London AF Public Meeting on Modern Spanish Anarchism

Next public meeting of London Anarchist Federation:
The Anarchist Movement in Modern Spain

Report back on factfinding tour of Spanish anarchist movement by AF member
7pm Thursday August 31st at Common House, 5e Pundersons Gardens, London E2 (nearest tube Bethnal Green. Plenty of time or discussion, refreshments

Leith Hill Anti-Fracking Camp

“Europa Oil & Gas are nearing the end of the legal process giving them
permission to carry out unconventional drilling in the Surrey Hills,
despite massive community opposition. A phase of direct action is likely
to begin once the site traffic starts to arrive in October. If you’d
like to find out more, see the Leith Hill Protection Camp Facebook page 
or come and visit the Leith Hill Protection Camp which is in Coldharbour
Lane near Dorking, opposite the intended drill site. If you’d like to
join the camp, please visit first to meet the core crew.”

Anarchist Federation. Surrey & Hampshire Group.

PAST EXAMPLES OF LABOUR

It was Labour who started off the severe cuts in wages and welfare benefits under James Callaghan in the 1970s. Callaghan pioneered the monetarist policies then taken up by Thatcher.

Many argue that a Corbyn-led Labour government would somehow galvanise social movements. However let’s look at the example of Bennism in the early 1980s. Bennism was a similar movement to Corbynism. It mobilised around the left Labour figure of Tony Benn. In fact both Corbyn and McDonnell were minor figures within Bennism, as were some of their present associates. There was great hope that Benn would become deputy leader of the Labour Party until he was defeated by Denis Healey in 1983. In the process a large number of activists from the various social movements, women’s groups, gay liberation groups etc. who up till then were existing outside the Labour Party, were now dragged into Labour and in the process demobilised these social movements. A similar phenomenon happened alongside this when Ken Livingstone ran the Greater London Council from 1981 to 1986 and developed his “rainbow coalition”, involving the same social movements mentioned above, absorbing them into the GLC. Again the result was demobilisation, with people looking towards the GLC administration rather than relying on their own action. Livingstone backed down against Thatcher on tube fares and setting local rates and there was no significant response on the streets.

Going back to Syriza, we saw a situation where it persuaded people to rely on its being in power and fighting against the austerity measures imposed by the EU, the IMF and the World Bank. Of course Syriza broke everyone of their electoral promises. The Syriza member Stathis Kouvelakis had later to admit that the negotiation process with the EU “by itself triggered passivity and anxiety among the people and the most combative sectors of society, leading them to exhaustion”. The Greek social movements have taken a long time to recover from the Syriza experience and that could be the same scenario with a Corbyn government. Again we repeat, we have to rely on our activities and our own organisation of grassroots struggles.

CORBYN AND PRAGMATISM

CORBYN AND PRAGMATISM

Because of the Labour Party apparatus ruled by the Blairites, Corbyn had to shift his political positions, at least publicly. An opponent of immigration controls, at the last election he promised the most right-wing Labour policy on immigration in over 30 years. An opponent of NATO, he regarded it as a “danger to world peace” and socialists had to campaign against it. He has now embraced NATO, saying that “ I want to work within NATO to achieve stability”. A life-long opponent of the monarchy, Corbyn now states that  the abolition of the monarchy “is not on my agenda. A critic of the police and its shoot-to-kill policy he once laid a wreath to victims of police violence at the Cenotaph.  He now says that the police should use “whatever force is necessary to protect and save life.” Labour pledges to increase the number of police by 10,000 and the number of prison warders by 3,000 and border guards by 500.

How much more would Corbyn turn to the right if he were Prime Minister? Look at Alexis Tsipras, leader of Syriza in Greece. In January 2015 Syriza came to power on a strong anti-austerity programme. Within a year Tsipras had done a deal with the IMF that imposed the harshest austerity programme in Greece, far west than that imposed by previous governments.

Again we repeat that we must not let the new social movements currently mobilising around housing, against austerity and against racism and police brutality, become tools of Labour. Corbyn’s lieutenant McDonnell in particular has a on several occasions hinted at such a scenario, talking of transforming “the party from the traditional centralised party into something more akin to a mass social movement, responding to the rising demand for greater activist engagement.” By this he means cooption of the currently existing social movements as auxiliaries to the Labour electoral machine.” More recently he affirmed that Labour is “changing into a social movement”. But whilst Labour is able to organise mass triumphalist rallies it has failed to go beyond that, to massively engage its members in social action. Corbyn and McDonnell would like to capture the social movements for their own ends. It is up to those of us active in the social movements and in grassroots workplace struggles to develop a truly mass social movement, one that is autonomous and independent of political parties including Labour so that it can set its own objectives and aims.

MORE ON CORBYN

Whilst many Corbynistas want a purge of the Blairites and Brownites, Corbyn does not want such a split, even if some of his left allies do. He has been a loyal Labour MP for 30 years, staying within it through thick and thin, through the Iraq War to which he was opposed  and after the majority of Labour MPS abstained on the Welfare Bill. He  still faces the enmity of the party machine, peopled with Blairites , and the majority of Labour MPS, wedded to Blairite and Brownite ideas. The party machine was designed by Blair to control the Party, to decide lists of electoral candidates, both in local and national government and to stifle any opposition. A sign of his reluctance to bring about a split can be seen in his intention to include members of the Labour right in  his shadow cabinet.

During the last Coalition government the union leaders did nothing to combat austerity, waiting for over a year before they even called an A-B demonstration. As a result hundreds of thousands of jobs were lost and billions of pounds of cuts were carried out. In this situation we saw the rise of the People’s Assembly (PA), backed by the Stalinists of the Communist Party and the Morning Star, by the Trotskyist outfit Counterfire, the Green Party, and the Labour Left. They were supported by leaders of Unite. The PA was intended to be a left cover for the union leaders sabotage and calling-off  of every significant strike that could have challenged the Coalition. The PA leadership overwhelmingly supports Labour, although until recently it felt constrained to do so openly because of how discredited Labour was.

Now it can, and so can other left formations designed to attempt to replicate “old” Labour like Left Unity, which is supported by ex-members of the Labour left, and by many Trotskyists. From the Communist Party to the Trade Union and Socialist Coalition, practically every leftist gang is now rooting for Corbyn. Where once some of them had plans to create a new Party similar to old Labour and hostile to the present Labour Party, now they are hypnotised by the seeming success of Labour. As a result their own formations may be passed by and indeed destroyed as thousands flood back into Labour. Why would working class people have any credibility in those who one minute say that Labour is a party of big business and the market and in a blinking of an eye decide that the election of a new Labour leader offers new hope???

We must as anarchists argue the case that the new grassroots groups and organisations emerging around housing and opposition to austerity must maintain that grassroots outlook and horizontal organisation and not be distracted by the Corbyn circus and its left cheerleaders.

 

The Grenfell Tower Inferno and Anarchism

“Let me be absolutely clear: the support for the families on the ground in the initial hours was not good enough. People were left without belongings, without roofs over their heads, without even basic information about what had happened, what they should do and where they should go to seek help. That was a failure of the state, local and national, to help people when they needed it most.”

Theresa May

It’s not often we quote politicians but on the Grenfell blaze, Theresa May was right. It was a complete failure of both the national state and government and the local state, Kensington and Chelsea Council, they failed to provide anything like adequate provision to the Grenfell survivors, but not just in the initial hours but for days to come. But it went beyond that. Both the national and local state were deeply implicated in the fire itself, with the cutting of fire services, the ignoring of repeated warnings by residents about the likelihood of a fire.

On the other hand, we had a great upsurge of grassroots solidarity, with volunteers from across London and as far away as Birmingham, bringing support and supplies, linking up with survivors and local community groups. They provided food, drink, clothes, bedding, toys and toiletries in vast amounts. When Camden Council ineptly moved tenants out of council blocks after panicking about fire risks, they again, like Kensington and Chelsea Council, treated them appallingly, failing to provide them with adequate information, and alternative housing, and generally treated them with the same contempt as Kensington and Chelsea Council. Local councils, whether Tory or Labour, have utter contempt for social housing tenants and for the working class in general. Camden Council failed to even provide water to the now homeless tenants, and this was left up to Grenfell volunteers who arrived to provide water.

There is a stark contrast between the response of the national and local state, and the emergence of grassroots voluntary organisation. This is not the first time this has happened after catastrophes, far from it. It illustrates the power of ordinary working class people to organise support networks. Another example is the creation of grassroots health centres in Greece with the collapse of the State health services.

This is anarchism in action. We must look more and more to this kind of grassroots organisation in the future as capitalism seeks to strip away social services in line with its strategy of austerity.