Kevin Doyle Blog

Writing and activism

Posts Tagged ‘Anarchism

Interview with Chomsky: Anarchism, Marxism and Hope …

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LiftNoam Chomsky is widely known for his critique of U.S foreign policy, and for his work as a linguist. Less well known is his ongoing support for libertarian socialist objectives. In a special interview done for Red and Black Revolution [May 1995] Chomsky talks to Kevin Doyle about anarchism, marxism and the hope for the future.

Link to full interview here and here. PDF of Red and Black Revolution 2 Also available from AK Press in ‘Chomsky On Anarchism’

Written by kfdoyle

March 31, 2016 at 3:11 pm

Interview: After Apartheid – The new South Africa

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anti apartheidJust three years after the famous elections that ended apartheid in April 1994, South Africa’s reforms are in crisis and dissatisfaction is rising. In a wide ranging interview we ask the Workers Solidarity Federation for their views on what has happened since the end of apartheid.

Full version here.  Published in Red and Black Revolution 3 (WSM, 1998)

Note on photograph: Showing a picket organised by the Dunnes Stores Strike Support Group (Cork) outside the Dunnes Stores supermarket on Patrick Street in Cork circa 1985. The placard says “Help Fight Apartheid – Boycott Dunnes Stores”.

1976: The Fight for Useful Work at Lucas Aerospace

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LucasIn the 1970s workers at the Lucas Aerospace Company in Britain set out to defeat the bosses plans to axe jobs. They produced their own alternative “Corporate Plan” for the company’s future. In doing so they attacked some of the underlying priorities of capitalism. Their proposals were radical, arguing for an end to the wasteful production of military goods and for people’s needs to be put before the owners’ profits.

First published in Workers Solidarity (WSM, Ireland) – no link.  Republished at Libcom with comments here.

Written by kfdoyle

March 31, 2016 at 1:12 pm

Review: Constructive Anarchism The Debate On The Platform

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Cont Anarchism“The debate is important still, and lest we forget why, consider, on this the anniversary of 1937 – the year of defeat for the Spanish Revolution – the conclusion of Jose Periats, the anarchist historian aligned with the CNT. In Anarchists in the Spanish Revolution he says: “Anarchism is largely responsible for its own bad reputation in the world. It did not consider the thorny problem of means and ends. In their writing, many anarchists conceived of a miraculous solution to the problems of revolution. We fell easily into this trap in Spain. We believed that once the dog is dead, the rabies is over. We proclaimed a full-blown revolution without worrying about the many complex problems that revolution brings with it”

Published in: Red And Black Revolution 3 (WSM, Ireland)

A Promise Broken: Obama and Guantánamo Bay

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640px-camp_x-ray_detaineesGuantánamo Bay detention facility was created under George Bush’s Presidency in the aftermath of the attack on the World Trade Centre in New York in 2001.  Described as ‘a place where normal legal rules’ do not apply, it quickly became infamous for harsh and extreme conditions of detention.  Interrogators practiced a variety of torture techniques on prisoners…

Full version here. Published in the Irish Anarchist Reivew [Issue 3]  May 2011.

Written by kfdoyle

March 29, 2016 at 8:30 pm

Anarchist Lens: What’s Wrong With This Photo?

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Mick Barry Says...What’s Wrong With This Photo?

For a lot of people, the photo on the right is just another snapshot of a candidate looking for votes in the forthcoming Irish general election. On one level, that’s a perfectly fine way to view the photograph. However, the picture also captures a fault line in left politics that is worth looking at.

The anti-water tax campaign is the most serious movement to emerge, to date, in Ireland in opposition to austerity. It is a campaign with plenty of strands to it but one thing is clear: community (and collective) action has been decisive to its success. Although resistance has been at times sporadic and uneven, no one doubts that the current upsurge in struggle against water meters is one of the largest mobilisations seen in the country for decades. Large numbers of ordinary citizens have been drawn into political action in which their own self-organised efforts have been decisive to the outcome. As a result it has also been, for many people, an empowering experience that has renewed an awareness of the existence of community, shared interests and the power of taking common action to achieve goals.

“Bigging-Up”

The Barry photo, however, is not about any of this. Although the candidate is a socialist (and a member of the Socialist Party now trading as the Anti-Austerity Alliance) you will notice that there is little – sorry, nothing – on his banner about collective struggle. Instead the focus is on the candidate. The banner, prominently on display during a recent protest march in Cork, is mostly about ‘bigging-up’ the candidate as a potential spokesperson for the anti-water tax campaign. This is in turn the core idea behind the Right2Change platform which aims to get the anti-water tax movement to buy into the idea that ‘trusted’ politicians will sort out the water tax issue on our behalf. Needless to say for aspiring politicians this is a win-win situation: they get to promise that electing them is the solution to all our problems and in turn they use the grassroots campaign as a platform on which to build their careers.

The bitter disappointment that was Syriza (in Greece) has not quite sunk in for many on the electoral left in Ireland. For that reason many still see Syriza’s strategy as the way forward. Recall that it took the Coalition of the Radical Left (translation of Syriza) nearly eleven years to reach their dream of forming a government in Greece. During those eleven years considerable time and energy was put into the electoral project. When they finally made it into power they discovered that they were toothless in the face of the establishment. Capitalism, let’s face it, is an entrenched system of power and privilege. It won’t be unseated by a few parliamentarians throwing temper tantrums. Embedded authoritarianism and a resourceful State structure stand bang smack in the way of even basic progress. In the end, in Greece, Tsipras and a range of politicians were humiliated and they couldn’t do anything about it.

A Hefty Price-tag

The more ambition left politicians in Ireland have a Syriza style movement (and strategy) in mind – minus the tragic end, one hopes! They are hoping to see this emerge from the current anti-water tax fight. On one level this looks attractive: after all what could be simpler than voting austerity out of existence?  But really, I ask you, is it going to be that easy? More importantly an unspoken, hefty price-tag  has to be paid if the electoral route is followed.

Time and again grassroots movements have experienced a decline in momentum and power as soon as they switch to an electoral focus . An example of of this was the fate of the German Green Movement in the 80s and 90s analysed here. A more relevant and recent example it that of Podemus in Spain. We Can (translation of Podemus) was formed in 2014 and has  shamelessly cashed in on the network of organisations created in Spain from 2011 onwards to fight austerity. As the Podemus electoral project grew in scope it sucked energy and activism from those organisations which had led the fight against austerity in the communities – for example the anti-eviction movement PAH. Not only that, as Podemus grew, it in turn began to shed its more radical political positions in favour of a business friendly political image. Where have we seen that before?

There is a real danger now that the same outcome could come to pass here in Ireland in the anti-water tax campaign.

The Fault Line?

No!So back to the fault line in left politics. What is it then? The alternative view of how change can be brought about involves avoiding the parliament (and persona based politics). Instead the aim is to resource the grassroots movement that has emerged around the anti-water tax campaign and then extend it outwards so that it can link up with and encourage similar developments in other areas where social conflict is happening. So important strikes need support. Direct action efforts around homelessness needs support. The aim all time is to build popular activism, to move in a horizontal direction as opposed to a vertical one; to emphasis participation and democracy as much as possible. To take one example, a crucial fight is happening right now in respect to the LUAS strike in Dublin. The Establishment has realised this and the LUAS workers have been pilloried in the media at every turn. Will the LUAS workers have to fight on alone or will a grassroots solidarity emerge to help them win their battle.?How could that type of solidarity be built and what shape would it take? These are matters that a grassroots movement could and should address.

An alternative strategy then would never have a banner like Barry’s near it. The alternative banner would show a large group of people – similar to what is shown just above – under the slogan: Tgether we are strong. Together we have the power. Somehow that slogan just doesn’t seem to fit with getting elected to the parliament. But therein lies the important difference.

Anarchist Lens: Fear At Work…

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Jimmy Savile with ThatcherScandals (and industrial accidents) are often interesting for unexpected reasons. Usually an investigation or inquiry follows and via this we get a view of what is going on inside these organisations and institutions at the center of the trouble. These snapshots, so to speak, are often very revealing.

A case in point is the investigation into the Jimmy Savile affair. Next month former British judge Janet Smith is set to publish her final report into Savile’s rampage inside the BBC. The celebrity had an association with the UK broadcaster for over forty years. Savile was very successful but it has since emerged that he was not what he appeared to be. According to an early (leaked) draft of Smith’s report, Savile perpetrated:

rapes and indecent assaults on girls and boys… in “virtually every one of the BBC premises at which he worked”. He carried out abuse on the sets of Top of the Pops and Jim’ll Fix It, at least once on camera.

Savile died in 2011 but he is implicated in four definite rapes – two of girls under 16 – and at least one attempted rape. It is estimated that he sexually assaulted in total 61 individuals and that these attacks took place “in corridors, kitchens, canteens and dressing rooms” run and maintained by the BBC.

It gets  worse. According to The Guardian, Smith’s final report is expected to include ‘devastating detail of the corporation’s “sheer scale of awareness” of the late star’s activities’. In one bizarre way, of course, this is not that surprising. Savile’s criminal activities were reckless. Many of his assaults were carried out on BBC property and inevitably some of these were witnessed. Or, as is often (and was) the case, a number of victims had attempted to alert people in authority about what had happened to them at Savile’s hands – to no avail. Savile died with the extensive cover-up of his worse abuses intact.

So, what was going on?

Here’s where the ‘snapshot’ element of Smith’s investigation is most revealing. As part of her remit Smith has had the means and time to speak to a wide range of people who are (or were) working for the BBC during Savile’s tenure. She has been able to approach people at most levels. The BBC’s top management have had their say quite a number of times already and, needless to say, they have done quite an amount of hand-wringing: “It’s terrible”, “It should never have happened”,”It’ll never happen again” and so on and so forth. But Smith has also spoken to many others: those on short term contracts, permanent  and full-time employees as well as middle managers. Here is what she has had to say about that:

I found that employee witnesses who were about to say something to the review that was even mildly critical of the BBC were extremely anxious to maintain their anonymity,” she wrote. “These people were, and still are, afraid for their positions. Even with modern employment protection, people fear that, even if they do not lose their jobs, their promotion prospects will be blighted if they complain.

Not to put too fine a point on it then many BBC employees work at the broadcaster under a climate of fear. No doubt they can speak freely about many things but there are many matters that they are simply not allowed to air their views on. If they do they will suffer the consequences.

Thatcher

Even more poignant is Smith’s observation that the situation has actually deteriorated for employees in the last number of years:

potential whistle blowers [are] … even now more worried about losing their jobs. Short-term and freelance contracts [mean] a workforce “with little or no job security”, which [is] even less likely to speak out about the behavior of colleagues.

Authoritarianism in the workplace is part and parcel of capitalism. Most of us have come across it in one shape or another at some time in our life. For many, a big objective in life is to get into a situation where authoritarianism had a limited or minimal effect on one’s working life. Also some companies aren’t as bad as others. Or if you are in a union that has clout  you and your co-workers can win yourself quite a bit of wriggle room – what’s is often termed here in Ireland the ‘not a bad number’ type of job. But for vast numbers of people authoritarianism at work is a huge daily blight in their lives. Stress and depression are common responses that workers suffer. A job where you work in a climate of fear will often more illness and even an earlier death.

The inquiry into Savile crimes in the BBC exposes this and much more. Firstly, it shows, how commonplace and pervasive fear at work is. [Who would have thought and in the BBC too?! Right?] Secondly the deteriorating situation for many workers is underlined by Smith candid observations – thinks are getting worse and not better. So-called ‘workplace reforms’, in effect those changes to workplace conditions initiated by Thatcher, have hugely disadvantage workers – leading to increased casualisation, short term or zero-hour contracts as well as explosion in the use of sub-contracted labour. The effect has been to increase the power of management, making their rule even more absolute. This means greater fear in the workplace and even more silence. Workers, who are often the real eyes and ears of society, are now even less willing to speak out.

Climate of Fear

dictatorship_of_the_bourgeoisie_by_party9999999-d5j1e76The case of Savile and the BBC is no aberration. In essence it is quite similar to a host of other examples from right across the spectrum of work where a climate of fear has actively contributed to disasters and tragedies of various orders of magnitude. If we look closely at event like the Deepwater Horizon explosion or say the Bhopal disaster – to use just two well-known cases – we can read that clear warnings made by workers either went unheeded or were actively censored leading to the tragedies that we now know all about all too well.

Savile ruined a lot of lives and damaged many, many more. His long reign of terror in the BBC is one of the best examples out there now of how damaging authoritarian really is.

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