A look back at AFem2014

Glasgow Anarchist Federation

Sunday the 19th of October seen the first International Anarcha-Feminist Conference, aka AFem2014. The seed from which it would eventually grow fell from the tree back in August of 2012. That tree was the St Imier International Congress anarcha-feminist round table. This was series of meetings that took  place on each of the five days of that event. In the closing session it’s participants announced their plans to host an anarcha-feminist congress of their own within several years. This was met by thunderous applause from the congress floor. Busily contacts were exchanged, interested parties came forward, and a group agreed to take lead on the project.

Then nothing.

Months passed.

The Anarchist Federation started to get occasional contacts asking if we knew of any organising on the Anarcha-Feminist Congress. Our international secretaries put out inquiries thought our sibling federations in IFA as well as any other contacts in the global…

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Don’t Mourn. Organise. | Edinburgh anarchist statement on the referendum result


Re-blogged from Edinburgh Anarchists.

Yesterday Scotland voted against independence. Today half the country are mourning, their hopes of a new state and it’s social democratic promise dashed. The other half are relieved, if perhaps not enthusiastically celebrating, the potential uncertainty removed; things will persist as before.

We neither mourn nor celebrate. The scaremongering of the No campaign would likely have proved largely unfounded. So too would the promises of the Yes campaign. In reality our lives would have continued mostly as they did before in either event. We will trudge to the same jobs we hate along the same roads, through the same congestion on the same expensive transport. We’ll do so so we can pay our wages back to the capitalist class in the same shops, to pay rent to the same landlords and mortgages to the same banks. We’ll take our kids to the same schools with the same education system, when we’re ill we’ll wait to use the same hospitals. We’ll escape our jobs to the same parks, beaches, museums and pubs.

An independent Scotland would in most respects have resembled the Scotland of the UK, a patriarchal, capitalist, environmentally destructive society. A country with the most unequal land ownership in the developed world – where 50% of the land is owned by just 432 individuals. A country dependent on North Sea oil for much of its exports – oil that must be left in the ground to prevent climate catastrophe. A country with huge poverty and huge wealth and little in the way of organised working class action to change that dynamic.

And in so continuing to uphold the same institutions, the same structures of power, the same business interests, and the same political configuration, our fight against the state, capital and oppression continues.

Social movements

It has become popular amongst some on the pro-independence to claim that even in defeat politics has been radically altered. People are engaged with politics for the first time, turnout was 85%. A new broad popular social movement is born, the referendum was never about a vote for the Nationalists (capital N1). The campaign they built to push for independence will now re-orient itself against the Scottish and British governments and push for material concessions, emboldened by how close they came and bringing newly radicalised people with them. But a high turnout in itself tells us very little of what will come next, the complacency that we have already changed politics is dangerous.

Leaving aside the tactical mistake of offering the SNP the support they wanted to pass the referendum and then hoping to win concessions rather than making those concessions a precondition of support, this seems at best an optimistic prediction, which is far from certain to be realised. It is highly probable that the movement built to advance a radical case for independence will fail to maintain the unity it has shown pre-referendum in a post-referendum situation. A new left unity party (perhaps Left Unity itself) seems likely to form out of the Radical Independence Campaign and will have to compete for votes with the Scottish Green Party. The disintegration of the SSP last decade bodes ill for the lasting chances of that configuration. If the parliamentary left can regain even the position it held from 2003-2007 it will have done exceedingly well (in its own terms).

Undoubtedly many from the radical independence movement will want to maintain extra-parliamentary organisation, though how much of it is truly independent of the parliamentary parties will be an open question. But as with the referendum itself elections have a tendency to draw activists away from direct struggle and towards themselves however good peoples’ intentions are. Perhaps the most debilitating effect of the referendum campaign was its draw away from other, more meaningful, sites of struggle – the boycott workfare campaign, anti-deportations and pro migrant work, environmental organising and so on. Of course, that is not to say that no independence campaigners continued their engagement with these causes, but no one has unlimited time and energy to contribute, and that expended on the referendum could have been better placed elsewhere.


As the independence referendum moves into the past, other issues may start to regain their prominence. Foremost must be the commitment of politicians in Westminster and Holyrood to continuing extraction of Scotland’s share of North Sea oil.

The independence debate was consistently shaped by the prospects for oil production and how the proceeds will be distributed. Even where criticism did exist and a call for a “green new deal” was made, the focus was to argue for renewables. Whilst greater use of renewable energy is to be welcomed, it is far from sufficient. As Jason Moore has highlighted energy revolutions of the past have always been additive and substitutive. Market logic plus intervention for renewables will only give us both renewables and fossil fuels. As alternative grow fossil fuels prices will fall and maintain their use alongside. Real decarbonisation of society requires the fuels be left in the ground and their value written off.

You cannot build a “green” capitalism. You certainly cannot create it in time. There is too much money invested in fossil fuels– in drilling, in mining, in fracking. The ruling class will never voluntarily give up this wealth, or allow it to be simply voted away. “To survive we must act now” and “couple bleak reality with the utopian impulse” to demand a complete transformation of our society2.

An independent Scotland would have relied heavily on fossil fuels – not least to maintain currency reserves and a positive balance of trade. The extraction of North Sea oil will instead continue to prop up the UK’s trade deficit. As part of a larger economy that dependence may now not be brought as clearly to the fore. But that reliance must be exposed, and it must be broken. That will be an expensive and difficult task, but one which we have no choice but to take up – there will be no future for Scotland or the UK if we do nothing. We must create the movement which makes that possible. Too much time has been spent on bourgeois constitutional questions while the rich consolidate their wealth and power, impose austerity and hardship and leave the planet to burn safe that adaptation will be good enough for them.

So tonight, drown your sorrows. Take time to regain your energy and when you’re ready come back to join us. The better society that had been pinned on independence doesn’t need a new state. Keep talking to your neighbours and your workmates. We have a world to win and only our own working class self-activity and organisation will secure it.

1. We’ve discussed previously the obfuscation of “good” and “bad” nationalism and the left’s claim that independence has nothing to do with nationalism. In our opinion both yes and no campaigns de facto represent competing nationalisms, whatever their intentions to the contrary.

2. Goodbye to the Future – Out of the Woods.

Referendum rant from an immigrant


Re-blogged from Edinburgh Anarchist Federation.

This is going to be a bit of a rant rather than a carefully crafted piece because I desperately need to get it off my chest. I haven’t written anything about the referendum yet and I haven’t weighed in much on lots of the discussions that friends and people around me are having (although I have been listening), because my frame of reference is different since I became an anarchist. I’m also not eligible to vote, because I’m not a UK citizen yet and am from the US, which isn’t a Commonwealth or EU country. If I were still a progressive Democrat like I was when I grew up, I would be excited about setting up a new capitalist representative democracy, which is of course what the actual question of the referendum asks if we want to do. It wasn’t until I started reading more and more about anarchist communism some years ago now that I decided that I thought they were right about representative capitalist democracy – that we can’t use this system to change this system. Growing up and participating in election campaigns was like banging my head against a wall – even if we won, the damn politicians we elected never seemed to be able to eliminate poverty or stop environmental exploitation. Now I think that’s because Lucy Parsons was right; we should “never be deceived that the rich will permit you to vote away their wealth.” Poverty and white supremacy and patriarchy and environmental exploitation are about power. The people who control power are not going to relinquish it because we asked them politely. They never have previously and they aren’t suddenly going to start tomorrow. If we want change, we have to use methods that aren’t built into the system, methods that are directly democratic and collective and that threaten power.

A friend of mine involved in the Radical Independence Campaign last night was giddily excited about the referendum today. She talked about how amazing it is that all these people in Scotland are engaging in this discussion about what kind of society we want to live in, about a more equal society, a different system – and I didn’t speak, because she’s so happy and I feel so frustrated. Because she’s very right about that in a way – it is impressive that so many people in Scotland are having political discussions with their friends, are getting to know new people and talking to them about politics. It’s very frustrating that very little of that discussion is actually about what kind of society people want to live in – it is mostly about what kind of state people want to live in. To me, as an anarchist communist, that’s a pretty big difference, a pretty serious boundary to the conversation. The discussion about independence has been about what kind of state people want to create. I don’t want to create a state and I’m not sure what to say when people ask me what kind of state I want to create. I see the possibilities of state-creation as limited, not unlimited. I’m not just anti-capitalist – I’m also anti-representative-democracy and anti-state-socialism. I’m for direct democracy and libertarian socialism, and I don’t believe that we’re going to get either of those things by setting up capitalist states.

I think it’s pretty cool that 97% of Scotland is now registered to vote and that most eligible voters will be voting today. I think it demonstrates that people like to be asked questions directly. Lots of people get that representative democracy sucks and that it doesn’t make a difference who they vote for in elections, so they don’t vote. But when they’re asked directly what they think should happen, they show up. People occasionally claim that a more democratic society wouldn’t work because people don’t like constantly having to make decisions, but I think that’s rubbish. Decision-making is hard, but not having control of your own life is harder. A referendum isn’t direct democracy – it’s a question framed by those in power offering a choice they are willing to give, which of course is why it’s a question I don’t even particularly want to answer, because what they’re willing to offer is another capitalist state. But I think it illustrates something about our potential for political engagement anyway.

What would be even better than 88% voter turnout is if all of the people who vote today because they want a better society, all of the people who voted yes for change, all of the people who spent hours campaigning for independence, were all out again on Friday, and Saturday, and Sunday, and all of the days after that, fighting for change. Because no change is actually going to happen unless we fight for it. Imagine if all of the people involved in the Yes campaign sat down with their colleagues and workmates and agreed a list of demands to present to the boss of things they want changed where they work.  In fact, imagine if they confronted all the bosses who are part of the Yes campaign right now!  Imagine if all of the people involved in the Yes campaign picketed every business and charity in Scotland still using workfare. Imagine if all of the people involved in the Yes campaign blockaded the UKBA/Home Office in Glasgow every time they wanted to take their van out to arrest and detain an asylum seeker during the next two years in which we’ll still be in the UK even if the Yes campaign wins.  Tomorrow I hope everyone who has so far been happy to campaign alongside the viciously cissexist Wings over Scotland because independence was more important than trans people will publicly demand that WOS publicly apologize for its previous cissexist comments.  I hope that all of the people with Green Yes in their profile picture on facebook posting about how Scotland can make millions of pounds from oil in the North Sea will stop being selfish idiots.  If all of those people stepped outside of the system, outside of charity and letters to your MSP and being politely consulted and then ignored, not to drop out but to fight, then an independent Scottish government would be quaking in its boots. Change happens because we make them change, because they’re worried about what will happen if they don’t change. I would be happy to see some of the reforms that people are talking about happen in an independent Scotland. But I know that they won’t happen unless we make society ungovernable without them.

Lots of people voting today in Scotland want a more equal society. How much more equal? How much inequality is okay? How many children in poverty is okay? How many adults? How many people sleeping rough? How many people on poverty wages? How many people working stupid, pointless, soul-crushing jobs, selling disposable crap? How many racist comments? How many hotels refusing black people beds for the night? How many catcalls on the street are okay? Do we want a society like Sweden or Norway? People are still poor and miserable there. Not as many people, maybe. But some people still are. Are we okay with that? Do we think that’s as good as it can get? I don’t. And today I won’t be voting for change, but I will still be organizing for it. And I hope that tomorrow, everyone who voted will be joining me, will be pouring their hopeful words into direct action, because that would be something to get excited about.

(and to the woman at the teachers’ strike rally I went to a few years ago who asked me which politician I would be voting for, and when I said that I wouldn’t be voting, said to me that her grandmother had gone to prison for the vote and that she hopes I never teach her children – while we stood together with our placards taking industrial action – and in fact to everyone else who has ever ridden the high horse of a hollow bourgeois vote over direct action to try to make people who don’t care what colour tie their boss wears and who aren’t even allowed to vote feel guilty – fuck you thoroughly.)

ps My image editing skills are a bit who-cares this morning but images are good for blogposts, so sorry about that.

A’ dol thairis air an reifreann Albannach

na_geillAir eadar-theangachadh bhon alt thùsail le Mike Sabot, AFed Dhùn Èideann, ga riochdachadh fhèin a-mhàin.  Faodar ar n-amasan is prionnsapalan a leughadh ann an Gàidhlig an seo.

Chan eil ach glè bheag de thìde ri dhol a-nis gu reifreann mòr na neo-eisimeileachd 18mh Sultain.

Ma bhòtas tu no mura bhòt, tha e an urra riut fhèin.  Bidh cuid de dh’anargaich a’ seachnadh a’ ghnothaich uile gu lèir agus a’ cuimseachadh air eagrachadh far a bheil iad agus ge bith dè thachras, bidh cuid eile a’ cur crois sa bhaileat airson Bu Chòir, feuch gum buannaich sinn co-dhiù corra leasachadh.

Ach ma thaghas tu Bu Chòir, dèan cinnteach nach e ach roghainn phragmatach a tha ann – na gabh ri ideòlas iomairt Bu Chòir, no rudeigin a tha coltach ris, nàiseantachd-chlì.

Tha fios gu bheil sinn a’ bruidhinn mu iomairt nàiseantach Albannach – ge bith dè a chanas cuid de dhaoine air an làimh-chlì* – agus aig an dearbh àm tha muinntir Cha Bu Chòir a’ riochdachadh nàiseantachd Bhreatannach.  Feumaidh iadsan a dh’aithnicheas cho cudromach ’s a tha strì nan clasaichean cur an aghaidh a dhà dhiubh.

Ann an riochd sam bith, tha nàiseantachd a’ dèanamh dà rud: bidh e a’ feuchainn ri coimhearsnachd a chruthachadh eadar bosaichean agus an clas-obrach; agus bidh e a’ ceangal na coimhearsnachd-sa ri stàit-nàisein chalpach, a’ daingneachadh a cumhachd agus a h-àite ann am mar a tha calpachas a’ gabhail brath oirnn.

Chan urrainn seo a bhith dhà-rìribh ‘adhartach’.

Mar a dh’innis an comannach Paul Mattick, tha ceud bliadhna de dh’eòlas againn air strìthean gus nàiseanean a shaoradh far an do chrìochnaich gluasadan ma b’ fhìor adhartach an aghaidh impirealas le a bhith a’ cruthachadh clas-riaghlaidh ainneartach ùr.

A-nis, ’s dòcha gum faic sinn caibideil eile san sgeulachd agus gluasadan neo-eisimeileachd air feadh na Roinn Eòrpa a’ freagairt ath-eagrachadh nua-libearalach agus na staing-chalpach a thachair o chionn ghoirid.  A bheil sinn an dùil ri toraidhean eadar-dhealaichte?

Chan e adhbhar gàirdeachais a tha ann an sgaraidhean is farpais am measg a’ chlas-obrach Eòrpaich.  Agus nuair a thig e gu eisimpleir leithid Chatalunya ’s ann a tha e gu follaiseach air a stiùireadh le luchd-an-airgid, agus airson ’s gum bi roinn nas beartaiche a’ cumail a cuid maoin bho roinnean nas bochda anns a’ chòrr den Spàinn.


Ach nach eil stàitean beaga nas fheàrr agus nas deamocrataiche?

Ma bheir sinn sùil gheur air na stàitean beaga Eòrpach a tha ann an-dràsta chìthear:

  • nach eil e ann an dà-rìribh nas fhasa do luchd-obrach eagrachadh annta;
  • gu bheil iad smachdail cuideachd (mar phàirt de dhreuchd stàit sam bith) agus gun urrainn dhaibh a bhith a cheart cho borb (’s e eisimpleir àraid a tha anns an dàimh eadar an eaglais Chaitligeach agus stàit na h-Èireann);
  • gu bheil iad air a bhith gu math deònach nua-libearalachd agus mòr-ghearraidhean a chur an gnìomh (agus tha fìor dhroch bhuaidh aig seo air daoine ann an stàitean beaga bhon t-Suomi gu na Tìrean Ìsle, gun luaidh air an Roinn Eòrpa a deas);
  • gu bheil treand an aghaidh in-imrich a’ fàs air feadh na Roinn Eòrpa a tuath co-cheangailte ri ceannas siostamach dhaoine-geala (systemic white supremacy);
  • gu bheil cuid de na stàitean beaga seo air saighdearan a chur a-null thairis (m.e. an Danmhairg ann an Afghanastàn) no tha iad a’ cur taic ri feadhainn a bhitheas (Èirinn a-rithist, is iad a’ tabhann port-adhair na Sionainne do Fheachd-adhair Aimearaga);
  • agus gu bheil iad an-còmhnaidh fo bhuaidh mhòr structaran tar-nàiseanta an t-saoghail agus calpa fhèin.

 ‘Nuair a bhios daoine air an dochann le maide cha bhi iad idir nas toilichte mas e “Maide nan Daoine” a chanar rithe.’ – Mikhail Bakunin

 Tha e air argamaid le iomairt Bu Chòir agus cuid air an làimh-chlì gun urrainn Alba fhèin a bhith na ‘dheamocrasaidh àbhaisteach’.  ’S cinnteach nach do mhothaich iad gu bheil deamocrasaidh-riochdachail ann am fìor èiginn agus air a chàineadh gu dubh le gluasadan-sòisealta air feadh an t-saoghail a tha a’ sabaid airson fìor dheamocrasaidh compàirteach.

Mura h-eil coltas ann an-dràsta nach biodh riaghaltas na h-Alba a’ toirt a-steach nithean gràineil leithid Cìs an t-Seòmair-chadail no a’ gabhail seasamh an aghaidh in-imrich, chan e suidheachadh seasamhach a tha seo.  Bidh cumhachdan mòra poileataigeach is eaconamach a’ bualadh air poileasaidh an riaghaltais às dèidh neo-eisimileachd.  Bidh e aige ri gearraidhean a dhèanamh uair no uaireigin agus feumaidh e a chrìochan a chleachdadh airson ‘math an eaconamaidh’.

Tha stàitean beaga gu math comasach am poball a mhealladh agus a bhith a’ dol an aghaidh beachd na mòr-chuid nuair a dh’fheumas iad  (m.e. chaidh ‘a’ bhun-reachd chompàirteach’ ann an Innis-Tìle a chur gu sàmhach seolta an dàrna taobh leis an riaghaltas).  Bidh an ‘dìth deamocratach’ dhà-rìribh a’ leantainn às dèidh neo-eisimeileachd.

Dè mu dheidhinn na Làimh-chlì ann an Alba?

’S e coimeasgadh a tha ann de nàiseantachd-chlì agus deamocrasaidh-sòisealta cianalach.  Tha e ag argamaid an aghaidh nua-libearalas seach calpachas fhèin.  ’S e deagh dhòigh a tha seo buill-phàrlamaid fhaighinn anns an ath thaghadh ach chan eil e a’ buntainn ri atharrachadh-sòisealta bunaiteach idir.

’S ann a tha Common Weal agus an iomairt na Neo-eisimeileachd Radaigich airson calpachas a ruith nas fheàrr.

Tha Common Weal air a bhith ’s dòcha nas buadhaich na càch air an Làimh-chlì.  ’S e buidheann a tha annta a tha gu follaiseach a’ putadh co-obrachadh eadar clasaichean – agus seo air a shealltainn gu furasta nan sluagh-ghairm  ‘All of us first’.  Tha iad ag iarraidh eaconamaidh mòr-fàs, ach ’s e tha seo a’ ciallachadh ann an dà-rìribh nas urrainnear faighinn a-mach às an luchd-obrach a mheudachadh, agus a bhith a’ buannachadh an aghaidh luchd-obrach eile anns an fharpais eadar-nàiseanta.

Tha ‘comhairlean-obrach’air am moladh leotha gus dèanamh cinnteach nach eil cus còmhstri san àite-obrach – rudeigin a tha gu math cudromach ann an a bhith a’ toirt fàs air tarbhachd – i. prothaid.  Far an deach an cleachdadh anns an Roinn Eòrpa bha iad an-còmhnaidh a’ lagachadh aonaidhean agus mìleantachd an luchd-obrach.

San leabhar, Yes: the radical case for Scottish independence, gheibhear an cunntas as mionaidiche le buill iomairt na Neo-eisimeileachd Radaigich.  Tha e a’ gairm airson ro-innleachd na h-aghaidh-aonaichte (united front) chun na h-ìre agus nach eil sòisealachd – fiù ’s ‘sòisealachd’ choirbte na stàite – air a’ chlàr-ghnothaich, ach na h-aisling airson fada san àm ri teachd.

Bu chòir dhuinn, tha e ag innse, pàrtaidh leathann dhen làimh-chlì (seach pàrtaidh ‘an aghaidh calpachas’) a chur air dòigh ann an Alba coltach ri Syriza no Die Linke, agus tha iad a’ tabhann an aon ‘Keynesian wish list’ stèidhichte air an dearbh mheasadh lapach air calpachas agus an stàit a chaidh a sgrùdadh gu geur le Michael Heinrich.

Coltach ri Common Weal, tha briathrachas radaigeach – deamocrasaidh compàirteach, dì-mheadhanachadh – a’ breacadh a sheasaimh airson mion-atharrachadh slaodach.  Nuair a thig e gu h-aon ’s gu dhà chan eil e dhà-rìribh eadar-dhealaichte ris, ach lorgar beagan de chàineadh air corra phuing leithid mar a tha Common Weal gu mòr a’ cur taic ris a’ mhodail Lochlannach.

An eisimpleir Lochlannach

’S iad na dùthchannan Lochlannan na stàitean beaga as trice a bhios daoine ag ainmeachadh, agus tha Common Weal gu sònraichte airson ’s gum bi Alba nas coltaiche riutha.  Mar thoradh air grunn rudan – gluasad làbarach làidir, goireasan nàdarra 7c – bha iad na bu chomasaiche an solarachadh shochairean a ghlèidheadh na bha Breatann.  Bho shealladh eadar-nàiseanta, b’ ann a bha na dùthchannan seo mar flaitheachdan-làbarach (labour aristocracies) a’ tighinn beò air saothair an luchd-obrach thall thairis.

Ach às dèidh sin, tha na stàitean Lochlannach cuideachd a’ fulang bho ionnsaigh nua-libearalach agus tha neo-ionnanachd a’ fàs an sin cuideachd.  Mhìnich Asbjørn Wahl mar tha an stàit shochairean ann an Nirribhidh, a tha cho beairteach le ola, ga lachachadh bhon taobh a-staigh agus gu bheil ideòlas taigh-nam-bochd (workfare) ga shìor neartachadh.

Tha Wahl a’ cumail a-mach nach eil e gu feum dhuinn a bhith daonnan a’ comharrachadh cho soirbheachail ’s a tha na dùthchannan Lochlannach ann am measaidhean eadar-nàiseanta.

’S e an trioblaid gu bheil a h-uile dùthaich anns na measaidhean seo gan lagachadh.  Air neo, gus a chur an cèill ann an dòigh eile, tha cèaban fhathast againn air an deic uachdrach, ach ’s e deic uachdrach an Titantic a tha ann, agus tha an long air fad a’ dol fodha. (2011: 11).

Thèid againn air na h-uiread ionnsachadh bhon eisimpleir Lochlannach ge-tà, le a bhith a’ coimhead air a’ chontrarrachd agus strì nan clasaichean taobh a-staigh nan dùthchannan seo – a tha a’ breugnachadh na tha aig deamocrataich-shòisealta ri ràdh a-bhos an seo.

Am measg na Làimh-chlì Lochlannaich tha deasbad a’ tachairt air ciamar a bu chòir dhaibh sabaid an aghaidh an dùbhlain do sholarachadh shochairean.  A bharrachd air Wahl, tha obair Daniel Ankarloo, sgoilear air sochairean san t-Suain, uabhasach inntinneach.

Dh’innis e gun robh an gluasad làbarach an sin ‘air a dhì-neartachadh le […] co-obrachadh nan clasaichean’ (2009) agus ri linn ’s gun robh cus dhaoine a’ creidsinn ann an ‘rathad poileasaidh-shòisealta gu sòisealachd’ (2008: 78-84) – i. gum b’ e eisimpleir de shòisealachd a bha ann an stàit nan sochairean agus chan fheumamaid ach sin a’ leudachadh.

An àite seo, airson na bhuannaich sinn a dhìon agus gus strì airson co-chomann eadar-dhealaichte, feumaidh sinn mìleantachd mar chlas a lorg a-rithist agus ‘gum feum an radaigeachd seo […] tighinn bhon bhonn ann an riochd fèin-eagrachadh a’ ghluasaid làbariach’ (2009).

Tha strìthean airson shochairean, seach a bhith a’ cur taic ri stàiteachas shochairean fhèin, na phàirt dheatamach dhe seo – a’ neartachadh a’ chlas-obrach agus a chomais airson sabaid (ibid.).

Mar bu chòir, tha Ankarloo ag argamaid gum feum an gluasad eagrachadh air feadh a’ cho-chomainn agus am measg gnàth-bhuill nan aonaidhean.  ’S urrainn dhuinn cuideachd a bhith air ar misneachadh leis an aonadh rèabhlaideach SAC san t-Suain agus leis an Làimh-chlì Lochlannach nas fharsainge a tha taobh a-muigh agus an aghaidh na pàrlamaid – tha iad fada nas eagraichte na gluasad coltach sam bith ann an Alba no san RA.

Ag ath-nuadhachadh ar strì

Chan eil e deimhinne gum faigh sin gin dhe na leasachaidhean a tha air an gealltainn le iomairt Bu Chòir.

Cha bu chòir dhuinn earbsa a chur ann an stàit Albannach neo-eisimeileach a bhith a’ roinn mòran beairteis, a bhith dhà-rìribh a’ glèidheadh solarachadh an NHS, gun a bhith a’ toirt ionnsaigh air daoine gun chosnadh no daoine ciorramach, gun a bhith a’ dèanamh ghearraidhean, gun a bhith a’ cur dhaoine a-mach às an dùthaich le fòirneart, no a bhith a’ toirt air falbh nan cuingealachaidhean air aonaidhean-ciùird.

Tha cuid an dòchas gum bi daoine cumanta a’ ghluasaid airson neo-eisimeileachd a’ cruthachadh gluasad sòisealta dùbhlannach às dèidh sgaradh nan dùthchannan.  Nach e seo a tha gorm!  Bhiodh aige ri a bhith a’ diùltadh a  bhun-stèidh ideòlach, a nàdar fhèin mar cho-chòrdadh eadar clasaichean eagraichte leis an dearbh fheadhainn a tha a’ sireadh cumhachd phoileataigeach.

Tha a’ mhiann sa ghluasad seo airson atharrachadh sòisealta, ‘smachd dheamocratach’, agus ath-riarachadh beairteis rim moladh ach feumaidh sinne an leithid a phutadh taobh rèabhlaideach.

Mura h-eil am pròiseact nàiseantach air a bhriseadh a dh’aithghearr air creagan a chontrarrachd fhèin, bidh againne ri a chuideachadh dol na bhloighean.

Ge bith dè toradh an reifrinn, tha na buaidhean maireannach air a bheil sinn cho feumach an eisimeil air na ghabhas dèanamh leinn ag eagrachadh agus a’ strì mar chlas ‘air a shon fhèin’.

Aig cnag na cùise tha fìor eadar-nàiseantachd phractaigeach.

Chan eil dòchas ann a bhith a’ feuchainn ri flaitheachd-làbarachd ùr a chruthachadh no ann an dlùthachd eadar-nàiseanta nan nàiseantach-clì, ach ann a bhith ag aonachadh luchd-obrach a’ sabaid bhon bhonn an aghaidh stàit, calpachas, patrargachd, agus ceannas nan daoine-geala air feadh an t-saoghail gu lèir.


*Abair troimh-chèile, no doillearachadh a dh’aona-ghnothach, a tha air a bhith ann a thaobh ciall ‘nàiseantachd’.  Chùm co-neach-gairm a’ Phàrtaidh Uaine, Patrick Harvie, a-mach mar eisimpleir nach b’e  nàiseantach a bha ann dheth,  tha cuid eile air feuchainn ri sgaradh a dhèanamh eadar nàiseantachd ‘mhath’ (a tha beag, catharra no airson stàit ùr) agus ‘dhona’ (impireileis, chinnidheach, no airson stàit mhòr stèidhichte),  tha feadhainn air taic shoirbh staoin a chur an cèill airson ‘eadar-nàiseantachd’ – facal nach bite ag aithneachadh gu ro thric.  Cha b’ fhuilear dhuinn breithneachadh a dhèanamh air na bhios daoine a’ dèanamh seach na bhios iad ag ràdh.  Mar sin, a bheil iad a’ brosnachadh coimhearsnachd mhac-meanmach eadar clasaichean agus atharrachadh sòisealta tron stàit no nach eil?

Daniel Ankarloo (2008), ‘The dualities of the Swedish welfare model’, pp 78-84

(2009), ‘A new phase of neoliberalism: collapse and consequences for Sweden’

Asbjørn Wahl (2011), The rise and fall of the welfare state

Beyond the Scottish referendum

neverbedeceivedBy Mike Sabot, in a personal capacity.

It’s less than one month to the Scottish independence referendum on 18th September.

I’m not going to tell you to vote or not vote. Some anarchists will abstain and focus on organising where they are, others will vote Yes in the hope of at least a few reforms.

But if you do vote Yes, make it a wholly pragmatic choice – don’t buy into the ideology of the Yes campaign or its variant, left nationalism.

Whatever the rhetoric of some on the Left,* this is a Scottish nationalist campaign, just as the No camp represents a British nationalism.  Anyone who cares about class struggle politics needs to strongly oppose both.

Nationalism, whatever form it takes, does two things: it tries to create a community of interest between the bosses and the working class; and it binds this community to the capitalist nation-state, reinforcing the latter’s power and role in exploitation.

There is no genuinely ‘progressive’ form that this can take.

We have, as Paul Mattick observed, a century of experience of national liberation struggles where apparently progressive anti-imperialist movements culminated in an oppressive new ruling class. 

And we could now potentially see a new wave of independence movements in Europe in response to neoliberal restructuring and the more immediate crisis of capitalism.  Do we expect different results?

New divisions and rivalries among European workers are not something to be applauded.  Neither is the spectacle of a decidely bourgeois-led independence movement like that in Catalunya, where a more wealthy region seeks to stop ‘subsidising’ the rest of Spain.


But smaller states are better and more democratic? 

Well, if we were to take a critical look at actually existing small European states we find:

  • that they’re certainly no more favourable to workers’ organising;
  • they are also coercive (which is the role of any state apparatus) and can be just as authoritarian (an exceptional example being the role played by the Catholic church backed by the Irish state);
  • they have been remarkably open to neoliberalism and austerity (which has had a devastating effect on small states from Finland to the Netherlands, nevermind southern Europe);
  • there is a growing anti-immigrant trend related to systemic white supremacy across northern Europe;
  • that some have also sent willing to send troops abroad (Denmark in Afghanistan) or have aided others who have (Ireland again, offering Shannon airport for use by the US Air Force);
  • and they are always subject to the dictates of larger supranational structures and of capital itself.

‘When the people are being beaten with a stick, they are not much happier if it is called “the People’s Stick”.’ – Mikhail Bakunin

The claim made both in the Yes campaign and on the Left that Scotland too can be a ‘normal democracy’, is an astounding attempt to ignore the obvious bankruptcy of representative democracy and its living critique in recent global social movements. 

Even if the Scottish government is for now less likely to introduce draconian measures like the Bedroom Tax or adopt an anti-immigration stance, this is not in any sense a static situation.  Massive political-economic forces will be brought to bear on post-independent government policy – it will make cuts and it will use its borders in its own economic interests.

Small states are more than capable of manufacturing consent or of over-ruling public opinion when they need to (take the famous ‘crowdsourced constitution’ in Iceland, which was in fact quietly buried by the government). The real ‘democractic deficit’ will continue post-independence.

What about the Scottish Left? 

It is in content a mix of left nationalism and nostalgic social democracy.  It argues against neoliberalism rather than capitalism itself – a winning strategy for regaining seats in parliament, but absolutely nothing to do with fundamental social change. 

Both Common Weal and the vision of the Radical Independence campaign are concerned with trying to manage capitalism better.

Surely hegemonic on the Left, Common Weal is an explicitly class collaborationist think-tank – nicely summed up in its slogan ‘All of us first’.  Its proposals in creating a high-growth economy, are in reality about increasing the rate of exploitation and outcompeting workers internationally. 

Its advocacy of ‘work councils’ to smooth relations in the workplace is a necessary part of increasing productivity – i.e. profit.  Where they have been used in Europe they have consistently undermined unions and workers’ militancy.

Yes: the radical case for Scottish independence, the most comprehensive statement made by members of the Radical Independence campaign, is a call for united frontism to the extent that socialism – even a bureacratic state ‘socialism’ – isn’t even on the agenda, but is treated as a utopian project for some distant future. 

It seeks to create a Scottish broad left – not an ‘anti-capitalist’ – party along the lines of Syriza or Die Linke, and it reproduces the same ‘Keynesian wish list’ based on the same weak analysis of the state and capital, critiqued so well by Michael Heinrich.   

Like Common Weal, it sprinkles radical rhetoric – participatory democracy, decentralisation – on its reformism.  It doesn’t differ substantially from the latter, but offers mild criticism of certain aspects, including its support for the Nordic model.

The Nordic example

Small states par excellence, Common Weal want us to emulate the Nordic states where thanks to a number of reasons – a strong labour movement,  available natural resources etc. – it has been able to maintain more of its welfare provision than Britain.  From an international perspective, these countries have been labour aristocracies living off the toil of workers abroad.

But all of the Nordic states have experienced their own neoliberal offensive and inequality is growing there too.  Asbjørn Wahl has shown how even in oil-rich Norway the welfare state is being eroded from within and the ideology of workfare is growing in strength. 

He insists that constant reference to Nordic countries’ position in international league tables is unhelpful:

The problem is that all the teams in the league table are being weakened. Or to use another image, we still have a cabin on the upper deck, but it is the upper deck of Titanic, and the ship as a whole is sinking. (2011: 11)

The Nordic example is incredibly useful, however. We can learn a great deal from the internal class contradiction and struggle in these countries, which belies the case made by social democrats here. 

In the Nordic Left we find a debate going on about how to combat the challenge to welfare provision.  Along with Wahl, the work of Swedish welfare academic, Daniel Ankarloo, is particularly interesting.

He argues that the labour movement there has been ‘weakened by […] class co-operation’ (2009) and belief in a ‘social policy road to socialism’ (2008: 78-84) – i.e. that somehow the welfare model was an example of socialism in practice that just needed to be expanded.  Instead, to defend existing gains as well as to fight for a different society, we need to rediscover class militancy and that this, ‘radicalisation must […] come from below in the form of the self-organisation of the labour movement’ (2009).

Welfare struggles, rather than commitment to welfare statism itself, are a crucial part of this – strengthening the working class and its capacity to struggle (ibid.).

Ankarloo rightly argues that this movement needs to organise across society and in the rank-and-file of unions. We should also draw inspiration from the revolutionary syndicalist SAC in Sweden and the broader Nordic extra-parliamentary Left, which is far more organised than any similar movements in Scotland or the UK.

Renewing the struggle

None of the promised reforms of the Yes campaign are guaranteed.

We should not trust an independent Scottish state to share much wealth, to protect NHS provision, not to attack the unemployed or the disabled, not to make cuts, to deport people or remove trade union restrictions.

Some are hopeful that the grassroots pro-independence movement will produce an oppositional social movement after secession.  But this is wishful thinking.  It would require it to reject its own ideological basis, its very nature as a cross-class alliance organised by forces who seek to gain political power.

Aspirations for social change, for ‘democratic control’ and redistribution of wealth in this movement should be encouraged but pointed in a revolutionary direction.

If the nationalist project isn’t soon wrecked on the rocks of its own contradictions, we will need to work to fragment it.

Whatever the result of this referendum, the lasting gains we need depend most of all on our own capacity as a class for itself to organise and struggle.

A genuine and practical internationalism is key to this. 

Hope lies not in trying to create new labour aristocracies or the international solidarity of left nationalists, but in uniting workers struggling from below against state, capital, patriarchy and white supremacy around the world.


*There has been a great deal of confusion, or obfuscation, over the meaning of ‘nationalism’.  Green party co-convenor, Patrick Harvie, for example insisted that he is not a nationalist, some have tried to distinguish between a ‘good’ (small or new state or civil) nationalism versus a ‘bad’ (large state or imperialist or ethnic) nationalism, others have made facile declarations of ‘internationalism’ – another term warped out of recognition.  We should judge people by their actions not their rhetoric: do they foster a cross-class imagined community and social change through the state or not?

Daniel Ankarloo (2008), The dualities of the Swedish welfare model

                          (2009), A new phase of neoliberalism: collapse and consequences for Sweden

Asbjørn Wahl (2011), The rise and fall of the welfare state


Quick reply to: ‘The case for an electoral party’


By Mike Sabot in a personal capacity. The original article by Ben Wray (ISG) is here.

The only reliable and sustainable basis on which to build a left party is to orientate it towards the only democratic institutions that everyone can engage in and the only institutions that have democratic authority over society – parliamentary elections. In Scotland that means, most importantly, Holyrood.

Generally those in the parliamentary left don’t attempt to justify why they participate in elections and see it not only as a useful form of action but, in fact, the primary means of bringing about fundamental social change.  It’s just what socialists do, right? Ben Wray should be thanked for elaborating on this. Nonetheless, I’d argue that his case for an electoral party is contradictory and rests on a number of unfounded assumptions.  I doubt I can change his mind, but I do think it’s possible and really important that more people are brought around to libertarian communist politics. That means organising as a class where it matters, outside and against parliament.

I’ll try and keep this brief and directly respond to some of the points made.

Let’s start at the very end of the piece where it’s said that the broad idea is that of ‘challenging the system at its point of greatest weakness: the governmental level’. It seems a bit odd that I need to make this argument, but assuming we’re talking about capitalism here, surely other socialists would agree that the working class is strongest at the point of production and at work in general.  It’s there that we can disrupt capital, through organising we can force our demands on employers, or harm their profits through threats of collective action, and actual striking, go-slows, sabotage etc.  This isn’t to say that organising around unpaid labour, in our neighbourhoods and against oppressions isn’t absolutely essential and isn’t just as important to transform society, but we need to try to link these struggles to the strategic site of production and work.

By contrast, the influence we can have as a class at the level of government is minimal, except where our extra-parliamentary movements can ‘wring’ reforms out of it.

Some leftists will recoil immediately, arguing that ‘parliament isn’t democratic, it doesn’t serve the people and the working class increasingly don’t trust it and don’t vote’. This is all true but it isn’t a convincing argument against engaging in parliamentary elections because there are no alternative democratic institutions which possess anywhere near the same democratic legitimacy in society as parliament does.

On the one hand,  it’s accepted  that parliament isn’t ‘democratic’ but on the other, it still has ‘democratic legitimacy’ and is the only institution that ‘everyone can engage in’.

In practice, the mainstream left really does accept and endorse parliament as democracy in action, or close enough, and that it’s possible to control it for progressive ends.  Otherwise, why bother?

But the critique of the institution isn’t explored because it’s seen as unrealistic to reject something which undeniably a) has real power, and b) is understood to be the political arena by the majority.  This is what ‘democratic legitimacy’ really means here.

The communist argument would be that you don’t start with what is seen as ‘legitimate’ or not, or where the majority are.  It is axiomatic that, outside of a period of mass struggle, most people won’t seriously question existing social relations. Gradualist reform and social democracy will be seen as all that’s on offer. What works and how we can recreate a militant labour movement is a different question entirely.

What are some basic points against electoralism?

  • Most people can’t meaningfully engage in it. That’s the point. Representation takes decision-making power away from working class people and invests it in a small minority. This order-giver versus order-taker split is an expression of the wider class society.
  • If they’re to be successful, electoral parties have to become ‘popular’ rather than ‘class’-based. They seek coalitions and try not to appear too radical to attract support. The more mainstream they become the greater the chance of gaining seats.
  • Often these parties are mobilised behind a dominant personality with charisma and oratory skills.  How exactly do you avoid the situation where some individuals accumulate more power or importance?
  • Some like to argue that it’s possible to be both ‘on the streets’ and in parliament.  In reality, parliament takes first place and tends to push out everything else.  Where parties are involved in extra-parliamentary activity it’s usually to its detriment, by co-opting things or exploiting them.
  • Whatever the manifesto of left-wing parties, parliament and government is concerned with the political management of capitalist society.  It isn’t structurally possible to challenge capital through the state and it’s questionable to what extent reforms can be passed without the leverage of a militant labour movement, and in this conjuncture.
  • The function of electoral parties on the left, arguing the case for a better-run capitalism – whatever the radical rhetoric –  is to demobilize and divert from more serious threats, like rank-and-file direct action.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not for becoming like the politicians. I believe representatives should take a workers wage; I believe they should be accountable to the community they are elected from

None of these things would let the electoral party off the hook from ‘becoming like the politicians’. A workers’ wage doesn’t challenge the hierarchical relationship of representative to represented.  And politicians speak all the time about being accountable but most people know this is meaningless. Only recallable delegates are genuinely accountable.

Those who don’t vote aren’t setting up co-operatives to run communities or workers’ councils to run workplaces. Their process of re-engagement and democratic renewal will likely pass through parliamentary elections on their way to participatory democratic control of society, if we are to ever get there.

Not voting isn’t important in itself, and for the growing distrust of politicians and the electoral process to achieve anything it would have to find expression in new forms of organising.  But it’d be naive to think that participatory or direct democracy is something that will be proclaimed one day by parliament – handed down from above.  Rather it needs to be prefigured in whatever struggle we’re involved in.

The point is, however apparently dire our situation and despite the broad extra-parliamentary left being a small minority, it is both possible and absolutely necessary that we create new directly democratic institutions.  Coming from a revolutionary unionist or syndicalist position, I see unions ‘as associations of workers’, rather than as  representatives or service-providers, as probably the most crucial institutional forms for class struggle.* The fact that the trade union movement is so weak means that we actually have an opportunity to go about building a new labour movement controlled from below and rejecting collaboration with bosses.

A false dichotomy is sometimes raised by the mainstream left that you either have to accept  electoralism or you’re for some sort of revolutionary insurrection tomorrow.  Instead, we need to take the long road of trying to spread militant rank-and-file organising, of winning small but significant victories and gaining strength. Whether it’s the IWGB in the Tres Cosas Campaign, the IWW in organising service workers or in setting up rank-and-file networks in, for example, the education sector, SolFed’s campaign against workfare – these are all examples of radical unions ‘as associations’ doing really inspiring work.  I’d also add Glasgow SolNet’s direct action victories for private tenants and ECAP’s actions by and for claimants, as examples of union-like structures outside the workplace.

Put it this way – what do you think the capitalist elite want us to do? Leave parliament to their mates and focus on extra-parliamentary activism, or challenge for democratic control over society? The question should answer itself.

The history of left-wing electoral parties around the world is one where the elites were not threatened by their entry into parliament.  In fact, in Britain, the Labour Party was welcomed by many existing parliamentarians as a reasonable, collaborative bunch who would help to control the extremists in the labour movement and work for the national good.  They were right. The working class is strong to the extent that it is autonomous and can act in its own class interests outside of the state.

Where left-wing electoral parties exist in parliament, the extra-parliamentary left should try to argue the case for class struggle politics with their grassroots, use pressure to gain concessions, and keep up a constant critique of the leadership.

* For the difference, see the excellent SolFed pamphlet Fighting for Ourselves, pp 12-13.

William Morris on Parliament

William Morris

“What a spectacle of shuffling, lies, vacillation and imbecility does this Game Political offer to us? I cannot conclude without an earnest appeal to those Socialists, of whatever section, who may be drawn towards the vortex of Parliamentarism, to think better of it while there is yet time.

If we ally ourselves to any of the presen[t] parties they will only use us as a cat’s-paw; and on the other hand, if by any chance a Socialist slips through into Parliament, he will do so at the expense of leaving his principles behind him; he will certainly not be returned as a Socialist, but as something else; what else is hard to say.

Parliament is going just the way we would have it go. Our masters are feeling very uncomfortable under the awkward burden of GOVERNMENT, and do not know what to do, since their sole aim is to govern from above. Do not let us help them by taking part in their game. Whatever concessions may be necessary to the progress of the Revolution can be wrung out of them at least as easily by extra-Parliamentary pressure, which can be exercised without losing one particle of those principles which are the treasure and hope of Revolutionary Socialists.”

William Morris  (1834-1896) | Commonweal, November 1885



Organising for AFem2014: an anarcha-feminist conference in London on Sunday October 19th 2014.

Glasgow Anarchist Federation

We received the following call-out; see the end for the email contact:

Who are we?
We are a group of anarcha-feminists of varying genders, backgrounds and histories, who have come together to organise an anarcha-feminist event. We want to use it to build concretely towards the transformation of our own experience, and towards toppling the institutions and ideas which oppress us.

What is AFem2014?
AFem2014 will be the first of what we hope will be a series of international anarcha-feminist conferences. The need for this has been obvious for a long time within anarchist organising. Efforts to shut us down, belittle our ideas, and physically assault and abuse us have led to a level of anger against the masculinisation of our movement. We are not represented in equal numbers and often are not taken seriously. Whilst on paper we are equal, we sometimes face oppression even in our own groups…

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