“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).
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.
This is a write-up of my talk at the 2015 London Anarchist Bookfair. It is based on my notes and so will not be exactly the same as at the event but it will be close enough. The meeting summary initially submitted for the programme was:
This year, 2015, marks the 175th anniversary of the publication of Proudhon’s seminal What is Property?. While opponents had hurled the label “anarchist” at those more radical than themselves during both the English and French revolutions, Proudhon was the first to embrace the name and proclaim themselves an anarchist.
After proclaiming that Britain rejected Labour because it was too left-wing, as smugly asserted as it was false, the right-wing media happily praised George Osborne’s first all-Tory budget and its attempt to steal Labour’s clothes. The Tories are proclaiming themselves the real workers party while simultaneously subjecting actual workers to new restrictions on our ability to organise and defend our interests and reducing their income. They think that re-branding the Minimum Wage the "National Living Wage" will fool enough people.
What is it about anthropologists and anarchism? Noted anarchists Brian Morris and David Graeber are anthropologists in their day jobs while Peter Kropotkin and Elisée Reclus both made significant contributions to the field. Perhaps it is simple enough – anthropology shows that people have lived in many different ways and so confirms a basic principle of anarchism: capitalism is just one of many systems and, like others, can be replaced with something else.
Drug criminalisation claimed another tragic victim last night 17 May) with the death of 18 year old Ana Hick. From press reports it appears hers was yet another preventable death caused by taking toxic PMMA that is sometimes substituted for MDMA due to prohibition and ruthless gangster capitalism.
My “Sages and Movements” attempted to fill a gap in our understanding of the contribution of Peter Kropotkin (1842-1921) to the anarchist press. As well as discussing the importance of situating important thinkers (“sages”) within their wider movement, the article also included a bibliography of Kropotkin’s works. While incomplete, this bibliography showed that Kropotkin wrote far more than is usually assumed based on his works that are readily available in English.
The editor of Workers Unite! should be congratulated on his aim, namely to make the debates within the International Working Men’s Association (IWMA) accessible for radicals active 150 years after it was founded in 1864. Yet while the book’s subtitle states “150 years later” the introduction is written as if those 150 years do not exist. This is explained by the editor being a Marxist and so unwilling to admit that Marx helped push the workers’ movement into a dead end.
There is a strong tendency, almost a rule, that anarchist groups tend to fall apart once they have more than 20-30 members in any city or 50 to 60 overall. Or at the very least an organisation that once felt like it worked very well becomes one that feels sluggish and starts requiring too much effort to achieve limited results in the longer term. There are exceptions which mean this is not inevitable but why does this happen and more importantly how can we avoid it in our organising?
The cause may be simply a limitation of our brains and in particular the number of complex inter relationships between people we can track. Or, more correctly, a failure to acknowledge that this limit means that informality will fail and formal administration is more and more necessary as group size rises. A lesson that is not just relevent to anarchist but to all attempts at horizontal organisation.
(If you arrived here from a search for Dunbar's number
and know little or nothing about anarchist organisation
you might want to read
Are Anarchists in Favour of Organisation).