Why bother with the Russian Revolution? The Soviet Union, rightly, has been classed as a failed, horrific, experiment since its collapse in 1991 so what is the benefit to have yet another book on it? There are three main reasons why this excellent book is worth your time.
First, a great many socialists still believe in what one of its authors, Alexander Berkman, labelled The Bolshevik Myth and are busy trying to reproduce what the Bolsheviks did. They need facts, not fairy tales. Second, revolutions have a habit of breaking out when least expected and learning the lessons from previous ones makes sense. Third, these are the works of two of the world’s leading revolutionary anarchists seeking to do both of these important tasks when it was deeply unfashionable to do so – in the 1920s and 1930s.
It is now 20 years since An Anarchist FAQ (AFAQ) was officially launched and six years since the core of it was completed (version 14.0). Its has been published by AK Press as well as translated into numerous languages. It has been quoted and referenced by other works. So it has been a success – although when it was started I had no idea what it would end up like.
The Leave / Brexit vote in the referendum came in the end as a surprise, a narrow win for Remain was expected. This may be because the core Leave vote was in the run-down white working class communities of the now desolate English and Welsh industrial zones. A population trapped in conditions of long-term unemployment and poverty who no one really pays much attention to anymore.
Some on the left have seized on the makeup of this core vote to suggest that there was some progressive element to the Brexit vote despite the campaign being led by racist hatemongers and wealthy US-oriented neoliberals. Mostly that’s a mixture of wishful thinking and post hoc justification for having called for a Leave vote in the first place, but it is true that a section of the working class, C2DEs in marketing speak, voted to Leave in close to a 2:1 ratio. Is the class composition of that vote enough to automatically make it progressive regardless of content? And what does it tell us that a section of the radical left seems to think the answer to that question is yes, that it is enough to be anti-establishment?
1. The Brexit vote for the UK to leave the European Union demonstrates that even weak parliamentary democracy is incompatible with escalating neoliberal inequality. In the UK as elsewhere a tiny segment of the population have taken a larger and larger share of total wealth in the last decades. Particularly under austerity almost everyone else has seen their share of the wealth they produce decline massively.
2. The Remain campaign was headed up by the political class of the neoliberal establishment and backed by model neo liberal corporations like Ryanair. But because the anger against rising inequality was successfully diverted through scapegoating already marginalized people, in particular migrants, the Leave campaign was also lead by wealthy elitist bigots whose variant of neoliberalism looks to the former colonies and the US rather than Europe.
ANARCHISM AND DIRECT DEMOCRACY
1. Anarchists are generally hostile to decision making mechanisms that demand people put their faith in others to make decisions on their behalf without mandate or recall. We favour systems of direct democracy where the people either discuss and vote on an issue directly, or delegate other people to meet up for such discussions but these delegates are both mandated and recallable.
This is an excellent work, recommended to both anarchist activists and those interested in the rise of modern, revolutionary, anarchism. Berthier, a veteran French anarcho-syndicalist activist, has produced a work which successfully challenges both the standard narrative on the First International (written, as usual, by the winners) and those who seek to deny the actual history of anarchism and its roots in the European labour movement. Somewhat surprisingly, given this, that number includes Berthier himself.
“organisation, that is to say, association for a specific purpose and with the structure and means required to attain it, is a necessary aspect of social life. A man in isolation cannot even live the life of a beast... Having therefore to join with other humans... he must submit to the will of others (be enslaved) or subject others to his will (be in authority) or live with others in fraternal agreement in the interests of the greatest good of all (be an associate).
Almost a century ago, an armed insurrection took place in Ireland to end British rule and to establish an independent Irish Republic. The 1916 Rising was soon accompanied by major popular revolts against World War One across Europe and later emulated by anti-colonial movements across the Global South.
When it comes to remembering the 1916 Rising, why do conservative politicians and historians want to convince us that it would have been better for us if Pearse and Connolly had stayed at home? Why did the state parade lots of military equipment and personnel down O’Connell Street to mark the centenary? Why did so many people turn out to watch it?
This panel attempts to think through the meaning of 1916 for us today, and the politics at stake in how these events are remembered, forgotten, and mis-remembered.
We awake (Jan 1st 2016) to news that more towns in Ireland are under water due to storm flooding. And that perhaps the sea ice at the north pole might melt due to temperatures rising above zero. The first story is given a lot more prominence in Irish media than the second but strangely at the same time another story is being celebrated. The start of yet more greenhouse gases being pumped out of their safe place far below the sea off the Irish shore to be processed and then released into the atmosphere via the Corrib refinery.
Oxfam has just released a report that shows global inequality has escalated rapidly over the last 6 years. The particular measure they used is a very important one. First they calculated the wealth held by the poorest 50% of the planets population, which is about 3.6 billion people. And then they asked how many of the richest people held the same amount of wealth.