Anarcho

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Articles by anarcho

What it means to be libertarian

This is a write-up of my talk at the 2017 London Anarchist Bookfair. The programme blurb was as follows:

“2017 marks 160 years since Joseph Déjacque coined the word “libertarian” in an open letter challenging Proudhon's patriarchal and market socialist views. By the dawn of the twentieth century, anarchists across the world had embraced the term. Today, it is now increasingly associated with the far-right. How did this happen? What does it mean to be a libertarian? Can you be a right-wing libertarian? Can we reclaim the word for the twenty-first century? These questions as well as the history of “libertarian” will be explored by Iain McKay, author of An Anarchist FAQ.”

It is based on my article “160 Years of Libertarian” which appeared in Anarcho-Syndicalist Review No. 71. I should note that this journal was originally launched in 1986 under the title Libertarian Labor Review, the change occurring in 1999 due to the forces discussed below. I am sure this write-up makes it sound better than it was. My talk ends with a question – is libertarian worth fighting for, or is it too associated with the right that we should let it be? The answer lies with you.

Review: Divide and Conquer or Divide and Subdivide? How Not to Refight the First International

This pamphlet is by the author of the best biography of Bakunin, Bakunin: The Creative Passion, Mark Leier and covers the Marx-Bakunin conflict in the First International.

It shares a cover picture with Wolfgang Eckhardt’s The First Socialist Schism: Bakunin vs. Marx in the International Working Men’s Association [Oakland: PM Press, 2016], which raises the question whether this pamphlet is a (short) response to that work. It does not read that way, but the thought does cross the mind. Unlike that book, it does not attempt to go into the details of that conflict between the syndicalist and social-democratic tendencies within the International (personified, for better or for worse, in Bakunin and Marx). Instead, it aims to learn from history rather than repeat it

Mind the Gap!

The 2017 snap-election was notable for many things, not least the Tory party itself proclaiming that its policies have not worked. Well, it did not quite say that – the problems it admitted existed seemed to have no cause, they just were. No mention of who was in office for the past seven years nor whose ideology had dominated the political landscape since 1979. No, the problems were just there and without any origin – beyond ritualistic invocation of “Labour’s recession” (that is, the global crisis which originated in the American financial markets).

Review: Romancing the revolution

This is a very interesting and useful work. It takes you back to when Lenin and Trotsky were unknown and how this change as the British left tried to understand developments in the Russian Revolution. Inspired by C.B. Macpherson’s claim that the USSR while not a democratic system of government could be viewed as representing a “Non-Liberal Democracy” as it aimed to eliminate classes, Ian Bullock’s book utilises an impressive amount of primary sources to show “the myth of soviet democracy in the early appeal of the Russian Revolution”. (5) As such, it is should be of interest for libertarian socialists as well as scholars particularly as it is full of interesting facts: for example, the Scottish section of the Independent Labour Party (ILP) voted to join the Communist international and for prohibition at its January 1920 conference. (194-5)

Review: Kropotkin and the Anarchist Intellectual Tradition

Peter Kropotkin needs little introduction. The Russian Prince who became one of the leading anarchist thinkers of his time, his articles and books are still – rightly – recommended to those seeking to understand anarchism and have convinced many to join the movement.

Delusional? May be!

Article 50 – or as some hope, Article 1950 or, for the most optimistic, Article 1850 – has finally been invoked. Few would have believed in April 2016 that a mere year later elements of the Tory party would be threatening war with Spain – or that a party whose incompetency on so many levels (not least, economic) would be doing so well in the polls. But then, under Cameron the Tories realised they can talk centre ground – even leftish – but track even further to the right.

Review: The Poverty of Philosophy by Karl Marx

This year (2017) marks the 170th anniversary of the publication of Karl Marx’s The Poverty of Philosophy, written in “reply” to Pierre-Joseph Proudhon’s System of Economic Contradictions published the year before. The book’s title is a play on the subtitle of Proudhon’s two volumes (“or, the Philosophy of Poverty”) and for Trotskyist Ernest Mandel “the prototype of that sort of implacable polemical writing which has often inspired the pens of Marx’s followers”.

The Bolshevik Myth Reloaded

This is a write up of the talk I gave at the 2016 London Anarchist bookfair. I covered most of what I planned in my notes although some of it was summarised more than indicated here. It covers the basic myths and realities of the period and concentrates on non-Anarchist sources – academics and Leninists themselves. This is not because the anarchist critique is lacking, no far from it. It is done to show that the anarchist critique has the support of a substantial body of evidence. As indicated in the talk, all quotes are from section H of An Anarchist FAQ.

From Russia with Critique

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.

Review: Social Democracy and Anarchism in the International Workers’ Association 1864-1877

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.

  


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