Keir Snow's blog

Reflections on blogging

Having been blogging for around a month now I thought I’d jot down a quick post to reflect on how it’s been.  I started this blog primarily as a place to commit my thoughts to page without needing to be constrained by the more professional and impersonal nature of article writing. When writing articles I am generally far more rigorous with editing, going through several drafts and sharing them with people before publication for feedback.  Blogging by contrast feels quite liberating, being able to put metaphorical pen to paper and quickly bash out my thoughts on an issue and publish them on the same day.  Indeed some of my posts, specifically my most recent on the battle of ideas, started out life as article pieces but having neglected to take them through my usual process of review I took the opportunity to publish them anyway.

Winning the battle of ideas

For socialists, how workers power can be brought about is the central question.  Most socialist groups have different answers to this question, from the large idealogical chasm of revolution versus reform as a means of changing society to smaller more nuanced issues of tactics in the here and now.  One notion that does seem to straddle the vast majority of existing socialist groups however is the view that the “battle ideas”, the idealogical struggle against capitalism, is of central importance.  This is often cited as the reason for standing in elections, to give socialist ideas a platform, and the justification for endless paper sales and leafleting.

Anarchism, the best bits

I don’t really identify as an anarchist, partly for the reasons outlined in this post and partly because I think the historical impact of Syndicalism has been more significant.  However, when writing on an anarchist forum the other day about educational proposals I was putting to Liberty & Solidarity (as its education secretary) I was challenged as to why there was a lack of anarchist content in the courses.  This got me thinking, as much as I spend a lot of time critiquing aspects of anarchism and its movement, what are the positive contributions of Anarchism?

A syndicalism for the 21st century

From the Dublin Lockout to the Spanish Civil War, syndicalism has made its mark on history. Though presently a far weaker force than it was in the first half of the 20th century, it has done much to aid in the strengthening of the working class across the globe. Syndicalism of course is a broad church and as with most ideologies over a century in age has suffered its own divergences. The most prominent of these trends alive today are anarcho-syndicalism and its closely-related but distinct cousin, revolutionary-syndicalism. Whilst these two strands of syndicalism share much, there are important distinctions in ideas and practice that need to be drawn out so as to best learn from the histories of these two traditions.

A Tale of Two Democracies – Part Two

Read part one here.

Understanding power

“Power flows from the barrel of a gun” said Mao, and whilst in a time of warfare and insurrection this is certainly true, for socialist organisations functioning within western democracies our understanding needs to be a little more nuanced.  At its most simple, power, the ability to direct or influence the course of events, flows from several key interrelated resources: time, money, relationships and legitimacy.  Time and money are often interchangeable, an individual who is wealthy or has at their command the wealth of an organisation can hire underlings who’s time can be used to their own ends.

A Tale of Two Democracies – Part One

In my half-decade on the far left I’ve been involved in a fair few faction fights (always on the right side of course).  As a result I’ve studied a fair few constitutions so as to unearth the technicalities that will lead my chosen side to victory.  These various experiences of different “democracies” within socialist organisations has prompted me to think about what truly constitutes a democracy, and why some organisations that at first appear democratic turn out in fact to be the opposite.

The conservative left

Being socialists, we realise that in order to bring about the social change we seek we need large numbers of people, yet the vast majority of left groups today are small, even when compared with bourgeois political parties, let alone the mass movements of yester-year.  This prompts many thinking leftists to ponder the question of recruitment, how can we grow our organisation or our movement.

The case for Community Syndicalism

Community organisation has been a staple of socialist activity for centuries, however, unlike workplace activism, community organising has been subject to less attention in terms of theory and strategising. This article will argue that the ideology and practice of workplace syndicalism has many concepts that apply equally to community organisation, and can provide a useful framework in which to operate.

So firstly, what is Syndicalism?  In the workplace syndicalism stands for many things, primarily that workers should ultimately take power in society, using their own organisations, the trade unions, to wield this power.  Syndicalism is also associated with industrial unionism, placing itself in opposition to unions drawing artificial divides between workers based on their skill set.  De-emphasis of parliamentary politics is another key facet of Syndicalism, which instead advocates that major change will be primarily wrought through the struggle of trade unions on economic ground, avoiding political positioning that may alienate sections of the labour movement.

The political organisation and the mass organisation

Whilst organising closely with politically like-minded comrades may seem like an obvious instinct, it is worth evaluating what role a political organisation can or should play.  In this essay I will build a model of working class organisation, as a means of comparing the nature and functions of the political organisation and the mass organisation.  Like all such models, this will be idealised, and more of a statement as to how things perhaps ought to be, than how they are at present.

Anarchism as a brand

For some in the anarchist movement “marketing” and “branding” are dangerous words, however even those of us more pragmatic in our outlook have often failed to critically evaluate the anarchist brand identity. Clearly marketing and branding are useful tools for our movement, to abandon them on idealogical grounds would be to deny ourselves an important weapon in the battle against capitalism. So what exactly is a brand identity?

To quote wikipedia:


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