International

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Ursula Le Guin and Utopia

It is with great sadness that I write this for one of my favourite writers, Ursula Le Guin, had died. The New York Times called her “America’s greatest living science fiction writers” in 2016 but that does not really do her work justice: she was one of the world’s greatest writers. It is just that she worked mostly in the Science Fiction and Fantasy genre.

Review: Private Government

This is both an important book which raises a key issue and one which simply states the obvious. It is both a well-researched work and one which ignores a school of thinkers who were pioneers on the subject. It is one which both challenges assumptions and takes them for granted. In short, it is both perceptive and frustrating.

Proudhon’s constituted value and the myth of labour notes

Abstract

Karl Marx’s The Poverty of Philosophy has played a key role in associating Pierre-Joseph Proudhon with the idea of labour-time money. This article challenges this account by demonstrating that Marx not only failed to prove his assertion but that he also ignored substantial evidence against it. Proudhon’s 'constituted value' is explained and linked to other key ideas in System of Economic Contradictions which Marx ignores.[1]

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

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.

Three futures: Barbarism, UBI Warehousing or Anarchism

Our global society is broken. Donald Trump & Brexit are symptoms along with the rise of the far right elsewhere in Europe. In an old pattern, fundamental economic crisis often results in society becoming very much more brutal for most people.  In the age of nuclear weapons this current crisis could be our last.  And with a somewhat longer countdown to disaster we are also facing climate catastrophe.

 

The crisis is fundamental rather than temporary because there are two underlying factors that are irreversible.  The first is the end of the era where the environmental costs of growth could be mostly discounted in the belief that dilution would neutralise pollution.  For much of the industrial revolution the poisonous effluent dumped into the ecosystem had only local severe effects with the vast oceans and atmosphere diluting the pollutants enough that global effects were minor.  This is no longer the case with climate change being the most talked about of several examples where the pollution generated by growth can no longer be absorbed without serious global consequences. 

[As this is a long read we have also made
the entire piece available on audio,
listen as you are doing the dishes 
or you can download a PDF version]

Why elections fail to bring about real change - the 10 filters that make them ineffective for the radical left

Why can’t the 99% simply vote in a government that acts in their interest and not that of the 1%

At a simple level parliamentary elections sound like the ideal way for the mass of the ‘have nots’ to use their numbers to overcome the power and influences of the tiny number of have’s.  Occupy talked about this division in the language of the 1% and 99%; a crude approximation that does reflect a reality where the number of wealthy decision makers is actually very tiny, indeed less than 1%.  So, why can’t the 99% simply vote in a government that acts in their interest and not that of the 1%? [Listen to this article]

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.

Anarchist Organisation – Practice as Theory Actualised

“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).

  


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