This is the text of a talk given to the WSM Ideas & Action dayschool 13 Nov 1999 shortly before the Seattle WTO protests. It looks at whay anarchists should be interested in the Zapatista rebellions and in particular references the anti-capitalist network that was emerging around the rebellion.
We are used to being promised the sun, moon and stars in elections only to receive cuts, cuts and cuts. Is this just because all politicians are liars or are there deeper reasons? Abstention from elections has been an anarchist tactic from the time of Bakunin. In this article we look at some of the reasons anarchists advocate abstention/spoilt votes. The right to the vote was part of the hard won struggles of workers (and suffragettes!) over the last couple of hundred years. Obviously it is preferable to live in a parliamentary democracy rather than a dictatorship. Even the most flawed democracies are forced to concede rights that dictatorships do not, such as relative independence for trade unions, the right to limited demonstrations, a certain amount of free speech, etc.
The Russian revolution has been a subject of key importance to anarchists for two reasons. The first reason is that for the first time in history a working class revolution succeeded in ousting the old ruling classes. The second reason is that after the old ruling class was ousted a new class came to power. Those of us who want to make a revolution to-day must understand where the successes and failures of the past came from.
The emergence of the Anarchist Workers Group at the start of the 1990's was something the WSM welcomed. Most of the people involved initially with the AWG came from the South London branch of the Direct Action Movement. At least one founder member of the Anarchist Communist Federation (ACF) was also involved initially in the AWG. This meant they also had a branch in the North of England made up of people from Manchester and Liverpool.
The nature of the working class to-day is quite different from that of a hundred years ago. In the late 80's a large part of the left interpreted this as meaning socialism was no longer possible, that the best hope was to form alliances with greens and others in a rainbow coalition which would attempt to limit the worst excesses of capitalism.
Greece has been a somewhat unstable entity throughout its history and particularly with the coming into being of nation states in the 18th century. Its borders have shifted, expanded and contracted on several occasions over the last 200 years leaving behind a legacy of quite virulent Greek nationalism. Greek armies were also involved in foreign intervention against the Russian revolution in north west Asia minor.
Where better to start a look at anarchism then to look at the state of the left as a whole. The organised revolutionary left today is at its weakest for many years. Its not so much a question of the triumph of capitalism however as the failure of the bulk of the ideologies of socialism. The collapse of both labourism and the USSR has left the vast bulk of the left confused and demoralised, either dead, dying or repeating decade old slogans in a state of living death.
In 1922 Emma Goldman complained Soviet Russia, had become "the modern socialist Lourdes, to which the blind and the lame, the deaf and the dumb were flocking for miraculous cures." And like most religious events that claim a historical valadity many of the myths of the October revolution rather then being historical accounts are written instead to create a blind faith in the leadership of the party.
We should not create a false choice between anarchism and environmentalism but rather ask what sort of environmental theory and action should anarchists favour on the one hand and on the other explain why any environmentalist should also be a class struggle anarchist. Text of talk from April 1995
With the fracture of the working class into smaller workplaces, mostly due to automation, the division of the old communities into suburbs, the advent of mass transport which meant even those in the suburbs no longer worked together, the move into white collar and skilled jobs, In short that the revolution although desirable is now utopian. The modern revolutions appeared rapidly, instantly at the time, even with hindsight developing over months. They arose after periods of low class struggle, and collaboration between the opposition and government. This lack of struggle in the run up meant that the left was very much smaller and that it had got used to talking to itself and not identifying the issues in the class.
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