Anarchists and this whole “national conversation” business….

October 13, 2013 by cosmoakacitizensmith

I’m very pleased to be playing at the IWW Wales’s first birthday bash in Cardiff on 23rd November. The IWW – Industrial Workers of the World – has a long and chequered history. It is an international, workers-run union that seeks to radically transform society, (i.e. syndicalist for those who don’t know!) They’re a welcome presence in the local political landscape and I wish them many more birthdays to come.

The IWW is just one of the local and national initiatives right now that I find exciting in terms of changing things for the better.  (Hello Cardiff Against the Bedroom Tax!  Frack Off! And Abortion Rights Cardiff – sock it to the bin prayers!). People are disillusioned by mainstream politics but only a few are prepared to make a break from tired old party system and try something new. There’s a lot of work to be done, but it is happening. Slowly.

Like many people, I was transfixed recently by Ed Miliband standing up to the character assassination of his Marxist father, Ralph, in the Daily Fail. They seemingly judged him once for his views and once for being an immigrant who “hated Britain”. Allegedly. Part of the hoo-ha about it was interesting: it’s a shame more people don’t stand up when the paper attacks marginalised groups such as immigrants, the disabled and others who don’t have the same scope to answer those rabid news hounds back. But part of me thought, fair play to you Ed, It’s about time someone did it.

I come from a migrant background myself: Scottish-Hungarian, grew up in London, live in Wales. I’ve written a fair amount of songs trashing British imperialism: I’ve even slated to Union Jack in song. Does that mean, as the Daily Fail might have it, I hate Britain? I’m an anarchist so I find the whole business of a “country” problematic: there’s only one race and that’s the human race, anything else is just window dressing in my book. However, the idea I hate ANY country seems a bit strong. So do I love the place, (Wales, Britain…)? Well, I love living here, and I love my mates (most of the time!), but I definitely don’t love the Daily Fail. I’m not sure where that leaves things. Just to say, these are opinions, so judge them as such. They are no better or worse because I’m an immigrant or a child of immigrants. Fair nuff?

Will Hutton’s recent Guardian piece about all this business is interesting. He claims that there are “protocols” and to the “national conversation” and the Daily Fail “transgressed” them by slagging off Ed Milliband’s dad. Eh? RULES to the debate, eh? The father of someone rich and powerful gets slagged off and the rules are broken? Anyone else and hey-ho, “thems the rules”? Er, well no, I’m afraid.

I wonder where this whole idea leaves anarchists in the UK. Most of the time, we have a walk on part in the “national conversation” as masked-loonies trashing the party, planning  terrorist-style insurrections because we can’t be bothered to go through the “normal channels” to put our point of view. Funny, that. Most anarchists I know work day-in, day-out on campaigns for very little or no money:  Food Not Bombs feeding homeless people, running social centres, mobilising against fascists in our communities, standing up capitalist encroachment on the queer scene, standing up for workers, and so on.  Sometimes it can be inspiring, other times a grind. Like other groups on the left, it’s a struggle to get the media to take us seriously. Which is probably why we set up our own.

For a long time I’ve been feeling a comedown from the euphoria of the uprisings against the Coalition when it first came to power. This dovetailed into the Occupy Movement, coincided with the Arab Spring and ended up in the UK with massive state repression. It was inevitable that the energy would disperse into small campaigns to save hospitals, fight the impact of individual cuts and those small moments of magic that make things all worthwhile. The “national debate” has very little time for the ideas of the left. Capitalism has won, it juts needs to be run better, blah, blah, blah…. With such a collective failure of imagination, it’s no wonder we get despondent sometimes.

Looking around me at the activists I know, I’m sometimes reminded of the character Frank Owen in the Ragged Trousered Philanthropists. He’s a regular dude, working on a building site, he can see the exploitation around him and sits down patiently with the Sun readers he works with a loaf of bread and patiently explains the theory of surplus value.  I think the left is back there where it was all those years ago in many ways. In such a climate every little helps: knocking on doors, mobilising communities against the bedroom tax or anti-abortionists, hell, maybe even playing anarcho folk to 2 men and a dog in a pub hundreds of miles from where you live….;)

Maybe this time round, though, we can do it without all this “party of the left” business, though, eh!

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