers were more sceptical believing that those at the bottom of society and outside the traditional working class, the peasantry, bandits ect were more fertile groups for revolutionary activity. This difference of emphasis lay mainly in a differing view of revolution.Bakuninists, so to speak, viewed the revolution to be a destructive process and as anarchists, were sceptical of large scale formal organisations which may become organs of repression in the future. The Marxists and syndicalists viewed revolution to be less destructive with more tutelage from existing or newly created formal structures which would ease their way into a new world. At time and after Bakunin anarchists very cautiously made their way into unions in order to ferment rebellion and strike action through them. Wary at all times, even then, of their reformist and often conservative nature.


In todays Ireland strike action is out. A total of 10 industrial disputes were in progress during 2018 – involving only 1,800 workers. A revolution waiting to happen? hardly.

They were in areas from finance and real estate to transport and storage.
New CSO figures show it cost the state 4,050 days – the lowest level of disruption in 7 years.
Even with high profile strikes such as by nurses, there is no room for escalation or militancy. Union action is dead. Traditional working class action has been neutralised through social partnership, atomisation and the power of the bosses.So back to the main question, if working class as an identity no longer holds the key potential to rupturing capitalist society were does it lie in Ireland?


Womens struggle?Lgbt struggle? Unfortunately it is the opinion of the author that these can all be easily coopted into capitalism and utilised for maintaining capitalist normality. That is not to say we should all be assholes to each other in any way. Just that these movements do not offer scope for radical change.The repeal and marriage campaigns are probably the best example of this. Brought to the fore by a right wing government and utilised to create a shiny new Leo Vradakar brand of blue shirts these movements have little in reality to do with rupturing state capitalist society, or building the ability to do so.


So were is that potential now?

The environmental struggle is one of the most widespread and unfought issues alive today. Everyone talks about it but does nothing. It also contains the widest potential for direct action and militancy. The Shannon lng project, The Sperrins mining project, fracking north and south and numerous other small and intermediate projects which are open to sabotage and blockading. It is a campaign that goes to the heart of the structures of maximal profit capitalism. Radical anti-capitalism, direct action and environmentalism go hand in hand.


Anti-imperialism as a tenet of all struggle.

Ireland remains partly occupied up north and down south a gombeen counter revolutionary statelet remains in power. To maintain these states the most draconian laws in europe have been brought in under anti terror legislation, stronger down south than up north. Anti-imperialist campaigns, tied in with environmental anti capitalist campaigns could be built. A movement against International foreign multinationals coming to this country to take its resources, facilitated by an occupying imperialist state and its gombeen statelet down south could easily strike a cord with the Irish physce. These foreign multinationals are also plundering our housing resources, driving up house and  rent prices.


Housing.

While the scope for a national campaign here is smaller a campaign of direct action against multinational corporations, who have been employing imperialist loyalists paramiliatries down south for evictions could be tied in with and overall anti-imperialist and ecological anti capitalist movement. None of these things would be easy and all of them would mean a major strategic shift for anarchists in Ireland.

One thing the reader may have noticed from these conclusions is that it is not the identity that is associated with a particular campaign or individual that is important but the qualitative nature of the campaign activity,  whether it is militant or reformist.  An individual identifying as being a queer woman, for instance, may be involved in a militant housing, anti-imperialist or ecological action, it is not the specific identity of the individual that is important from an anarchist perspective but the militancy and therefore effectiveness of the action.

From this perspective action should unite us, and identity enlighten us to each others backgrounds, therefore building affinity and solidarity between us as comrades.

Chechen federalism and society.

This is a short overview of Chechen society from an anarchist perspective. The author does not believe historical Chechen society is a complete model for the future but believes there are lessons to be learnt from it.


The Chechens are the native inhabitants of the central North-East Caucasus. 
Chechnya- the France of the Caucuses, could historically be more accurately described as anarchist warriors of the caucuses, was an egalitarian culture, as opposed to republican culture, which existed during medieval times. Under the blows of repression and oppression ,the Chechen peoples launched a revolution leading to the birth of Chechen warrior culture.With the spread of gunpowder, Chechen society rose up against their local and foreign overlords to establish an autonomous, egalitarian and free nation. One were the land was held in common and ”Nokhchallah”, the chechen code of decency and honor took precedent.


The illesh, or epic legends, tell of conflicts between the Chechens and their Kumyk and Kabardin overlords. While some argue that the chechen system of self governeance was like a western style republican democracy, because of communal wealth ownership and autonomous links, it was more of a federation. The “tukhumtaip” system was similar in many ways to what war time anarchist societies were like, such as the free territory in Ukraine or the Regional Defense council of Aragon in Spain. There was little importance of a centralized judicial branch (instead local courts held precedence), and that teip functioned like provinces, with representatives being elected by teip as well as by region.


This insurrection and revolution, making the Chechens the “French of the Caucasus”, had a strong effect on the social and political mores of the Chechens. Chechen values based around democratic federalism, freedom, ideological pluralism and deference to individuality date back to this event. The Chechens’ homeland was the only territory in the Caucasus where feudal structures never took hold. They knew neither princes nor kings, neither taxes nor the force of the state. They were free farmers working their own land, and their only duties were to their reputation and that of their family and clan. The greatest moral virtue to which it subscribed was to defend one’s family, the tombs of the dead, the country and its liberty. Riding and the use of weapons was learned in childhood. All Chechen greetings contain the word “freedom”.


Chechen culture puts a strong value on the concept of freedom. This asserts itself in a number of ways. A large majority of the nation’s national heros fought for independence (or otherwise, like the legendary Zelimkhan, robbed from the nation deemed the oppressor in order to feed Chechen children in a Robin-hood like fashion). A common greeting in the Chechen language, marsha oylla, is literally translated as “enter in freedom”. The word for freedom also encompasses notions of peace and prosperity.

Chechen society was based around an ingrained form of social individualism. The individual was the base of society, from which arose responsibilities to the family, clan up to the nation. A code of honor and ethics meant that an individual could redeem themselves after wrong doings through constructive behaviour and particularly bravery in defence of the people.


The Chechen societal structure was built through many years of war and they continuously fought a defensive war against Invaders. This external pressure meant Chechen society forged and maintained its social individualism.
Society was democratic, meaning that as far as possible it was organised on the basis of self regulation, or autonomous individualism. Disputes were often settled locally with the aid of elected elders.


At each tier – the individual, the extended family (dosal), the clan (taip), the tribe (tukkhum) and the country (mehkh) – there was a council of elders to determine social and political affairs (although reputation was the decisive factor in the election of its members, rather than age). The system was founded on the code of common law, the adat, which applied throughout the Caucasus. It required respect for older people, women and children, hospitality and social justice. It also stipulated that nature should be protected, that animals should not be hunted while grazing, and that a community decision was needed to fell a fruit-bearing tree. It was also the basis for jurisdiction, blood feuding and all social matters.
The traditional Chechen saying goes that the members of Chechen society, like its teips, are (ideally) “free and equal like wolves”.


While capitalist society decrees that we must have respect for hierarchy (based on wealth, age, gender ect) and centralisation, it is an asocial social code of ethics. Chechen society stated that respect for the individual and their freedom was paramount, but we also owed to duty to safe guard the well being of each and the freedom of all. It is the inversion of western capitalist ethics and practice.


The Chenchen code of ethics based on earned respect, and warrior culture in defence of the downtrodden or for the homeland is something we can learn from. The federalist structure of society, which allowed flexibility but strength and unity in times of war is an outline for a revolutionary Irish society in particular.

Insurrectionary vs ”Mass” Anarchism.


This is the first in a short series of introductions to anarchist theory and practice. It assumes a basic understanding of anarchist theory, what it is, and what it isn’t.
Both Insurrectionary and Mass anarchism are tendencies within anarchist thought and practice, differing massively, below we lay out those differences.

Insurrectionist Anarchism can be summarised into 5 points.


1.)Generally illegalist in orientation.

2.)Focuses on direct action and the potential for escalation of events.

3.)Small scale, decentralised, Informal or minimal forms of organisation.

4.)Emphasises immdediate action and initiative over ”waiting for the masses”.

5.)Views revolution and insurrection to be a long term, but spontaneous process, insperable from one another from the beginning, but viewing the insurrectional process and capacity, as central to a revolutionary movement.
Points 1, 2 and 3 are all strongly interconnected, with the need for small scale, secretive organisation because of the nature of illegal direct action (it could land you in jail).

Mass anarchism can be summarised into 5 general concepts.
1.)Generally safe, legalistic in practical orientation, while often advocating for vague, ”direct action” politics.

2.)Focuses on reformist campaigns, building their democractic, open and mass (large scale) nature.

3.)Organised through open, legal, formal and (ideally) large scale federations involving many individuals.

4.)Very sceptical of small actions, especially militant ones, favouring a historical view of revolution being a sudden burst forth, and not an incremental, lived reality of live struggle.

5.) Views numerical quantity of membership as being a central aim, instead of the quality of the activity.


Mass anarchist get involved in community campaigns, trade unions (syndicalism) and single issue movements. Insurrectionist anarchists generally focus on tactics like sabotage, riots, expropriation and property destruction.


Serious difference exist between the types of propaganda the two groupings carry out.


Mass anarchist use written documents like, leaflets, papers and articles, while insurrectionary anarchists use their direct actions as propaganda in themselves, as ways of grabbing public attention–they are twofold in their use. Direct action helps campaigns against capitalists ect. but it also serves as propaganda and inspiration.
Each group accuses the other of a series of faults in theory and practice.
Insurrectionary anarchists are critical of large scale, formal federations as they say they inherently lead to representative forms of ”democracy”, bureaucracy, centralisation and fundamentally are the embyros of new power systems. Mass anarchists simply ignore this reality or agree with it, state the answer is more ”democracy”. A full length critique of mass democracy is too come.


Mass anarchist accuse the insurrectionists of being ”adventurists”,”agent provocateurs”, of not understanding the complexities of revolution, of utilisng ineffective organising techniques, of reducing revolution to force and of bringing repression down on the anarchist community as a whole.
Insurrectionary anarchists reply by accusing the mass anarchist of being closest reformists, who refuse to take the necessary steps to build a movement with teeth, of failing to recognise that an anarchist movement which cannot sustain repression is worth little, of being stuck in dogmatic, academic theory and tactics well over 100 years old, of being ineffective, and of building, through unions and formal organisations, the structures of repression of the future.


The last point is generally a reference to the CNT-FAI’s collaboration with the Spanish state and the wave of repression they facilitated against grassroots insurrectionary anarchists.


While some anarchists view these two movements to be overlapping and mutually reinforcing, the reality is there methods are so at loggerheads that they should be viewed a separate movements or tendencies. Mass anarchist organisings’ cautious, legalistic and open approach leaves police surveillance and intelligence gathering to be an easy process, while inherent to insurrectionary anarchists activities is a degree of attack-repression and police harassment.

The two methods are contradictory and will always come to loggerheads. They both have almost opposing views on insurrection and revolution that should not be swept under the rug.
Their difference can be summed up here.


Minimal vs. formal, mass organisations.

Escalate immediately vs. wait.

Insurrection vs. reform.

Quality vs. quantity.

Anarchy vs. representative democracy

Illegalist vs. Legal

Direct action vs protest

Individualist& social struggle vs collectivist struggle.

These are not minor points of disagreement, and its not surprising the two groups clash as often. 


Choose you side as you will.

Subversive Anarchy-Past and Present.

“Revolution is aimed at new arrangements; insurrection leads us no longer to let ourselves be arranged, but to arrange ourselves, and set no glittering hopes on “institutions.” – Max Stirner

“Don’t follow me… I’m not leading you…
Don’t walk ahead of me… I’ll not follow you…
Carve your own path… Become yourself…” – Conspiracy Cells of Fire, Imprisoned Members Cell

“I know that there will be an end to this fight between the formidable arsenal of the State and me. I know that I will be vanquished, I will be the weaker, but I hope I can make you pay dearly for the victory.” – Octave Garnier

On the this day over 100 years ago on the 21st of April, 1913, Illegalist and Individualist anarchist Raymond Callemin was executed by guillotine by order of the French state. On the anniversary of his execution I write this in memory of all those that have fallen or been jailed in the social war against society.

The illegalist current is an offshoot of individualist anarchism. Refusing to be exploited, forced to work for some rich tyrant, instead the illegalist chooses to rob them. It’s an anti-work ethic for individual autonomy to be realized in real life right away through Individual expropriation also known as individual reclamation.

Individual reclamation gained notoriety in France in the last decades of the 19th and early 20th century and gave birth to what was to become known as illegalism. Proponents of individual reclamation were anarchists such as Clement Duval and Marius Jacob. Marius Jacob stole to fund himself as well as the anarchist movement and other causes. This is the main factor that separates illegalism from individual reclamation, the illegalists stole solely for themselves. Although some Individual illegalists did fund individualist anarchist newspapers from the proceeds of their expropriations and gave money to comrades that were in need.

The illegalists, many of whom, inspired by Max Stirner and Friedrich Nietzsche were of the persuasion of why should they have to wait on the passive herd of exploited and poor classes to rise up and expropriate the rich? The poor seemed quite content with the conditions they inhabited. Why should the illegalists have to wait on the exploited workers to become enlightened with a revolutionary consciousness? Why should they have to continue to live a life of being exploited and worked to death while they wait for the future social revolution that may not ever happen? The illegalist anarchists had no faith in the workers struggle, so decided to fight back and rob the wealthy, it was a purely egoist endeavor.

Stirner would have called them “conscious egoists”, expropriating their lives back for themselves, not asking for permission to exist. They refused to be slaves to bosses and the state. The illegalists chose to steal through conscious revolt against society

The illegalists anarchists robbed, shot, stabbed, counterfeited money and committed the odd bit of arson across Europe, but predominantly in France, Belgium, and Italy. There were gun battles and shootouts with cops. Long jail sentences and executions.

One such group of illegalist anarchists were to become immortalized as “The Bonnot Gang”.

Raymond Callemin was born in Belgium, a former socialist who then became an anarchist after becoming disillusioned with the reformism of the Belgian Socialist Party. Having become influenced by anarchism, Raymond left the Socialist Party with Victor Serge and Jean De Boe who were equally disillusioned with socialist electoral politics. Together they published an individualist anarchist newspaper “Le Revolte” which was totally hostile to unions and political parties, and was for “permanent insurrection against the bourgeoisie”.

Octave Garnier on the run from France, fled to Belgium to avoid being conscripted to the army. He had already committed several expropriations on the rich via burglaries and had spent time in jail. He first started out in syndicalism but didn’t take long before developing a disgust with the union leaders being akin to the bosses using and manipulating workers for their own ends. He then joined the ranks of the anarchists. Not being able to work in the profession of his choice, having to work menial jobs and forced into being a wage slave in jobs he did not even want in order to live, he became a committed illegalist.

The four anarchists were in their early 20’s, they found each other through the anarchist circles in Belgium and shared a mutual hatred for the rich and their system of exploitation. Raymond and Octave carried out many burglaries together and tried their hand at counterfeiting coins.

Victor Serge writing articles for Le Revolte brought a lot of attention on himself from the Belgium state. Since he was a refugee in Belgium from childhood it made it easier for the Belgian state to get rid him. He was expelled from Belgium as a dangerous subversive. He left for France and set up a libertarian commune with other anarchists. Not long after, Octave Garnier having warrants out for his arrest, followed Victor to France, with Raymond.

In France they met with Jules Bonnot who was on the run. Jules was in his early 30’s, an ex soldier and a committed illegalist anarchist. The police were looking for him for a murder, which was really an accidental shooting of a comrade. Jules having a lot of experience carrying out expropriation and being quite successful, offered Octave and Raymond a proposition to carry out a big job together. The pair were only happy to accept Jules’s offer, being fed up not making as much as they’d like to from the burglaries and counter fitting, risking a lot while not getting much back in return.

The three along with another anarchist, Eugène Dieudonné, came up with a plan to rob a bank messenger who would be delivering money. They started by robbing a high powered car from a rich neighborhood on the outskirts of Paris. Jules learned how to drive in the army so he’d be the getaway driver. Raymond, Octave, and Eugene would rob the bank messenger. And so on 21st of December 1911 in broad daylight they robbed the messenger. They held up the messenger’s security guard as the pair were leaving the bank. Octave demanded the messenger to hand over the briefcase. Raymond grabbed it and attempted to make his way for the getaway car. But the messenger wouldn’t let go of the case. Octave shot him twice in the chest (the messenger was badly wounded but did not die). They made their getaway speeding through the streets of Paris in what was one of the best model cars of the time. It was the very first time a car was used in an armed robbery in France, because of that the media nicknamed them the “auto bandits”.

From the robbery they made 5,000 francs which they weren’t happy with. They expected to have expropriated much more. A few days after the robbery of the bank messenger they broke into a gun shop stealing many guns including high powered rifles. Not long after, on the 2nd of January 1912, they broke into the home of a rich bourgeois, killing him and his maid in the process They got away with 30,000 francs from this burglary. They soon fled to Belgium carrying out more robberies and shot 3 cop along their way. Then back to Paris to rob another bank, but this time they would hold up the bank. While doing the robbery they shot 3 bank clerks. After the robbery a bounty of 700,000 francs was put on the anarchists heads, the Société Générale bank they robbed put another 100,000 francs on their heads.

There is a deep nihilism, egoism, and anti-reformism within illegalist praxis with its continuity today with groups like the Conspiracy Cells of Fire, the Informal Anarchist Federation/ International Revolutionary Front and individuals such as the Chilean Anarcho-nihilists Sebastian Oversluij who was shot dead while expropriating a bank, and Mauricio Morales who was killed when the bomb he was transporting in his backpack detonated prematurely,

Modern day insurrectionary anarchy also has a direct lineage with this anarchist history. Many of the main components of ideas and praxis that comprise illegalism and individual reclamation (which includes propaganda of the deed, which is individual direct action against the bourgeois class, their property and their flunkies, ie pigs, screws and judges, in the hope the action will inspire others to follow suit; anti-organisational in the form of individual insurrection, affinity groups and informal organisation; and an extreme disliking of the left and its tactics of reformism) are also found in the different strands of insurrectionary anarchism today.

What was branded the “Bonnot Gang” by the media and the pigs was an affinity group. Jules Bonnot was not a leader of the group, there were none. The individuals that comprised the different affinity groups that carried out the so called crimes that were branded with the name the “Bonnot Gang” were simply individuals with mutual aims that came together to carry out actions. The French state used the name to brand any anarchist they pleased with association to any of the so called crimes.

On the 30th of March 1912 André Soudy (an anarchist who took part in some of the robberies of the group) was caught by police. A few days later, another anarchist involved with some of the robberies, Édouard Carouy was arrested. On the 7th of April, Raymond Callemin. By the end of April, 28 anarchists had been arrested in connection with the“Bonnot Gang”.

On April 28 police discovered the location where Jules Bonnot was hiding in Paris. 500 armed police surrounded the house. Jules refused to give himself up, a shoot out commenced. After hours of exchanging shots, the police detonate a bomb at the front of the house. When the police stormed the house they discovered Jules rolled up in a mattress, he was still firing shots at them. He was shot in the head and died later from his injuries in hospital.

On the 14th of May police discovered the location of Octave Garnier and Rene Valet (another member of the group). 300 cops and 800 soldiers surrounded the building. Like Bonnot the pair also refused to be arrested. The siege lasted hours, the police eventually detonated a bomb and blew part of the house up killing Octave. Rene badly injured was still firing off shots, he died not long after.

A year later on the 3rd of February 1913 Raymond Callemin, as well as many other anarchists including Victor Serge were put on trial by the French state for their alleged parts in the “Bonnot Gang”. Although Raymond did carry out many robberies and shot dead a bank clerk, many others who were put on trial had no part whatsoever in any of the so-called crimes that were attributed to the “Bonnot Gang”. The French state was thirsty for revenge and so after it gunned them down and blew then up; the state executed, locked up and exiled many anarchists. On the 21st of April, 1913, Raymond Callemin, Étienne Monier and André Soudy were executed by guillotine . Many of their co-accused were sentenced to life and hard labour in French colonies.

This revenge practice by states is still carried out today with the Scripta Manent trials in Italy which are directly related to the kneecapping of the manager of a nuclear power company by individualist anarchists Alfredo Caspito and Nicola Gia, and other acts of resistance in Italy. And the repressive trials in Russia against anarchists, anti-fascists, and the FSB’s (Federal Security Service) fabricated “Network” organization case. In retaliation Anarcho-communist Mikhail Zhlobitsky last October detonated a bomb in the Russian Federal Security Service Regional Headquarters in Arkhangelsk, dying in the process. And so the FSB carried out another round of repression against anarchists after the bombing, arresting, interrogating and slapping false charges on many anarchists as payback for the attack. On the 22nd of March, 2019 a cell from the Informal Anarchist Federation naming Itself FAI/FRI Revenge Faction – Mikhail Zholbitsky carried out a grenade attack against the Russian embassy in Athens, Greece as revenge for the repression carried out by the Russian state against anarchists.

Whichever current of anarchism an individual lives, it doesn’t matter, once it is subversive and in conflict with whatever authority that attempts to infringe on an individual’s autonomy. The ongoing war against industrial capitalist society has been raging for over 200 years, which has claimed many lives of anarchists with even more being jailed. The same insurrectional spirit of no mediation and no compromise with authority continues to flow in subversive anarchy today.

In solidarity with all anarchists imprisoned and at war with industrial capitalist society.