Thursday, September 27, 2012

REPORT: van der Walt, 2012, "Anarchism’s historical role: a global view"

Freedom • February 2012 • pp.12-14

Anarchism’s historical role: a global view

Lucien van der Walt, co-author of Black Flame: the revolutionary class politics of anarchism and syndicalism

Freedom bookshop was proud to host a talk by Lucien van der Walt, co­author of the groundbreaking Black Flame who spoke at length about all aspects of anarchist history and movements.

A flicker
Me and Michael Schmidt, who is the co­author and a friend and a comrade going back many years, we were trying to understand something about the history of anarchism and of syndicalism, to understand what that history meant in the past and what it meant for movements today. Perhaps because we were in South Africa, where there had not really been a movement in the anarchist or syndicalist tradition since the early 1920s, there was no continuity and I suppose that also meant there were no preconceptions, we didn’t have any assumptions.

Volume one, of Black Flame, is meant to be looking at historical themes in the anarchist movement, issues, like what were the big anarchist organisations? Who were the people who joined these movements? Where was it globally? We wanted to look at it at a world scale and not just look at the north Atlantic. Why did anarchist peasant movements take off in some countries? How did it spread into third world countries? and so on.

The other thing we also wanted to look at was theoretical issues in the movement. That’s the [second] part – what is anarchism?

The [key] thing in the book was to make the argument that it’s important to have a global view of the anarchist and syndicalist movement.

Very often the way we understand the history of anarchism is constructed around the idea of ‘Spanish exceptionalism’ – that, for some reason, anarchism [only] really took off in Spain. [Guiseppe] Fanelli was sent there by [Mikhail] Bakunin – he had a huge impact and the legend goes he couldn’t even speak Spanish, but through his articulate gestures everybody thought 'hey, this is great stuff,' and decided to spend the next 70 years fighting for it in their millions.

Spanish exceptionalism
There’s a whole range of literature on this – ‘why were the anarchists big in Spain’? There’s a range of arguments. The "good" Marxist argument is Spain had a backward economy, anarchists reflect a backward society, put the two together and you have the CNT. You get the national character argument: well, these Latin chaps are quite lively, anarchism’s quite lively, put them together and you get the CNT.

Spanish anarchism/ syndicalism: mighty, but not unique
The problem with the backwardness argument is that Spain wasn’t all that much a backward economy.

Where were the anarchists based? They were based in the huge industrialising cities, that was one of their big strongholds; they had a base in the countryside, and very often where in the countryside? In the huge commercial farms. Barcelona in the 1920s was one of the fastest growing cities in Europe so the backwardness thing just doesn’t work. It’s one of these Marxist arguments that as the working class matures it all becomes naturally Marxist.

The thing about Spanish character doesn’t work either. Spain also produced General Franco. To say there’s some natural Spanish inclination towards anarchism leaves out small things like the Spanish Civil War which was between two different types of Spain, two different types of Spaniard, and two different ideologies in Spain.

Case against
We would argue that, in any case, the notion that Spain was exceptional is incorrect. If we want to look at Spain, of course it had a huge anarchist movement, a huge syndicalist union movement, and of course that movement went back to the 1870s, and of course that movement made a revolution in the late ’30s.

However if we want to look internationally we can actually find movements that were at least as big as Spain.

If we use as a small index the size of anarchist trade unions relative to the overall labour movement, in other words, how much of the organised labour movement was under anarchist or syndicalist influence or control ... we look at Spain and we find the anarchists actually only had half of the trade unions, the CNT of Spain represented roughly half of the industrial unions, in some areas more; but there was large social­ democratic rival, the UGT. So they had about 50%.

Looking globally
Bolivia 1935: the anarcho-syndicalist Sindicato de Culinaria
If we look at countries like Peru, Mexico, Argentina, for a short time the Netherlands, if we look at France, if we look at Portugal, if we look at Chile, if we look at Uruguay, if we look for a time at Brazil, these were all movements where the anarchists were the predominant force in the trade unions.

Cuba is [an]other one. And in the Cuban case for example, ... from the 1880s anarchists and syndicalists led [the] trade union movement until the 1930s. And even in the ’50s when Castro comes in, a lot of the trade unions are actually led by the anarchists, and one of Che Guevara’s actions is essentially to clear the anarchists out of the trade unions, and set up a good government trade union that makes sure workers do what the government wants. Which is not quite an anarchist approach I think!

Why do people treat Spain as exceptional? They only treat Spain as exceptional by comparing Spain to other countries in the north Atlantic. What they say is – if you look at Spain it had a lot bigger anarchist movement than in the UK or than Sweden or Norway or Germany. And bigger than the US.

Okay, that’s fair enough but when we look internationally, when we look beyond the north Atlantic, there are a lot of move­ments that, even measured simply by how big were the anarchists in the trade unions, were bigger movements.

Internationally speaking
So when we look globally and we look at this international level, we find anarchist movements are very big.

I only used the trade union [index] as a quick way to do the comparison.

If we want to look at things like running daily newspapers, having vast networks of schools, forming workers armies, if we want to look at revolutionary uprisings, if we want to look at the impact on the culture of the popular classes, if we want to look at a role in the countryside, if we want to look at a role in anti­colonial struggles, in all of these ways we can make the same argument – that anarchism and syndicalism were very big in Spain, but Spain was not exceptional, and that we have to understand anarchism and syndicalism globally and as a global movement to understand its historical role.

Poor cousin
Mass anarchist union, Federación Obrera Regional Argentina
And from that, we can start to make the argument that anarchism and syndicalism were not, as people often assume, always the poor cousin of classical Marxism or of social democracy.

For example, classical Marxism had no real presence outside of west Europe [before Lenin's rise]. And its offshoots, with the interesting exception of Indonesia, had no real presence elsewhere.

Classical Marxism before Lenin said ‘look, no capitalism equals no socialism’ and this meant, for people who were keen on Marxism in say, Argentina: ‘hold on don’t do anything, wait a bit for a bit more capitalism’.
It’s not a line the working class always likes.

You had these vast, poor working classes and the Argentine Socialist Party would say ‘vote for more reforms’ and the working class said ‘well, first we can’t vote. This is a problem, most of us immigrants can’t vote. Secondly, we are not seeing any reforms, this thing is controlled by an oligarchy. Third we’ve got all the capitalism that we want. So we don’t really want to join’.

Poor marxism
If we look right across South America, anarchists and syndicalists predominated on the left and the radical movement.

If you look in southern Africa in the 1910s, anarchism and syndicalism predominate.

If we look [at] a case like Egypt, where there was an anarchist movement from the 1870s, anarchism had a key role there even into the early 1920s. In fact the Egyptian Communist Party, when it was originally set up, was known in Arabic as ‘the party of the anarchists’. When they joined the Communist International, one of the conditions was: kick the anarchists out of the Egyptian Communist Party.

Mexican anarchists today: an important force
The first Communist parties set up in Mexico, Brazil, South Africa and elsewhere, were actually set up by anarchists [and syndicalists] and they were essentially anarchist parties. So anarchism was not the poor cousin of the movement.

It is a very important thing for us to understand about anarchism: it was a very important movement.

Predominance of Marxism as a movement of the left and a movement in the labour circles in many countries is only something that’s achieved in the 1940s; it’s really in World War Two that Communist parties grow into mass parties in many countries. And it’s not like the anarchist and syndicalist movements just die out in 1939 or 1945; in many countries it remains a very powerful influence despite these rivals.

Trade unions
One thing in the anarchist movement’s history that we can appreciate is its pioneering role in founding trade unions [from the 1870s].

One example is the Regional Workers Federation of Spain, set up in 1870s; this was the one inspired by Bakunin’s delegate Fanelli. The second is the General Congress of Mexican Workers, the second of the biggest [earliest] syndicalist unions, 1876.

The next big one was in the United States, the Central Labour Union in Chicago: this is where the Haymarket Martyrs came from. This was the key trade union in Chicago; it was part of an anarchist movement that could pull a hundred thousand people onto the streets – at the funeral of the Haymarket martyrs 250,000 people. And of course Mayday commemorates that. It’s one of anarchism’s little gifts to the international working class.

[The] Workers Circle in Cuba was the next important one.

Isabelo de los Reyes, influenced by anarchism
Second thing, in many cases the anarchists and syndicalists pioneered trade unions in what I’m calling colonial or post­colonial countries – either under direct colonialism or were in some way maybe less formally subject to [the] Great Powers.

Again, when we look here we can see a pattern of an important early role and a long-term presence by anarchists in the mass movements.

Isabelo de los Reyes in the Philippines was a Filipino independence fighter – as the Spanish empire starts collapsing in the 1890s the United States moves in and starts to ... take over Puerto Rico, Cuba and the Philippines. He’s locked up in Barcelona with Spanish anarchists, he reads a lot of this stuff, he thinks this is pretty good, and he comes back and he sets up a trade union in Manila in about 1904, modeled on the Spanish anarchist trade unions.

Other voices [points here were linked to images]
Liu Shifu in China – his group, the Anarchist Communist Society, set up the first trade unions in China in the 1910s; into the early 1920s, especially in areas of Yunnan, anarchists led the trade unions. Shifu unfortunately died young – he had TB – but his movement was very important. And for a less glorious legacy of anarchism there a young librarian called Mao Tse­tung was in 1919/­1920 an anarchist and identified with the anarchist movement.

In the early 1920s you could get most of Kropotkin’s key writings in China; there wasn’t an official copy of the Communist Manifesto available.

T.W. Thibedi, African revolutionary
T.W. Thibedi in South Africa. His father was a minister, he studied at a church school and he taught in a church school. 1915, he was in a meeting in Johannesburg, of the International Socialist League which was a revolutionary syndicalist group, thought 'this is damn good stuff' and he joined.

And he was the first of a whole wide layer of African, coloured and Indian cadre in South Africa of the anarchist [and syndicalist] movement, and he was a key figure in a syndicalist union there called the Industrial Workers of Africa, which was the first trade union in British southern Africa for black African workers.

Shanghai 1927: Korean and Chinese anarchists, they’re involved in a number of joint projects. Korea was under Japanese colonial rule and a hell of a lot of the Korean anarchist movement is actually outside of Korea.
China 1927: Korean and Chinese anarchist militants

Very often they were in China or in Japan, and this particular wing was involved in the National Labour University and subsequently in something called the Leader College. These were essentially universities under anarchist control, although sponsored by a wing of the Guomindang, which trained people in classes like Esperanto and gardening and anarchist theory. They were also involved in training militias; there was a Movement for Village Self­-defence, they were involved in that.

Anarchist revolutions
In terms of revolutions there are three that, I think, we could reasonably characterise as anarchist revolutions.

First is the movement of the Makhnovists in the Ukraine in 1918 until 1921 (when it gets suppressed).

Next important one is Manchuria 1929.­1932. This is one that’s not well documented in English, [the] key figure here Kim Jwa­jin: he was a general in the Korean Independence army.

Why were Koreans in Manchuria? Well, Japanese colonial rule in the Korean peninsula was extremely repressive, extremely thorough; in the 1930s for example they instructed all Koreans to change their names to Japanese names.

So a lot of the resistance took place in the borderlands of Manchuria. The Korean Independence Army had several strongholds.

Kim Jwajin memorial, South Korea
Kim Jwa­jin was very famous for winning a number of major victories against the Japanese. Himself an anarchist, he devised a plan along with the Korean Anarchist Federation in Manchuria to set up the Korean Anarchist People’s Movement. This was an area run along the same lines as the Makhnovist area with council systems, a degree of political pluralism; they had co­operatives and a militia defending it.

Kim Jwa­jin was assassinated in 1931 by a Communist, and soon after that Japanese forces came up from the south and crushed this [zone].

This was an important case.

He’s called the 'Korean Makhno', but I suppose you could just as well call Makhno the 'Ukrainian Kim Jwa­jin'.

In Korea these are not small facts. All of these major figures are recognised, they’ll tell you about them in school text books, but usually with the anarchism removed. Kim Jwa­jin’s house is a national monument; there’s a statue of him, they have sometimes Kim Jwa­jin Days; a number of important anarchists have been labelled ‘Independence activist of the month’, [have] even been on stamps, but the anarchism is usually elided in that.

And of course Spain 1936.

Now the important thing is two of these revolutions happened in the context of anti­colonial struggles. 

Nestor Makhno statue,  Ukraine
Very often when we look at the Makhnovist movement, we look [at it] mainly in the context of an aspect of the Russian revolution, but I think you also have to understand that Ukraine was one of the key Russian territories. It was the most commercial­ised farmland in Russia, it was one of the big export earners for the Russians, exported a hell of a lot of pasta, it’s a huge wheat growing area which they exported in the form of pasta – the Ukrainian pasta proletarian was an important revolutionary force!

Nestor Makhno himself had, after he came out of jail, been involved in union activity there.

This was a very developed area, and this was an area where the independence movement was strong. If you look at who the Makhnovists were competing with, on the one hand they were competing with the Bolshevik forces; on the other they were competing with the nationalist[s] of Symon Petlitra and the Central Rada.

If you re­read, with this in mind, the history of the Makhnovist movement, part of what they are trying to do is find an anarchist road to independence – how to have independence for a country, that does not simply transfer power from a foreign to a local power elite, how do you do this?

What they were trying to do was find a different road to de­colonisation.

***This is just part of the two­ hour talk Lucien gave; he also spoke of anarchist theory and organisation featured in the book and gave potted histories of several key anarchist figures. These will feature in Freedom at a later date.

Black Flame: The Revolutionary Class Politics of Anarchism and Syndicalism", CounterPower Vol.1, by Michael Schmidt and Lucien van der Walt, published by AK Press at £18.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Sverige: 2012 'Arbetaren': Michael Schmidt, 'Black Flame'

Michael Schmidt på Sergels torg i Stockholm.
Schmidt var i Sverige för att delta i en konferens arrangerad av
det globala nätverket Icorn     
Foto: Olle Eriksson

Arbetaren 24-30 May 2012:

Han vill ge ny syn på anarkismen
Olle Eriksson 

Sydafrika har en lång historia av anarkism och syndikalism, men denna har haft liten eller ingen plats i den västliga anarkistiska historieskrivningen. Michael Schmidt, anarkist, journalist och författare från Sydafrika, vill ändra på det.

För Arbetaren berättar han om kommande bokprojekt, rörelser i södra Afrika och sitt arbete med nätverket Icorn.

Michael Schmidt, som är en av författarna bakom den omtalade boken Black Flame, besökte under förra veckan Sverige för att i egenskap av observatör delta i en konferens arrangerad av det globala nätverket Icorn, The International Cities of Refuge Network, som arbetar med yttrandefrihetsfrågor och att skydda hotade och utsatta författare och journalister runt om i världen.

– Det är ett viktigt projekt där personer som flytt från exempelvis Iran, Gambia, Vitryssland och Kenya ges möjligheten att i ett annat land få uppehälle och pengar och på så sätt kunna fortsätta sitt skrivande, säger Michael Schmidt.

Annars arbetar han och författarkollegan Lucien van der Walt just nu febrilt med bokserien Counterpower som består av två delar. Del ett, Black Flame, kom 2009 och del två, Global Fire, väntas bli färdig inom ett till två år. Han berättar att de arbetat med böckerna under tio års tid. Idén med Black Flame, som är en av de mest omtalade böckerna på den anarkistiska litteraturscenen de senaste åren, var att presentera en sammanhållen anarkistisk teoribildning.

Rent allmänt tycker Michael att anarkister har misslyckats med att definiera vad anarkism är för något vilket bidrar till en bild av den som kaotisk, den reduceras till att vara enbart anti-stat och någonting som allt möjligt kan samlas in under.

– Det har alltid funnits en frihetlig sida i mänsklighetens historia men det betyder inte att det alltid funnits en anarkistisk rörelse, säger Michael Schmidt som daterar anarkismens födelse till 1860-talet då Michael Bakunin och hans kamrater levde och verkade.

Förutom teori tar Black Flame även upp en mängd personer, grupper och organisationer som man anser har arbetat anarkistiskt genom historien. Kritiken mot boken har handlat om att dess definitioner varit alldeles för snäva och att författarna å ena sidan inkluderar personer och grupper som inte så självklart uppfattas av andra – eller ens definierat sig själva – som anarkistiska och å andra sidan exkluderar de många aktivister och grupper som själva kallar sig anarkistiska.

I kommande Global Fire är ambitionen att teckna en sammanhängande historia av anarkistisk organisering över hela världen från 1860-talet fram till i dag.

– Vi måste korrigera bilden av att anarkismens historia uteslutande handlar om Europa och USA. Mycket har faktiskt hänt i Latinamerika och andra delar av världen. De första fackföreningarna som bildades i Kina och Egypten var anarkistiska och den första fackföreningen för färgade i Sydafrika var anarkistisk. I arbetet med boken har vi bland annat studerat rörelser i Vietnam, Filipinerna, Uruguay, Algeriet, Kenya och Afghanistan. Många länder där man kanske inte tror att det funnits anarkistisk organisering, säger Michael Schmidt som med sitt författarskap fått ledarna för Cosatu, ett sydafrikanskt fackförbund med nästan två miljoner medlemmar, att börja läsa Bakunin.

– På en kongress för något år sedan citerade Cosatus ordförande ur Black Flame och menade att man måste börja ta intryck från anarkismens och syndikalismens idéer, säger Michael Schmidt.

Anledningen till denna nydaning tror han beror på att de mest öppensinnade inom förbundet förstått att det gamla Sovjetparadigmet är dött. De alternativ som tidigare presenterats har kommit från landets kommunistiska parti som följer en kinesisk modell av nyliberalism och fascistisk korporativism.

– Sedan måste man komma ihåg Sydafrikas speciella historia med apartheidsystemets fall på 1990-talet. Dagens politiska elit har en ganska färsk illegal och revolutionär bakgrund, vilket antagligen gör dem något öppnare för sådana här idéer, säger Michael Schmidt.

Under 1900-talet har det funnits ett flertal anarkistiska och syndikalistiska organisationer i Sydafrika. I dag finns det organiserade syndikalister i Cape Town som arbetar med vinplantagearbetare, där man bland annat samarbetat med svenska SAC Syndikalisterna när det gäller Systembolagets affärer med sydafrikanska vinproducenter.

Michael Schmidt, som varit med att bilda den anarkistiska kamporganisationen Zabalaza, berättar att man har bra samarbeten med anarkister i bland annat Zwaziland och Zimbabwe. Genom informationsspridning försöker man stödja respektive länders kamp för demokrati.

De senaste årens händelser i Nordafrika ger skäl att vara optimistisk och kanske hoppas på en anarkistisk massrörelse där, tror Michael Schmidt.

– Den dagen då vi kommit dithän att anarkister dödas och fängslas och vi upptäcker att vissa av våra kamrater är polisspioner, då vet vi att vi är på rätt väg för då utmanar vi verkligen makten.



Icorn är en global sammanslutning av städer runt om i världen som under två års tid ger husrum och pengar till en person, vanligtvis en författare eller journalist, som på något vis hotas av våld eller fängelsestraff på grund av sitt skrivande. Över 100 delegater, gästskribenter och observatörer från hela världen samlades i Stockholm under förra veckan för att diskutera yttrandefrihet och organisatoriska frågor. Det här var det andra stora Icorn-kongressen sedan bildandet 2008.
Läs mer på

Michael SchmidtMichael Schmidt är 45 år och bor i Johannesburg, Sydafrika. Han arbetar som journalist och författare och har varit med och grundat Professional Journalists’ Association of South Africa.

Han är författare till boken Black Flame: the Revolutionary Class Politics of Anarchism and Syndicalism, utgiven av AK Press 2009.


English: 2012 'Arbetaren'/ SAC interview with Michael Schmidt on 'Black Flame'

Michael Schmidt in Stockhom. Photo: Olle Eriksson
 2012 Arbetaren interview with Michael Schmidt on Black Flame
Arbetaren 24-30 May 2012. Online in Swedish at

He wants to give a new vision of anarchism
By Olle Eriksson, Arbetaren, Sveriges Arbetaren Centralorganisation, Sweden, 24 May 2012

South Africa has a long history of anarchism and syndicalism, but this has had little or no place in the Western anarchist historiography. Michael Schmidt, an anarchist, journalist and writer from South Africa, wants to change that. For Arbetaren, he talks about upcoming book projects, movements in southern Africa and his work with the network Icorn.

Michael Schmidt, who is one of the authors of the famous book Black Flame, visited Sweden last week as an observer to attend a conference organized by the global Icorn, the International Cities of Refuge Network, which works with freedom of speech issues and to protect threatened and vulnerable writers and journalists around the world.

“It is an important project in which people who have fled from countries like Iran, Gambia, Kenya, Belarus, are given the opportunity in another country to subsist… and thus be able to continue their writing,’ said Michael Schmidt.

Otherwise, he and fellow author Lucien van der Walt are right now feverishly working on their Counter Power book series that consists of two parts. Part one, Black Flame, was introduced in 2009 and part two, Global Fire, is expected to be completed within one to two years. He says that they worked on the books for ten years. The idea of Black Flame, which is one of the most talked-about books on the anarchist literary scene in recent years, was to present a coherent anarchist theory.

In general, Michael thinks that anarchists have failed to define what anarchism is all about, by reducing it to being merely anti-state and something into which everything possible can be gathered, contributing to a chaotic picture.

“There has always been a libertarian page in human history, but that does not mean there has always been an anarchist movement,” said Michael Schmidt, dating anarchism’s birth to the 1860s when Michael Bakunin and his comrades lived and worked.

Besides theory, Black Flame also raised a host of individuals, groups and organisations that they believe worked as anarchists in history. The criticism of the book has focused on its definitions being too narrow and that the writers on the one hand, include individuals and groups who are not so obviously perceived by others – or even defined themselves – as anarchistic, and on the other hand, exclude many activists and groups that call themselves anarchists.

The aim of the upcoming Global Fire is to conclude a coherent history of anarchist organising worldwide from the 1860s until today.

“We must correct the impression that the history of anarchism deals exclusively with the U.S. and [Western] Europe. A lot has actually happened in Latin America and other parts of the world. The first unions formed in China and Egypt were by anarchists, and the first trade union for people of colour in South Africa was anarchic. In the work on the book, we have studied movements in Vietnam, the Philippines, Uruguay, Algeria, Kenya and Afghanistan, many countries where people may not believe that anarchist organisations existed,” said Michael Schmidt, who with his writing, [inspired] the leaders of Cosatu, a South African trade union with nearly two million members, to start reading Bakunin.

“At a conference some years ago, Cosatu’s general secretary [cited] Black Flame and said that we must begin to take inspiration from anarchist and syndicalist ideas,” said Michael Schmidt.

The reason for this regeneration, he believes is due to the most open-minded people within the union who understood that the old Soviet paradigm was dead. The options previously presented came from the country's Communist Party who follow a Chinese model of neo-liberalism and fascist corporatism.

“Then you have to remember South Africa's particular history of apartheid… Today's political elite has a fairly fresh illegal and revolutionary background, which probably makes them somewhat more open to these kinds of ideas,” said Michael Schmidt.

During the 1900s, there were a number of anarchist and syndicalist organisations in South Africa. Today there are organised syndicalists in Cape Town working with wine farm labourers, who among other things worked with the Swedish SAC syndicalists in the system’s [fair trade] business with South African wine producers.

Michael Schmidt, who helped to form the anarchist Zabalaza struggle organisation, says that they have good relationships with anarchists in particular in Swaziland and Zimbabwe, and through the dissemination of information, seek to support these respective countries' struggle for democracy.

The events of recent years in North Africa gives reason to be optimistic and perhaps hope for a mass anarchist movement, Michael Schmidt believes.

“When the day comes that anarchists are killed and imprisoned and we find that some of our comrades are police spies, then we will know that we are on track, that we really challenge power.”

Saturday, January 28, 2012

A Useful Debate: Notes on Martin Thomas' "Solidarity"/Alliance for Workers' Liberty critique of "Black Flame"

The British Trotskyist group, Alliance for Workers' Liberty (AWL), in 2011 published a 3 part review/ critique/ discussion of Black Flame in their paperSolidarity. Written by Martin Thomas, it appeared in three parts:

Part 1 here
Part 2 here
Part 3 here

There are many points with which to disagree, but let us stress first that the AWL was absolutely comradely and non-sectarian throughout. The Black Flame authors, several times offered a platform in Solidarity to reply, and engagement in the "Comments" sections was also friendly. Regrettably time commitments made the formal reply impossible, although some responses were posted online by Lucien (see below).

Meanwhile, Iain McKay, author of the Anarchist FAQ (vol. 1 book edition here and online edition here), also participated extensively in the debate, with systematic responses in the "Comments" section of each part - detailed responses that by-and-large refute much of the 3-part review.

Thomas then invited McKay to debate the issues at the AWL's annual "Ideas for Freedom" event, which in 2011 ran from 8-10 July. The AWL agreed to McKay's terms that the event be free and that an anarchist stall be permitted.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Michael Schmidt talk at DIRA, Montréal, 18 March '10: "The Relevance of Anarchist and Syndicalist History for Today’s Struggles"

Michael Schmidt (co-author with Lucien van der Walt of the book Black Flame: the Revolutionary Class Politics of Anarchism and Syndicalism, AK Press, USA, 2009)

Talk at DIRA bookstore, Montréal, 18 March 2010, part of Black Flame tour, Canada

Thanks to Marie-Eve Lamy of Lux Éditeur, Montréal, for the transcription
"The Relevance of Anarchist and Syndicalist History for Today’s Struggles"

Thank you so much, especially to the Union Comuniste Libertaire [UCL], Common Cause, AK Press and everyone else who has made it possible for me to come out. I think it's very important for militants who live in different parts of the world to compare ideas and practice. Hopefully that's what we're all about – putting ideas into practice, and being very pragmatic about the way we exercise our politics. I come from a very strange country, and it's nice to see one of my countrymen here. One of my comrades from South Africa has just moved to Montréal, temporarily, but nevertheless. And hopefully you'll make him feel at home as you have made me feel at home.

It's been really fantastic over the last couple of days to have been speaking to people who come from many different walks of life, many of whom are working class but have a very clear understanding of politics, and a very clear class line. And certainly after the collapse of the Berlin Wall 20 year ago, I think we are really starting to see the necessity around the world for class-line politics. Politics which draw a line in the sand and say we will not adopt bourgeois culture or bourgeois values or a bourgeois way of living, and says in fact we will establish a new way. A new method of politics – which in fact isn't that new, but it's new to a lot of people – in the here and now, in order to construct a physical and real future.

I've been going around and doing a variety of different talks depending on the type of audience. My audience last night was quite mixed, maybe not as experienced as some of you are. Hopefully I'm judging things right, and not talking beyond what you know. But some of what I will talk about hopefully will be beyond what you know, because of all the political philosophies in the world, all of the big practices of the working class, the excluded, the poor, the peasantry, anarchism has been the most misrepresented. I believe this is largely because it has conformed very closely to proletarian practice.

The book, Black Flame: the Revolutionary Class Politics of Anarchism and Syndicalism, which I wrote with Lucien van der Walt, did not start out as a book; the book started out as a pamphlet that somebody else had written, that I read and realised very quickly suffered from the main errors of our understanding of the world, and that is it was very much derived from a North-Atlanticist way of seeing things; to call it Eurocentric would be too kind to it! The standard anarchist histories written by anarchists themselves are notoriously centred on Western Europe and portions of North America.

There is a bogus theory, but very current amongst academics and even militants, of “Spanish exceptionalism,” that is, that it was only in Spain that anarchism achieved anything of a mass working-class presence. A Marxist historian like Eric Hobsbawm, who has quite a nice eye for the colour and detail and texture of class struggles – in many respects I actually like him as a writer – is sadly very crude on such matters, simply because it doesn't conform to his politics. And he ascribes what he thinks of as this “Spanish exceptionalism” to some weird deviation in the Spanish character, which if anything is a bit of an unfortunately chauvinistic attitude.

What I want to talk about is a different kind of practice to that of which some of you are accustomed to – I know a lot of you are accustomed to it – a practice which has largely been “disappeared” from the historical record, but is still traceable certainly in the police record, and in the records of all the authorities who have oppressed us over the last 150 years.

I like to joke that the book was a little monster living in my basement that ate scraps that I threw from my table from time to time, and eventually became this huge thing that outgrew the house.

So today it is two volumes, Black Flame is the first, and the forthcoming volume is Global Fire. The reason that it is two volumes is that as the re-writing of this history to try to reorient it towards the massive Latin American in particular and East Asian anarchist movements got underway, it became very apparent that we – my co-author Lucien and I – as anarchists needed to define what the hell anarchism was, because there is a heck of a lot of confusion on this topic.

This confusion is generated in part because many of us as anarchists have accepted bourgeois definitions of who we are. And there is one very specific bourgeois definition – we will leave aside the obvious calumny of anarchism equals chaos, an immature response of the declining artisanal classes as it is usually painted by most, but not all Marxists... We'll leave aside that, but the primary way in which anarchism is misrepresented is as something that was a brief spark, that was essentially disconnected from daily struggle, that it was born in some philosopher's head, and died in some foolhardy experiment in Spain in 1939.

The anarchist movement has currency primarily because it was, and remains, a proletarian practice. We do not corner the market on reality; anarchists don't have the final word on, for instance, the key question which faces all revolutionaries, which is how do you transmit communist ideas – the ideas of a free society – from a militant minority to the mass in a way that the mass makes those ideas their own and in fact moves beyond the origins of those ideas. To be honest, we all face that idea whether you're a Maoist or a Trotskyist or whatever – we all have to grapple with that issue.

So I think it is worthwhile to take a look to see what anarchism had to say about that. Because based on the historical record, anarchism was quite different to the way it has been represented in the bourgeois press. It is ironic that many anarchists conceive of themselves – outside of certain movements, and within that I include my own, your own, and our comrades in several places in the world, Chile, Argentina, Italy, Ireland and elsewhere, people who are clear about who we are – most anarchists’ idea of themselves is in fact derived from a German judge. It was a judge named Paul Eltzbacher who 1900 wrote a book in the period in which anarchism was a global movement that was challenging the order of the day. He said anarchism was solely anti-state: but its not, its anti-capitalist, class-struggle-based, anti-authoritarian, and it comes from the oppressed classes. But Eltzbacher’s view remains influential, and that’s a problem, as it distorts our history and our praxis.

If you take a look at the origins of Interpol, you will see that before Interpol itself was established, there were two conferences, the first one in Rome, and the second one in St-Petersburg in the 1890s, that laid the groundwork for what would become Interpol. And these conferences were specifically aimed at crushing these specific anarchist movements. This was in a period that was remarkably similar to our own. I mean, it was very different in many ways, and very similar. It's very different in that today we live in a world of nano-technology, space tourism, and other nonsense.

Our movement today lives in a world which is very different to the gas-lit origins of the movement, and yet we find remarkable similarities. In the period of what you might call the “short twentieth century” – the century between the First World War and the collapse of the Berlin Wall – we find that the state form actually locks its populations down quite significantly, both mentally and physically. The nation-state and nationalism become the dominant ideology throughout much of the world – even in the welfare states – and this dramatic movement of working-class people around the world that you see in the period of the 1880s and 1890s to the 1920s is largely absent. But now, since the fall of the Wall, we've seen that start to open up again.

Mikhail Bakunin (1814-1876) at
 the  the First International
 So the origins of the anarchist movement was not in some philosopher's head, but in the international revolutionary socialist trade unions and workers’ groups of the First International who were banding together on very pragmatic grounds; the grounds of solidarity, to try to stop French workers being undercut by British scabs and vice versa, and it grew out from there. It was a world in which the telegraph had started connecting people across the world at the very same time that barbed wire had just been invented and was being rolled out across the world and being used to cut them off from their own resources.

In this world, there was the consolidation of financial capital, and this massive push into Africa and Asia by the imperialist powers. Imperial wars were being fought (and this sounds familiar) in the Middle-East and Central Asia. The working class, which was all of a sudden very mobile in this environment – part-time sharecroppers coming from repressed and depressed southern Italy going off to Argentina for a season, where they had no vote, coming back to Italy where again they had no vote, this great cycle, this great global movement of workers – responded in several different ways in this period to the pain that they were feeling.

This was a really globally mobile, but very excluded and flexibilised labour force. They responded, some of them, by turning to religious fundamentalism and fanaticism. Others started to consolidate ideas around revolutionary class struggle. So I think you might agree with me that there are some remarkable similarities between today's section of flexibilised, precarious, continually moving, and excluded labour – people who are cut off from any means of real participation in the political process in their own countries, or in the countries into which they are drafted to be the underpaid subject class of labour.

What was remarkable about the early anarchist movement was that despite its militancy, it was deliberately building a lot of educational institutions along the way. It was building popular universities in Cairo, in Cuba, in Peru, in Argentina, and in China. The reason for this is the same as the reason why we had the Black Consciousness Movement in South Africa: it was necessary to cut the mental bonds that attached the rape victim to the rapist, the oppressed to the oppressor. And the anarchists shocked bourgeois sensibility by educating not only freed slaves alongside white people, but of all things, educating women alongside men, and girls alongside boys. This kind of stuff just wasn't done back then. I mean, who knows what kind of ideas they might get when you get them out of the kitchen.

On that note, I would like to say that gives us a little hint that the direction in which we need to be organising needs to be determined by our real conditions. In Brazil in 1930, there was an industrial working class of 1-million, but there was a maidservant class of 3-million. Perhaps the anarchists should have been organising among the maids. We need to be connected to where our people are at.

One of the reasons that the anarchist movement spread so dramatically around the world, establishing trade unions, what we call syndicalist unions (in other words, directly democratic and overtly revolutionary rank-and-file unions, anarchist trade unions) in Cuba, Mexico, the USA, Uruguay, Spain, and arguably (although the record is a little slim) in Russia, in the period of the 1870s and early 1880s – the reason this kind of thing spreads into Egypt and Uruguay and Cuba – these places which are under colonial or imperial control (Uruguay was free of the Spaniards, but not free of their own comprador capital) – is because in this period I think, if we are to be honest, up until Lenin in Marxism, in classic Marxism, you don't really find a serious Marxist engagement with the peasantry and the colonial world. By contrast, Bakunin was asking “What happens when 800 million Asiatics wake up from their sleep?”

The anarchist focus, right from the beginning, is saying you don't need to jump through a series of stages, like a poodle in a circus going through flaming hoops to get to the right time to stage your revolt. What you really need is to realise that you're at the stage now where you need to start fighting back. That doesn't mean that revolution is going to happen on Tuesday, starting at sharp. We all know that revolutions require a massive confluence of historical circumstances.

But it's because of this very early and very radical challenge to gender, race, colonialism, and imperialism that the anarchist movement made some incredible penetrations into parts of the world that Marxism doesn't even reach until much later, in the 1920s in fact. The Profintern (the communists' Red International of Trade Unions) then had to come knocking at the doors of the syndicalist trade unions, saying “Please, may we have a few workers? We don't really have any of our own. We need a couple to pretend that we have an International”. Sorry, I'm being rude.

It's probably unknown that there was a syndicalist survival in Southern Rhodesia, what is now Zimbabwe, up into the 1950s. That, pictured in Bulawayo, 1930 is Masotsha Ndhlovu, who in the 1920s was a ader of the Industrial and Commercial Union of Rhodesia. This union had suffered defeat in South Africa in the 1920s, but in what became Zimbabwe, it continued into the 1950s. It had been founded roughly on IWW or ndustrial Workers of the World principles, even if it wasn’t a pure syndicalist union, and I'm hoping that many of you know who the IWW are because it is a significant part of Canadian labour history. It's an incredibly powerful model that spread around the world.

The Korean movement - pictured: members of the Korean Anarchist Federation and Chinese comrades, 1928 - is generated primarily by the invasion of Japan in 1910. This generates a whole range of different responses, including syndicalist trade unions in port cities like Wonsan. But eventually a lot of the militants are forced out into exile, and they consolidate just across the border in this broad river valley, ringed by mountains, called the Shinmin Prefecture.

 And in Shinmin, during the period of 1929 to 1932, they establish this autonomous zone in which peasants, workers, and revolutionaries essentially run their own lives. This is the rather unknown anarchist Manchurian Revolution, driven by the response to Japanese imperialist aggression. It was destroyed in that place, that particular geographical experience, by the Japanese invasion proper, which happened a couple of years later. The curious thing about the Korean movement is that its finest hours really occurred outside of its own national territory, in defence, originally, of their own national freedom, but eventually in defence of Chinese freedom as well.

But also, the East Asian movement is barely disrupted by the Second World War, because these guys had been fighting since 1910. For a lot of Western movements, and you could even look at your conventional trade unions, the rise of the Nazis and of Fascism in Europe was quite a breaking point. But in the Far East you find this continuous arc of struggle which is completely uninterrupted by the War because these guys had been fighting their war since 1910. And this movement continues with significant power right into the 1950s.

Johannesburg, my hometown: pictured is Industrial Workers of Africa in a strike movement, Johannesburg, 1918.The Industrial Workers of Africa: established in 1917 on IWW lines – very explicitly industrial, revolutionary trade union lines was part of this strike movement.

What happened in South Africa is that the IWW had gone in there and established itself in 1910 in an environment that was kind of similar to Canada at that time in that so-called “white labourism” dominated. This was essentially white working class people saying “we're protecting our own asses”, against capital and against other workers, without seeing the obvious: that an injury to one is an injury to all, right?

The IWW came in with an entirely different program that was anti-racist. They organised on the trams in Johannesburg, and railways in Pretoria, and in the port city of Durban. At first they failed to break through the colour bar, but they established a generation of militancy that was further radicalized by the anti-war movement during the First World War, and eventually in 1917 established the Industrial Workers of Africa. And in fact they adopted the IWW constitution, lock stock and barrel. They based themselves squarely on the IWW. That's the irony – the Transvaal Native Congress – the movement was so significant in that period that several leading members of the highveld [inland high plateau] branch of what is today the ruling party of the country, what became the African National Congress, were very influenced by syndicalism in this period.

And just to show that we're not all talking about history: pictured is a poster of the Spanish Confederación General del Trabajo, 1999. Here are the descendents of the historic Spanish CNT who fought the Spanish Revolution (there are several factions, as some of you no doubt know, and this is the largest faction), they are currently representing 2 million workers.

Ōsugi Sakae, pictured here with Itō Noe and the editors of Rōdō Undō, Tokyo, 1921:  the Japanese labour movement, a small movement in a country that certainly in the period between the wars, didn't develop much of an industrial base. Many of the shops and plants were very small. But a very significant, radical, egalitarian trade union movement developed there.

It was anarcho-syndicalist, and included (again, shocking the bourgeois sensibility) very strong women leaders, many of whom would be murdered for their opposition to the state. The Japanese trade unions, worked alongside Korean trade unions, who again were working within the heart of the beast which was the developing Japanese Empire, sliding into militarism.

Shin Ch’aeho, pictured, was a leading Korean anarchist theorist and militant. His Korean Revolution Manifesto of 1923 really united all of the disparate anti-Japanese revolutionary forces, some of them within the Korean Anarchist Federation, some of them within the Korean Anarchist-Communist Federation, some of them within the Revolutionist Federation, basically all of them anarchist, but working alongside nationalists and communists to try to beat back the Japanese. He died in a Japanese jail in fact in '36.

Lala Har Dayal pictured here, the primary Indian revolutionary of his age. You guys probably know about Mohandas Gandhi. Why the hell do you know about Mohandas Gandhi, and not about Lala Har Dayal? The reason is because you're learning your history from the bourgeoisie. You're being fed this shit; you're being fed this pacifism, right? You're being fed all of this lame stuff. What this guy did (and he was also influenced by the IWW), he was a worker, an Indian chap working in San Francisco.

He became the secretary of the San Francisco branch of the IWW. He became a convinced anarchist, a hardliner, a Bakuninist. He believed that you needed a specific organisation to maintain clarity, but that organisation has to live, eat, sleep, and breathe within the class – within mass class organisations – and acts as that organisation's historical memory, tactical toolbox, and first line of defence. In other words, they will put their bodies on the line.

This guy's party, the Ghadar (“Mutiny”) Party, established in 1913, established branches in the United States, Canada, British-occupied East Africa, and many other parts of the world where Indian exiles and migrants found themselves. Crucially they establish bases within India itself, in Punjab and Hindustan, and launch an armed uprising in 1915.

What is interesting is the social base of the Ghadar Party in India is primarily made up of peasants and of returning British army veterans who know how to fight, but suddenly realised, “What the heck! We fought for this British Empire, but we've been treated like second class citizens in our own country!”

The last traces of this movement that we've managed to discover (and of course, the records are not entirely complete) are in East Africa in the 1940s and in Afghanistan in the 1930s. What is interesting for those of you in the room who might be communists is that those particular regions in which the Ghadar Party was organised in India, were the most trenchant regions of peasant resistance, and the seed-beds of the later radical grassroots communist parties of the 1940s and ’50s. So we are kind of cousins after all, right?

Also, crucially, we need to bear in mind that this idea (and not only the idea, but the mass organisational practice of anarchism) did not die on the barricades of Barcelona in 1939 [when the Spanish Revolution fell]. I believe, based on what I've studied (and the book has taken us ten years to write so far), that if there is a “dark ages” of the anarchist movement, which to a degree means if there is a dark ages of working class knowledge and understanding of the class's own fighting history (not that the anarchist movement represents the entire fighting history, that is false; but I think the anarchist movement has been a key repository of those fighting techniques), that dark ages is in fact the late 1970s and early 1980s.

This is when a lot of the organisational memory that had been transmitted for decades since the 1860s, by generation after generation of militants – many of whom who died on the barricades, died on the gallows, succumbed to tuberculosis, gone down into the grave early because of the strain of their fight – was lost. There is a reason that a lot of North American movements don't have the faintest clue what happened in their own countries in the 1970s, and don't even know what their own ideological antecedents were as little as three decades ago. Instead we're all looking back to the 1920s and saying “It must have been great back then!”

The period of the 1940s and 1950s poses a huge set of challenges to the proletariat as a whole, and to the anarchist movement that works within that proletariat. Quite clearly, the history of the Second World War and Fascism is well known, as is the rise of nationalism, which as I said earlier had locked down so many people's minds in so many countries into a very narrow paradigm of what it meant to be free.

But when you look at, for example, a year like 1956, you have the Cuban Revolution underway (I mean the real one); the syndicalist dockworkers in Argentina embark on what is still to this day the largest ever general strike; in Chile, the dictator, Paco Ibañez, is forced into a position where he basically hands over the power to the syndicalist and communist unions. He says “Enough already! Just take the country! You've won!” Sadly, in one of the dumbest moves ever, the communists break ranks and that collapses. But what I'm saying is that we have these mass working class movements, these peaks of struggle occurring in Latin America, in a period when, if you read the standard histories, it's all McCarthyism, grim and grey, Stalinism, the Cold War, and nothing is happening – everyone is defeated. But it's not so. I think maybe it's my generation, or maybe the people slightly before me who were defeated, and we've forgotten our own history.

Mikhail Gerdzhikov, pictured, of Bulgaria .. one of the leading lights in the Bulgarian Anarchist-Communist Federation, established in 1919. What's interesting about them is that they're very pluralistic. They are a very diverse organisation. They have an industrial base, a very strong syndicalist industrial base. To be fair, they are the third-largest force on the left, after the agrarians and the communists in Bulgaria in the 1920s. But they are strong and coherent – they have their issues, like everybody else – but they have this really interesting and diverse movement. They organise amongst students, intellectual workers. They have their armed detachments.

They learnt through this guy, Gerdzhikov, that you've got to defend your gains, physically, by force, in an organised fashion. He earned his chops fighting against the Ottoman Turkish empire in the 1903 Macedonian Uprising. A huge section of the Bulgarian anarchist movement basically learned how to fight by fighting on behalf of someone else's freedom in 1903: this is principled internationalist anti-imperialism, from below!. About 60 of these Bulgarian anarchists lost their lives in Macedonia – a relatively small skirmish in the bigger picture of things. But in that period they established free communes that replicated the Cantonalist Communes – the cities which the anarchists had run in 1873 in Spain – plus Lyon, Paris, those sort of examples, from a few years earlier as well.

The fact that this movement was so diverse, but at the same time coherent, enabled them to fight off two fascist coups d'etat, one in 1923 and one in 1934. Eventually, they had to fight the Red Army itself in 1948, because the Red Army had allied with the indigenous fascists to form the so-called Fatherland Front, to try to impose a disciplined dictatorship – no doubt “of the proletariat”! – on the Bulgarian people.  And it's remarkable that Bulgaria, almost alone of all nations, did not allow a single train to go to the death camps – despite the fact that they were a Nazi ally, on the bourgeois level.

Moving a little bit forward in time, the late Wilstar Choongo is pictured at left with members of the Socialist Caucus, Lusaka, 1998, who I befriended a little while ago, in Zambia. These movements are often, particularly in my part of the world in Africa, ephemeral. They rise up, and then they die. Very difficult circumstances in Africa, and yet when you look at the history of the anarchist movement, the anarchist movement was built by bitterly poor people in extreme conditions of poverty, oppression, and prejudice, and yet they were able to build mass movements.

When you take a look at Argentina, which in 1900 was actually, based on its meat exports – certainly for the bourgeoisie, they were smiling – it was the fourth wealthiest nation by some measures in the world at that stage, but everybody who produced that wealth was excluded. It was very tiny elite that even had the bourgeois vote. If you look at that world, the anarchist movement that develops in those conditions becomes so strong that eventually the two main labour federations in the country by 1919 are two slightly tactically, slightly ideologically different anarchist trade union federations. The debate within the organised labour movement is a tactical and strategic debate between anarchists – in rather significant numbers; mass organisations built across race lines, and certainly across gender lines, at a time of incredible duress.

And the women who come out of these movements are a force to be reckoned with. In Latin America alone, we can look at people like Juana Belém Gutiérrez de Mendoza in Mexico. She manages to establish a feminist newspaper called Vespa. This paper survives and publishes for 36 years, despite the fact that she's continually in and out of jail. She wasn't a pushover.

Kanno Sugako, pictured, in Japan ... There were lots of manufactured plots against the Emperor but she really was guilty; she really did plan to take out the Emperor, to prove that he wasn't a living god; to prove that the god in our heads could in fact be killed; to sever that mental link that the oppressed majority had with their oppressors.

Juana Rouco Buela of Argentina, and Virginia Bolten of Uruguay – they set up probably one of the earliest feminist journals in the world in Argentina. They get quite a bit of flack originally from the men. The men say “You're dividing the movement!”.

But they hold out, and they establish a line of thought that is still transmitted today in the Latin American movement. I'm really glad to see you have Maria Lacerda de Moura on your wall over there. This is one of the ways in which Francophone and Hispanophone movements are superior to English-speaking movements – there is a much deeper appreciation of history and theory. She was Brazilian, and she was the premier labour educator of her age. She would go on speaking tours right across Latin America, as far up as Mexico. She preached rationalist education – reason against an education system dominated by the Church that taught mysticism and respect for one's abusers.

Petronilla Infantes is pictured, third from the left in front, with the Sindicato de Culinaria, La Paz, 1935. Here's a young woman heading up the anarcho-syndicalist culinary workers’ syndicate in Bolivia in 1935. She becomes the leading labour leader in Bolivia right into the 1950s. If you go into the streets in Bolivia right until today, they will know her name. And we can go on.

We can look at Luisa Capetillo in Puerto Rico, who dared to wear pants. And boy did she ever wear them, in defiance! She led the trade union movement in Puerto Rico. We can look at Maroussia Nikiforova leading the Makhnovist detachments fighting the White armies in the Ukraine during the Ukrainian Revolution, eventually being executed in 1919 in Sevastopol. The list goes on and on.

There was Spain, which had a revolution: pictured is CNT-FAI collectivised tram, Barcelona, 1936. Its movement wasn't exactly all that insignificant! But really in context, proportionately, by head of population, the anarchist movement in nearby Portugal was much more powerful than in Spain. It was much more integrated into daily life generally across the country than in Spain, where it was more located in certain regions, such as Catalonia.

The Iberian anarchists ran daily newspapers which were as large in circulation as your city newspapers today. Certainly as large as the mainstream newspapers that I as a journalist have worked for. I can only wish that we had radical newspapers of that kind of reach, but maybe we'll build that again.

Mexico in '68: here, pictured is a mass demonstration shortly before the Ttatelolco Massacre, Mexico City... again jumping forward in time. You're probably aware that my country is about to host the FIFA Soccer World Cup, and there are massive contradictions in our being able to spend billions building beautiful gleaming football stadiums when we supposedly cannot build houses for the poor.

This massacre occurred just prior to the World Cup in Mexico in 1968. And what the student leaders were asking, many, many decades after the Mexican Revolution, was “Was the anarchist revolutionary leader Ricardo Flores Magón wrong? Did he misunderstand what we were all about? Did he misunderstand the solution?” And 50,000 voices shouted back, “No! He was not wrong. He understood. We understand”. And then the troops opened fire.

Our own small little effort is pictured: the anarchist-founded Phambili Motsoaledi Community Library, Soweto, in 2005. We're part of a much bigger story, and South Africa is not an easy environment to work within. The working class is lured by all sorts of promises of pie-in-the-sky from all sorts of religious and political elites.

 And this is what we can do to walk alongside the masses, and help keep connected, help them keep their eye on the prize. This is developing class consciousness, solidarity, and building popular organisations of counter-power. We build that counter-power, by which I mean structures, directly democratic structures, organisations.

But those organisations become impossible if you don't have a counter-culture that goes along with them. And what I mean by counter-culture, I don't mean a particularly weird shade of green in your hair, or a piercing on a part of your body. By counter-culture, I mean a fundamental oppositional working-class culture, which means when you're walking downtown and you need to purchase something urgently at the chain store and there's a picket there, you know – it’s in your bone marrow and blood – that you would never cross a picket line. You've got that working class culture engraved in your skin. It is a part of you.

That is our biggest challenge. That is where we need to start to rebuild, by changing consciousness in order to create the mental space in which to build counter-hegemonic institutions; by building organisations that are of the class, by the class, and for the class. And I think I'll just stop there and leave it open for questions.