Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Review of Black Flame by Zolile Bam, in 'Miyela' by the Miyela Collective

Black Flame: the revolutionary class politics of anarchism and syndicalism by Michael Schmidt and Lucien van der Walt: a book review by Zolile Bam, in Miyela journal.

Miyela is a fantastic Soweto-based project, a "collective for positive social interaction", aiming at empowering people to question authority, fight oppression, and change. It says "the revolution is not an instant, it is not election day or the day the masses storm the streets. revolution is a slow process of changing the face in the mirror, of learning to read and right, of men learning to play with their children and laugh till they cry. the breaking down of old corrupt states starts with the slow building up of the people. freedom comes slowly but once there can not be taken away because it does not sit in parliament but rests squarely in the heart and soul of a man." More about Miyela here.

Review of Black Flame, by Zolile Bam, Miyela, 2010 
I`ve got to comment, this book is one of the most compelling non-fiction books I`ve read in my lifetime.

This book is a chronicle description of anarchy from the 1860s to the 1930s. Anarchy as explained by the authors is very broad and it must not be narrowed down to some linear explanation as advocated by the pop media. Anarchy is not strictly an economic or political theory it is a bit of both, anarchist believe that the only way to truly emancipate the people is by abolishing the class system. This is a very tremendous task that is where the syndicalism comes in. Syndicalism is similar to anarchy in a number of ways. The biggest difference is that syndicalist want to emancipate the people from economic slavery through the unions and the working class, this does not mean that syndicalism is exclusive to the working class.

The broad anarchist tradition has its roots in Kropotkin and Bakunin from the First International founded in the mid 1800s, this is contradictory to the held perception that anarchy is as old as human civilization. The purpose of the First international I shall narrowly explain was to unite workers from all over the globe in an effort to combat the ruling class.

The First international was the first of its kind; for starters it wanted to put an end to patriotism. The First International believed that patriotism widened the gap between the working class who were being oppressed by essentially the same ruling class.

It is a concern to the authors that when most people think about anarchists they think of a group of people who generally hate the government. That can be attributed to the widely read books by people who knew almost nothing about anarchy such as Eltzblacher who concluded that anyone who was anti-state was an anarchist.

Through very dedicated individuals and groups anarchy grew into a formidable and practical force it was not just an ideology, take for instance the Spanish revolution of 1936 where anarchist and syndicalist ran the city of Barcelona for 3 months before being defeated by "counter revolutionary" measures.

The purpose of this book other than to define the broad anarchist tradition, its revolutionary beginning, is to give as an alternative. Truth is when we think about what theory we want to follow in terms of how society should be managed we almost always fall in to two categories mainly Communism or Capitalism. It must be said communism and capitalism are like two sides of the same coin. Communism as put by the authors is `State capitalism` anarchy is gives us an alternative to the hierarchical structure of any state.

This book describes how anarchist and syndicalist have fought for the emancipation of the biggest class the world has ever seen, the popular class, this includes but not limited to, the employed, the unemployed and the peasants.

How do they hope to achieve this? Through the solidarity of the popular class. The anarchist and syndicalist believe "When we have but the will to do it, that very moment shall justice be done: that very instant shall the tyrants of the earth bite the dust." Workers must stop deluding themselves into believing that some of them a better than others because they have better jobs. We all face the same tyranny from the same system.

The two movements were not just for the intellectuals they also had programs to educate the community about anarchy, democracy, life science amongst other things. The syndicalist and anarchist believed that they should not limit the popular class to their agenda and ideologies. It must also be included that anarchist were not only men. Some women activist fathomed the movements’ popularity.

Anarchist believe that the class system is what causes discrimination against race, gender, nationality amongst others, they believe if the class system is abolished so will most of the worlds problems.

The book was a good read but it had a few glitches, for instance it is a difficult read if you are not an academic. The other thing, the number of quotations makes it difficult for the reader to keep track of the authors` opinions and that of their references, the best advice I could give is to ignore them and only pay attention to the ones that interest you.

This book was an eye opener it radicalized my thinking I would recommend it to anyone from those people on the extreme right to the people on the extreme left and anyone in between.

Anxious for volume two when they authors discuss anarchy from the 1940s onwards!

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