Black Flag no. 234 is now out

Well, last Saturday was the London Anarchist Bookfair. I spent most of it behind the Black Flag stall and I'm happy to say we sold out of the new issue (no. 234)! Rest assured, we still have copies and they will be appearing in good bookshops soon. An announcement will be made on the Black Flag blog shortly, I assume.

This issue has the usual selection of analysis of current-ish events, radical history, reviews and graphics. There are articles on anti-cuts struggles, the London riots (by the Anarchist Federation), Spain’s Indignados, an interview with an Italian anarchist on the healthcare battles of USI, the Invergordon mutiny Stuart Christie on the Spanish Civil War (for its 75th anniversary) and much, much more. For my sins, I contributed an article on mandates and recall and two reviews. One has been posted here for some time (Review: A Critique of State Socialism) and a new one, freshly posted, on The Third Revolution? Peasant and worker resistance to the Bolshevik Government.

I gave a talk entitled "Anarchist Theory -- Use it or Lose it. As I wrote in my last blog, here is my blurb:

“Why bother with dead anarchists? For some, while anarchists may do beards well we don’t do theory. This is wrong. We do have theory, as my An Anarchist FAQ and Property is Theft! show. Anarchism is a rich source for analysing and transforming society. Join me in exploring why dead anarchists are worth reading.”

This was cut down from this:

 “Why bother with dead anarchists? Because you can learn something! While there is a sadly all too common notion that anarchists may do beards very well, we don’t have much in the way of theory. This all too common (usually Marxist) perspective is wrong. We do have theory, it is just that most of it is not translated or in out-of-print books. As my work on An Anarchist FAQ, Property is Theft! and Mutual Aid: An Introduction and Evaluation shows, anarchism is a rich source for analysing, understanding and transforming society. Indeed, what much of what passes for “Marxism” was first expounded by libertarians. Moreover, many of our critiques have been proven right. Marxism failed precisely as we predicted. Mutual aid has become a core part of modern evolutionary theory. Marx so shamelessly embraced Proudhon’s vision of a decentralised self-managed communal society in 1871 that many don’t realise that the Paris Commune applied libertarian ideas first argued for in 1848. So please join me as I explore why reading dead anarchists is a worthwhile activity.”

It was packed out (although I should say it was not a big room). I started by saying sorry about the fact that my union rep. work has meant I could not do as much preparation as I would have liked (i.e., any at all!). Still, it seemed to go well -- perhaps I should prepare less more often! There is a thread on libcom about the bookfair and someone wrote

"In terms of the talks. Iain Mckay had a session about correcting the imbalances done to anarchism by trotskyists. Arguing the importances to understand Proudhon and Bakunin. This was good and had a few questions from the floor."

Which is nice to see! The questions were good ones and I feel I got my basic message across -- anarchists should be proud of what we have contributed to revolutionary and socialist politics (not to mention evolutionary theory!). As I said, if you gave certain unattributed quotes by Marx, Engels and Bakunin to Marxists most would agree with Bakunin and dismiss Marx and Engels as social democrats!

The bookfair was fun and I got some good books/magazines and talked to lots of interesting people (plus comrades from back home in Glasgow). Sad to say, AK Press did not get the second edition of my Mutual Aid pamphlet in time, but that was a minor thing (this edition basically fits the typos of the first edition and should have a quote from the Black Flag review on the back page!). It was good to see so many people as well -- the bookfair is getting bigger each year. No wonder the Trots are worried!

And, yes, I do plan to write the talk up -- assuming I find the time and energy!

In terms of the Kropotkin Anthology I'm now working on, I've managed to gather all the material readily available in English. I've edited various extracts from books and longer pamphlets (like 1892's "Revolutionary Studies" which has never been reprinted). I've yet to hit the archives, but I'm guessing the more readily available material will be dropped as new works become available. I'm hoping to get lots of articles on the workers movement into the new book, plus translations of some later works on revolution. I've also decided upon a title:

Direct Struggle Against Capital: Peter Kropotkin on Anarchism, the Workers Movement and Social Revolution

It is a direct Kropotkin quote (so I'm following on from Property is Theft!) and I do feel his ideas on the labour movement are not well known enough -- hence silly articles by the SWP and AWL contrasting the "bad" anarchists like Kropotkin and Bakunin and the "good" syndicalists, as if Kropotkin and Bakunin did not advocate revolutionary unionism! (see Syn dicalism, Anarchism and Marxism which will be appearing in Anarchist Studies next year). For those interested in this issue, see Caroline Cahm's essential book Kropotkin and the Rise of Revolutionary Anarchism 1872-1886.

One anarcho-nerdy thing about this anthology is that thanks to Shawn Wilbur, I've tracked down the original English version of Kropotkin's "Letter to Western Workers." This letter appears in both "Kropotkin's Revolutionary Pamphlets" and "No Gods, No Masters" but both are English translations of the French translation! The original is entitled “Krop otkin says, Stop the War!” and appeared in Freedom (34, no. 374) in July 1920 and so must be the original.

Suffice to say, union rep work has impacted on that task, too. It has also meant not replying to any reply to my second letter to the Socialist Standard about Proudhon's ideas. I am still shocked by the attitude of the SPGB -- not to mention some of the people who commented here on my blog. Really, trimming Guerin quotes and proclaiming Proudhon did not support social ownership of capital and land after I quoted Proudhon saying he did!

As much as I like to point out misrepresentations of people's ideas (and that is part of the reason I did Property is Theft!), union rep work is far more important. I may, perhaps, get around to it in November -- time and energy permitting, of course.

Until I blog again, be seeing you...


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