Albert Meltzer som Brands Londonkorrespondent.

Från Brands Londonkorrespond.
Kamp i England för fred!

Brand nr 2 1940

Framtiden synes oss inte alldeles svart, ty ni skall inte tro all propaganda, som den imperialistiska regeringen sänder ut. Det Brittiska imperiet är inte alls så enigt i sin kamp för ”segern”, som det framgår av regeringens uttalanden. Ty under detta krig har den antimilitära inställningen kommit före, och inte efter, sedan massor av arbetare redan slaktats.

I Skottland är majoriteten av befolkningen socialistisk och antimilitaristisk. Speciellt i Glasgow, varifrån den rörelse, liknande anarkosyndikalismen (fabrikskommitterna) kom under förra kriget. Det övriga England är inte så revolutionärt, men även där finns en stark antimilitaristisk inställning mot kriget. Jag talar här inte om stalinister, fascister och andra tillfälliga krigsmotståndare, utan om vänstersocialister, en del socialdemokratiska fackföreningar, kooperativa föreningar – speciellt de kvinnliga; pacifisterna, I.L.P. (oavhängiga arbetarpartiet) och anarkisterna. Dessa utgör lokala antimilitära kommittéer.

Under inflytande av dessa organisationer ha redan, efter endast sex månader, tusentals vägrat att göra den militära tvångstjänstgöringen, trots att ännu endast tre årsklasser inkallats. Det är många fler, som äro medvetna antimilitarister, men som tagit den ”civila” värnplikten – ty lagen medger en viss frihet i detta fall.

Det finns också många pacifister, som föredraga att tjänstgöra vid ”Röda korset” i stället för militärtjänsten. Vi anarkister ha inte antagit något; vi ha inte antecknat oss varken för militärtjänst eller civiltjänst.

I de antimilitära socialistiska organisationerna propagerar man för direkt aktion, fastän detta inte är tillåtet enligt lag. I England ha vi strejkrätt. Javisst! Men endast on strejken inte hindrar krigsindustrien. Och vilken industri är f.n. inte krigsindustri? Varje politisk, eller mera allmän strejk, eller propaganda för sådan strejk är olaglig.

Hittills har inte vår anarkistiska propaganda förbjudits, men man måste komma ihåg, att med den speciella makt, som parlamentet givit Chamberlain, har denne full rätt att förbjuda vad han vill, göra husvisitationer och beslagta tidningar. Ännu har han inte gjort detta, men Daladier i Frankrike, som har samma fullmakter – har gjort det.

Den anarkistiska rörelsen är i Frankrike förbjuden, likaså de anarkistiska tidningarna. Den frihetliga rörelsen förföljes. Våra spanska kamrater (t. o. m. fransmän som kämpat i Spanien) ha sänts tillbaka till brigadgeneralen Franco, för att mördas.

Inom Brittiska imperiet har Indien vägrat att lämna hjälp åt England. Detta är ett faktum, trots att borgartidningarna i in- och utlandet säger motsatsen. Visst har imperieregeringen fått telegram med löfte om välvilligt bistånd. Men från vem? Från en del prinsar, som tjänstgör som poliser för imperiet. Dessa prinsar, som sitta i sina palats med hjälp av den Brittiska militären, de lovar att sända både folk och pengar till Englands hjälp.

Den indiska nationalkongressen vägrade att lämna någon hjälp till England. Denna kongress representerade den organiserade arbetarklassen, bönderna, nationalister och internationalister och hela den indiska oavhängighetsrörelsen. Alltså hela den indiska nationen – utom prinsarna.

Vid kongressen voro representerade två huvudriktningar: reformisterna (möjligen inklusive Gandhirörelsen) som vägrade att lämna någon hjälp till det imperialistiska kriget, till dess Indien befriats från den engelska imperialismen.

I Kanada, Australien och Afrika är inte stämningen fullt så enhällig som i Indien, den är där mera splittrad liksom i England. Jag kan försäkra att vår anarkistiska rörelse bedriver en intensiv kamp mot det imperialistiska kriget, för fred och frihet. Jag hoppas och tror att i kampen mot kriget, vi skall kunna bygga ut vår rörelse så, att vi kan krossa imperialismen och förena oss med den övriga världen i en segerrik kamp för anarkismen.

Vi hoppas att också ni kamrater, hjälper oss i denna vår kamp. Vi vet att bland arbetarna råder den uppfattningen, att revolutionen först skall bryta ut i Tyskland, och att en generalstrejk mot kriget skulle hjälpa Hitler. Men vi skall visa, att det inte är endast här i England, som de antimilitära organisationerna arbetar, utan att denna idé är ännu starkare i andra länder, och att arbetare och bönder i andra länder är med oss, och att vi kan förena världens arbetare i gemensam kamp mot kriget.

Därför önskar vi få oss tillsänt alla upprop och manifest, som utgives av de anarkistiska organisationerna i andra länder, och som bevisar att anarkismen överallt bekämpar kriget och imperialismen. Jag kan inte nu, på grund av de rådande förhållandena, skriva mera om vår aktivitet. Men ni kan vara övertygade om att vi medvetet arbetar för världsrevolutionen – och den frihetliga världsfederationen.

Leve anarkismen!

A. M.

THE RESISTANCE, & NOW. Thoughts after Sabate.

Black Flag No. 136, 15.7.’85, Supplement No 1
By Albert Meltzer


‘Everyone’ knows all about the Spanish civil war; – like the International Brigade was the greatest army that has existed since Connolly grouped 10,000 Irishmen in the Dublin Post Office and they all held out to the last and lived to tell the tale in every pub in the English-speaking world, or either the great military leader George Orwell said this, or else seven million priests were killed defending the faith against barbarous hordes… When one tries to say otherwise one is met not by any facts – nothing in this realm belongs to fasct – but by yawns, anyway, that was fifty years ago.

From the Anarchist point of view it is obviously of importance to know that prior to 1936 an important section of the Spanosh working class organised on anarcho-syndicalist lines, put free communism into practice in many areas, struggled against the State with almost impossible odds loaded against them, and also faced many problems such as we have today, not the least of which was a struggle within the Libertarian movement between activism and quietism, and between revolutionism and populism.

In 1936 all these conflicts came out, as well as the essential truths as to whether anarchism was possible, whether workers could really control their own factories, and also the conflict between workers who wanted revolution, and those who took advantage of the situation to slip into positions of power.

While scholars have dealt endlessly with the Spanish war, and occasionally even with the revolution, almost none have dealt with the resistance that came after.

Asked last year for books in English about post-war Resistance, I could only think of two Sabate: Guerrilla Extraordinary by Antonio Tellez, and Franco’s Prisoner by Miguel Garcia – both of which we had a hand in and both of which then were out of print! The trots with their grip on academia, have a total blank on the Resistance period, and the quietist libertarians follow them: V. Richards, author of Lessons of the Spanish Revolution reviewing Franco’s Prisoner in Freedom said: ‘Though it is quite clear that these activities would not bring down the regime, that there was some kind of resistance to Franco’s polise State must have been a source of encouragement to some of it’s enemies, though it is equally clear that very few were inspired to take to the mountains.’ The history of the Spanish revolutionary movement does in fact show that the kind of resistance presented to successive regimes was precisely what inspired the workers to have the courage to organise against genocidal repression which finally reached the point of of having to be restrained for fear of not leaving enough workers to carry on the country.

When Durruti was organising an incredible frontal attack on the dictatorship of Primo de Rivera (and Largo Caballero entered the government so as to gain an advantage for the socialist UGT over the CNT), it was the CNT that got the support of the majority of the workers, not the UGT, and they were prepared to struggle for their union in a way no orthodox trade unionists ever did for the whole period of dominant European fascism. This comes out very clearly in the film, The Short Summer of Anarchy – a documentary on the life of Durruti, the English version of which should be available for showing soon.

The Sabate Brothers

There were four Sabate brother and a sister – the younger brother and the sister took no part in their activities; as they were children, indeed Manuel, who did take part, was only nine when the civil war began – Francisco (‘el Quico’) was the best known; but José was a good fighter too (a friend of Miguel Garcia by the way). Francisco succeeded in the title of Public Enemy No. 1 for the fascist regime.

Sabate, or Sabater (whether you prefer the Catalan or the Castillan version) became a legendary lone fighter; but there were a great deal more, some surviving until the last few years and some still around.

But also, during the civil war many libertarians were quietly abandoning the revolutionary struggle, while taking part in the war, and slipping gradually into the various echelons of government. For years a militant working class had prevented a bureaucracy growing up in the CNT, their own movement; but individual militants were gradually being incorporated into the government bureaucracy. The movement, which had grown up on indivual responsibility and frequent congresses, found itself faced with entry into the government by people not elected by them as delegates, entering by invitation of the defeated Generalitat of Catalonia in the first place, and gaaining acceptance only by a personality cult or ‘star system’, never seen before as a threat.

While this was taking place, people like Sabate, the Libertarian Youth in particular, were fighting back not only at the fascist enemy but the rising dictatorship within the anti-Fascist ranks. This represented the only last hope of the Spanish revolutionaries during the war, and so it did in the period of repression afterwards.

People like Sabate – the whole of the Resistance fighters, indeed – came into their own with the relentless struggle against the Franco conquest. Miguel Garcia tells how they flooded Spain with escaping prisoners and refugees, in order to compromise the regime no less than for its own sake. Sabate concentrated on the urban military struggle, which was the only way of getting the grip of the hangman off the workers’ collar (sometimes not metaphorically either), and Tellez, in telling the story, explains why it was that neither repression nor the conspiracy of silence could wipe out all memory of Anarchism.

But what helped to kill off the Resistance was the quietist conquest of the organisation, treasuring and invoking memories of the Revolution and the deeds of the civil war and of the former organisation. They determined not to enter into illegality afterwards, and try appealing to a non-existent internation cconscience to change the regime in Spain, as a reward for their carrying on an illegal resistance in France during the war when it was legal – by international Law, if more perilous – to do so! That was what was challenged by Sabate, Facerias and all the other fighters, and it was that which occasioned the real rift in the CNT to which all these adhered to their deaths.

Had the Spanish anarcho-syndicalist movement only considered the implications of both traditions at the time. Had it realised that the traditional revolutionary anarchism exemplified by groups like the International First of May was what built the pool in which the labour organisation could swim. There would never have been the present system, where the movement has been penetrated and up for grabs by people who would never have dared enter a CNT hall in the old days – whether nats, trots or Catholic Action.

The blame lies firmly in the ‘official’ organisation of the post-Franco Exile period, moulded as it was not by the fighting CNT of pre-war or the revolution but by the compromises made in the civil war and necessitated by the exile movement existence. When, under the nomenclature of the ‘Libertarian Movement’ it was neither fighting nor an industrial force, but a shaky compromise keeping together actvists and quietists and politicos. This was the real split in the Spanish movement and what prevented it getting off the mark in the post-Franco period with a working class which had faced the holocaust, but was ready to respond with activism – just as the French working class responded to acts of mass terror by the State after the fall of the Paris Commune with individual terrorism – as it was then called – which led to the great period of revolutionary syndicalism as confidence was restored.

The sad price paid by the Organisation for its compromises with the State, and the bows to the French police by attacking Sabate when he died, is the present condition of the Spanish movement, with divisions and splits amounting to separate CNTs but not offering a clear-cut division between revolutionary activism and quietism but enabling reformism and political infiltration to flourish; the ‘renewers’ having started by criticising the reformists and then becoming reformist themselves.

Albert Meltzer.

Meltzer: ‘…only a few Intellectuals’

By Albert Meltzer
Black Flag VOL III, No. 19 April 1975

”We seldom have articles like the one on Anarchism and the South Wales miners. Frankly I know more about the history of the Spanish or the Russian movements than I do about the British… Most of the historians one consults tend to assume that British anarchism has no history. The snippets one gets sometimes in other papers wets the appetite but none of them ever trouble to go deep – just a bit of self-advertisement as if they existed in a void…”

So say letters resulting from our article on Anarchism and the Welsh Miners. I have followed it up in this issue on one concerning Anarchism and the West of Scotland. Also scheduled to appear as a separate book is the pre-announced ”Anarchists in London” (which will refer to anarchism in the rest of the country, too and I hope may bridge the gap between some of the published references to anarchism in the past, and the present time).

Most historians deliberately overlook working class movements unless they make a decided, successful impact and become noteworthy. Working-class theoreticians who express and formulate theories are totally ignored as of no consequence: what they say is attributed to the next available ”Intellectual” ..(e.g. published works on British anarchism, such as they are never fail to mention Herbert Read who played a very small part in the periphery of the movement; totally omitting every single theoretician the movement produced between the wars).

An interesting comment may be seen in George Lichtheim’s ”History of Socialism” published as a Penguin where he explains that anarchism was too ”romantic” a movement to be influential in Germany where only a ”few intellectuals” espoused it.

He echoes the generally held argument of the bourgeois intellectual that the hardened German workers had no use for the ”romance” of anarchism as compared with the lightheaded Latins (Mr. Lichtheim is not a German for nothing!) But police records tell us another story. Just as the Social Register said there were only ”Four Hundred” people in New York – when (as O. Henry pointed out) a fairer analysis was the Census which saaid there were four million – the German police – from Bismarck to Hitler – told quite a different story from Mr. Lichtheim. They listed hundreds, and even thousands, of anarchists – only a few of the ”intellectuals”!

These records have been preserved, for any fair historian. After the fall of the Reich the Allies microfilmed the whole of the SS records. Not only are the Munich police files (relating to the Munich Commune, and with material on Landauer and Muehsam) now in the Rehse Collection of the Library of Congress, the archives of the German Foreign Office located at Bonn have documentation on the period 1892/1919 and are described in the Catalogue of Files and Microfilms of the German Foreign Ministry (in Ann Arbor and Washington). This contains a great deal of information on German surveillance of anarchism throughout the world.

In the Bundesarchiv of the SS however, a full nine volumes of documents dealing with the anarchist movement up to the period 1928/38, have been preserved. There are details of arrest, search of domicile, confiscation of libraries, records of the FAUD and other anarcho-syndicalist bodies, surveillance of suspected anarchists and also the international surveillance of which the Nazi police were a part. These records have been microfilmed with the other SS records seized in 1945 and are held in Washington. Guide to German Records microfilmed at Alexandra Va.) The Staatsarchiv in Hamburg has ”fiffteen feet of shelf space” on anarchism and anarchist activity, as well as a three volume ”Anarchist Album” with the photos of 1163 anarchists, states the Newsletter of European Working Class History (published by the University of Southern California)… not bad for ”harheaded” Germany, Mr. Lichtheim!

The records in Eastern Germany are even more vast as they contain material from Communist sources about anarchism. ”In the Staatsarchiv Potsdam are located the files of the Police Presidium Berlin, to which all information on anarchism was sent and from which all measures taken against the anarchists emanated”. Not only would careful research tell us much about European anarchism, it would also tell us a lot about ”international police surveillance” and how the Nazis worked with the international police.

Albert Meltzer.

Meltzer: Anarchism & The Welsh Miners

By Albert Meltzer
Black Flag VOL III No. 17, Jan/Feb 1975

When I was a lad, I would creep surreptiously past the careless stewards into the miners’ conferences which were traditionally held in Cardiff’s seedy temperance hall. There I would listen to the bright little alert men as they elevated some local issue on the coalfield to the status of a glorious philosophical dialogue – and all of them were anarchists. The young anarchists of today seem curiously oblivious of the anarchosyndicalist traditions which exist within their own land and they resort to foreign ancestor figures to fill the gap created by the symbolic destruction of their own fathers. But the essential sense orf locality, the comparatively small pit where all worked (when work was available), the isolation of the valley village or township – all these were similar to the environment conditions which created the anarchosyndicalist movement of Spain.

In the history of the South Wales miners’ movement, some leaders were overtly anarchosyndicalist and had international links with syndicalists in other lands, and their attitude was implicit in the movement as a whole.

Leo Abse M.P. in his new book Private Member: Macdonald £3.50.

Mr. Abse goes on to describe some of the other influences anarchism had on the Welsh miners. Lewis Jones he says, was the only one of the world-wide delegates to the Comintern conferences in Moscow who would ostentatiously not stand up when Stalin arrived. But more ”the miners Lodge was the centre not only of industrial life but of all political and social life as well”. It was from its local health schemes that Nye Bevan derived the idea of a National Health Service. The miners’ institutions, clubs and libraries, the cinemas and the billiard halls, were owned by the Union. The miners governed themselves – ”the State had already withered away. There was an extraordinary contempt for external authoritarian disciplines. When South Wales miners hear music they sing: they do not march.”

Mr. Abse’s recollections of anarcho-syndicalism in South Wales (he calls ”our South Wales Labour movement… the most respectable and unselfconscious anarcho-syndicalist movement ever”) are interesting especially as the academic historians deliberately blot it out from public record. He does not in any way give the full picture. But his hints of it are fascinating. He himself was a social-democrat wwith a middle-class background, who was early ”led up the garden path” by John Strachey – presumably by way of ‘popfront’ fellow travelling – but also he says, without following it up, Herbert Read. He makes one or two references to anarchism to make it suggest he at least had some contact with the movement in the forties apart from his boyhood remebrance of the old anarchist miners’ movement. (He actually quotes Berneri totally out of context to justify his entry into Parliament).

There is some justification for his sneer at ‘young anarchists’ though the ‘foreign ancestor figures’ as well as the native ones were always part of the working class tradition. A couple of years ago, one Peter Michael Jones – a Welsh worker whose parents had come to London during the slump, mentioned to me casually ”he got his names from his grand-da who was a great communist and called after someone like Lenin”. That the anarcho-syndicalist traditions in Wales and Scotland have been forgotten is true. It is due not to the ‘curious oblivion’ of young anarchists but to a deliberate policy by Communist Party propagandists and by the historians. History for them is ‘great names’ not people. There are no ‘great names’ for them to collect. It is true Jim Colton married Emma Goldman to give her British nationality, and she is an extremely writeable-about figure, and that is the extent, therefore, that any of the historians and academics and anarchologists will give you about Welsh anarchism. But Colton is a more remarkable figure than Emma Goldman for he, with a few others, survived the tremendous blows against Welsh anarchism which would have happened around the time of Abse’s boyhood, and may have been the theme of one or two of the conferences he attended.

Sectarian socialist divisions were less marked in the period before the First World War; and many working class Anarchists saw nothing incompatible in joining a socialist club or even a party; with the rise of the Syndicalist movement, this lack of distinction became even more so. Tom Mann, for instance, was the leading Syndicalist whilst the in the ILP. Jim Connolly, in some ways a Sydndicalist, was in the Presbyterian background. Kropotkin’s attitude to local socialist parties, the co-operative movement and the trade unions, was clearly sympathetic. There were a few anarchist groups scattered here and there which maintained aloofness from other socialist movements. But that was the periphery of the movement – now assumed to be all there was at the time, because it preserved its identity. It is probably not true that at the conferences Abse attended ”all of them were anarchists”. But usually all the activists were.

The dangers of anarchism were seen very clearly by the Fabians, who abandoned their ideas of building a State Socialist movement via the Liberal Party to create the Labour Party – a movement based upon the established trade union bureaucracy in alliance with middle class professionals. This domination of State Socialist ideas is seen in the evolution of the older Independent Labour Party. It became the first part of the new Labour Party; then its right wing, then when its leading members were able to enter the Labour Party, secure as its leaders, it became a left-wing and then a really ‘independent’ party. (The Fabian struggle against anarchism incidentially is clearly traceable throughout the works of Bernard Shaw).

As the Labour Party was built by the Fabians throughout South Wales, it came into conflict with the anti-parliamentarian traditions of the Welsh miners. Abse indeed makes it clear to the point of embarressing frankness how, even as late as 1958, ”to our syndicalist miners, Westminster had always been unimportant” and they used the House of Commons, through the miners’ lodges, ”as a dumping ground for those in the union who were supernumerary, awkward, or even slightly senile”. He realised that with this indifferent attitude to parliament persisting to the present, any smart, slick careerist could fight on equal terms at the selection conference and once in, with the safety of a majority such as could be commanded in the Eastern Valley of Monmouthsire, he could act exactly as he pleased.

The generation of activist Anarchist miners took heavy blows. During the Depression many of them were the first to be laid off. But more particularly, the insidious growth of Labour Party power was strengthened by the rise of Bolshevism. I have heard about some of the South Wales delegates to the Comintern refusing to stand for Stalin in the twenties – as a gesture to feeling back home. But gradually the CP was built up especially among the younger miners (who are now the old-timers). They had behind them the glamour-value of the Russian Revolution seemingly appropriated by Lenin, and the apparently irresistible rise of Communist power as well as the myth that only Russia stood between us and world fascism.

The attacks by Churchill strengthened the hold of the CP, for everyone knew Churchill was the Welsh miners’ worst enemy. This is why, to this day, you hear Churchill’s action against the Tonypandy miners confused with his action at Sidney Street in London’s East End.

As the CP grew – and it grew in the heart of the Labour Party bureaucracy – the Welsh Anarchists were squeezed out. Men like Colton, once popular Welsh and English speakers, were ostracised, thrown out of their jobs and had to fight grimly to keep their place in the union – because they opposed the dictatorship in Russia.

In 1937 Sam Mainwaring Junior tried to put forward the case of the Spanish Anarchist miners to the N.U.M. conference and was shouted down … that was the bitter nadir marking the end of the movement. Reading from CNT Bulletin received that morning from Catalonia he shouted that Catalonia had never received a penny from British sources yet Catalonia carried the backbone of the struggle. ”They are Trotskyists… Fascists…” shouted the Stalinist stooges!

When I knew the Welsh Anarchist miners they were the rump of the grand movement, mostly old men who were regarded as ‘cynical’ by their fellow workers. But the women were usually much more actively ‘cynical’ in opposing the ideas of State Socialism. In 1938 for instance, I was invited to speak at a local ILP meeting on Spain, in a Welsh valley.

”Take care of those at the back,” whispered the chairman. ”those are the Wrecking Brigade.” They were a group of Welsh-speaking women who took great pleasure in ”giving hell” to the Labour and CP speakers – especially with ”toffee-nosed” English accents.

But to their, and my, delight, we proved to be fellow-Anarchists. The ”Last of the Mohicans” in the valley were four women, and two elderly miners, all that remained of ”the most respectable and unselfconscious anarcho-syndicalist movement ever”, though not quite all – as Mr. Abse discovered. For their influence was not entirely eroded when he came on the political scene.

But it was this contact with the grassroots anarchist working class movement that was ultimately thrown away when the conscious anarchist section, that had not been eroded by its lack of structure and definition, allowed itself to be allied with, associated with and finally – until our own clean break – dominated by the bourgeois pacifist and liberal elements. Perhaps this may explain our ‘sectarianism’ to some of our critics in the younger generation.

Albert Meltzer.

Meltzer: The Myth of the Revolutionary Party: Marxism & Christianity

Albert Meltzer
Black Flag VOL V No. 7

The revolutionary party is a myth of twentieth century. It has never existed. The theory dates from the (imaginary) success of the Bolshevik Party in making the Russian Revolution, since which it has dominated Marxist thinking. As a result of (what was in practice) Lenin’s counter-revolution, the myth of Marxist Leninism has been propagated by a huge and growing university industry throughout the State Communist countries and overflowed into every university in the rest of the world. It is the subject of theses and comment as economics has replaced theology as ‘Queen of the sciences’ and capitalist economics and Marxist-Lenimism arte reiterated endlessly without any questioning of their main hypotheses. In examining the basic tenets of Marxist-Leninism we must first however notice that the set of events on which it is based did not happen in the way they are interpreted at all. The conclusions drawn are false and based upon false premises.

In this respect we may well compare the ‘old’ and the ‘new’ revelations of Marxism and Marxist-Leninism (they are not identical; and the surprised discovery by philosophers of the essential difference between the two) with the ‘old’ and ‘new’ testaments of Judaism and Christianity.

Judaism, like Marxism, claims to be based on an infallible and unalterable Law (in the one Divine, Scientific in the other). This Law is immutable and has very little relations to current problems. hence it encourages a vast degree of comment and interpretation – Talmudic on the one hand, Scientific Marxist philosophy on the other.

The Talmudists will argue endlessly as to what the Divine Will is on particular subjects. They claim no direct connection with the Almighty as Christianity does, and therefore base themselves on what the Law says and how previous scholars have interpreted it. E.g. a pious jew might be concerned if his sons play football on Saturdays. The Lord omitted to say anything explicit. Working is prohibited which would exclude professional football (but could one see it if one did not have to pay to enter?) – and how does this affect amateur football? Is it ‘work’ or ‘innocent pleasure’? Rabbi This might argue one way and Rabbi That the other. Their arguments might be finely based on precedent and inevitably tortuous. Is not study and prayer permitted, which to some might be, in this day and climate, arduous work, and not the pleasure it was to a previous generation? It is easy to see how the subject affords endlesss discussion, argument, the posssibility of schism, the reliance upon an educated, professional body of casuitical leaning. (Rabbi, in fact, means teacher; the teacher is not the equivalent of a priest.)

Marxism has appealed to many scholars of a Talmudical bent; Marx himself indeed came of a line of Talmudists though one need not attach to much importance to this. The arguments of Marxism follows the establishment of a Law for Marx never established a party. Marx’s law is supposed to be scientific and immutable and successive generations of Marxist scholars have tried to interpret all events – from beekeeping to trade unionism, from ping pong to war (as in China today) – in the light of the Law. The scientific law proclaimed is the inevitable transition from feudalism to capitalism to monopoly capitalism to socialism. This is Marx’s own theory, his special contribution to science (and not any desciptions of what socialism is or how it can be achieved). The current trend to find ‘Marxist play and rights,’ Marxist analysis of sport, or labour organisation, based on the need to reconcile these different activities with an immutable Law.

This is not to say that the Law is necessarily wrong – at any rate all the time. Marx’s analysis of the development of capitalism from feudalism is sound – it was based on hindsight. It does not follow that his analysis of the development into socialism was right and history is still proving him wrong. He thought that monopoly capitalism would grow to the point where – because of increasing poverty among the proletariat – it must inevitably be taken over by the latter. This has nowhere occured (the Leninist myth assserts it has). Nor is the Law of Moses necesssarily wrong. ‘Thou shalt not kill.’ What could be a grander injunction? But the adherents of the Law do not consider it means what it says. A plethora of considerations makes it practically worthless and everyone knows that in practice such an all-sweeping commandment is incapable of fulfillment though nobody admits it in principle, therefore a multitude of amendments and interpretations surround it. As for the lesser commandments – not coveting one’s neighbours donkeys or asses – or the bewildering variety of dos and do-nots in Deuteronomy, the authorative tone presented as coming from God himself, swept away argument without settling anything; to create confusion and misunderstanding for a thousand years or more. (Since a man is not prohibited to marry his niece, can he do so? Yet it says plainly a woman may not marry her nephew).

Christians are not bound by the ‘Law’, the last quotation for instance is left to the priesthood, though in practice all their hang-ups and inhibitions derive from it. A practical necessity oof the Jews, for instance, was to increase and multiply being a small people in the middle of a highly susceptible country surrounded by enemies, with plenty of room to expand. Hence they banned all practices likely to diminish the population – e.g. homosexuality – and increased respect for the marriage bonds – unlike the Greeks who, in a barren country, wanted to keep their numbers down and took the reverse view. This has dominated legal thinking to this very day, about 2000 years after it has ceased to matter, and is the essence of the Judaeo-Christian laws that cause the reactionary laws of today (and the hyper-reaction to them too).

Similarly, in the new revelation of Lenin, Leninists are not bound by the scientific law of Marxism. Russia was the most reactionary and feudal country hence it could not be the one to have a revolution according to Marxist laws (and some sects of Marxists hold that therefore it did not happen). Leninism rejects this as Christianity rejects the mosaic Law; but at the same time utilises the law to to buttress its argument.

Lenin, as the spostle of the ‘new’ religion, like Jesus (if the comparison is not to startling) begins by rejecting the rule of the scholars and just as Christ rebukes the Pharisees so Lenin castigates the Social-Democrats with whom he shared common beginnings and a common faith. Both Christianity and Leninism are based on a set of events which are supposed to have happened. If these are historically false, then they are materially false. The discussions about whether the historical events of Christianity really happened are well known, the new myth of Leninism less so. Lenin claims to have actually carried through the revolution. He did it by means of a revolutionary party arming itself with the historical truth. In fact, was this the case?

The revolution in Russia was carried out while Lenin was sitting in a Zurich cafe. Tsarism regarded as unshakable and symptomatic of entrenched reaction was swept away long before any of the Bolsheviks saw Russia. They returned due to the astuteness and doubledealing of Helphand Parvus. Helphand was a Marxist scholar of the old-school whose connections with the Marxist social-democracy in Poland and Germany were intimate; he was the chosen associate of Rosa Luxemburg and Trotsky (who picked up from him the theory of ‘permanent revolution’), as well as of the reformist section of German social-democracy which had entered the Imperial Government. With a foot in both camps he conceived a brilliant triple stroke – to rescue Germany from a Russian offensive and enable it to concentrate on fighting the West; to give a boost to State Communism to which he still owed ideological support; and to make a fortune out of speculation on the collapse of the Eastern front. This could be done by bringing Lenin back to Russia and equipping him with the money to float a major well organised party that would take over the government and bring Russia out of the war.

It succeeded brilliantly so far as two of the projects Helphand had in mind were concerned, though for the Imperial German government it proved to be only one more nail in the coffin. It is to Helphand one must give credit for the success of Lenin’s counter-revolution. It was a counter-revolution not a a revolution. Control was largely in the hands of workers, peasants and soldier soviets. Lenin’s achievement was to make those soviets subject to party discipline.

Other Marxists such as Trotsky only came to accept this party at the last moment. They had clung to the older party as long as possible. When they saw the well equipped new party carrying all before it – able to buy and subvert police and soldiers – they joined it and proclaimed the Bolshevik Party as in effect a new religion, that of Leninism, or as they called it misleadingly, Marxist-Leninism.

As was said of the New Testament, what was new wasn’t true; and what was true wasn’t new. To justify itself, Leninism quoted the old Laws of Marxism which they had superseded. The party had the right to suppress all other parties because it was the party of the working class. Capitalist parties had suppressed the workers; now through the Party the workers would suppress the capitalists, and while the state was ‘young’ and surrounded by capitalism, it had to assume dictatorial powers. The state is now ‘old’ but the new laws are seemingly eternal. The ‘scholars’ were substituted by a priesthood. It was no longer a question of interpreting the Law. Someone had come who was greater than the Law. The priesthood, or the party, had the right and duty to interpret what He would have done in any given circumstance.

As He lived in a particular time with particular historical events happening, these became the point of reference of everything. To this day the ‘Samaritans’ (through a misinterpretation of a particular parable) are assumed to be good; the Pharisees bad. To this day Leninists – basing themselves on Lenin’s attitudes to contemporary events, largely dictated by the civil war – give the priestly resplies as to how the Godhead would have reacted, and judge movements of today on his judgment of the fifty years ago.

This question of a revolutionary party was dubious. Marx never conceived the idea of a party taking over the role of salvation like a priesthood. He envisaged the scholars controlling the mass party but looked on the party itself rather as Lenin looked upon the trade unions. In the context of today the concept has become increasingly ridiculous because of the multiplicity of parties.

In the first place the Trotskyist movement broke from the Communist Party, though basing itself on the same texts. This was in one sense the split between those who clung to Marxist ‘talmudism’ with Leninist ‘priesthood,’ and those that held that the priesthood has the sole right to determine how matters should be run thereafter. But this one schism has caaused others well known and highly comic to some, a major tragedy (in their ultimate result) to others. The division is threefold:

(1) Moscow line; the revised Stalinism; (2) Maoism; and its many splits and counter-splits; the old Stalinism sometimes interlaced with Bolshevik pre-revolution dynamism and sometimes with a total rejection of of all Marxist dogmatism as against Leninist dogmatism (3) Trotskyism, in its 57 varieties. It is pointless here to discuss the many divisions. But that there are divisions everyone knows, and this itself makes the revolutionary party outmoded. Lenin’s theory was based on the fact that there could only be one working class party … in defiance of the palpable fact that he had split from the main party (but that had sold out to the bourgeoisie). In Leninist terms, the one party had the right to suppress all the others because these were bourgeois parties. But what if there were more than one Leninist party, each able to outbid or undercut the other?

The answer to that was in Portugal, where the Communist Party was within an ace of seizing power. But it was outflanked by its rivals, as it is nowadays at every turn. Yet not one of them can ever take power because they too will be outflanked by yet anothor. Another accommodating Helphand Parvus cannot be found to put one in power and then let it reason with hindsight an argument needing guns to back it.

Granted that the so-called revolutionary party has no future in any revolution, does it have any purpose at all? If it is trying to get power for itself, one can see its purpose. If it is seeking to nourish certain intellectual leaders and build an artificial leadership that may eventually hope to be taken seriously by a real following, then one can see the point; but this does not amount to more than a confidence trick. It is undoubtedly true that people of a given political (or any other) tentency have the right and the pleasure to group together in one body, but why a party?

It may well be true that the deficiencies of the anarchist movement in the past has always been in precisely the opposite direction. One writer has ingeniously argued the tyranny of structurelessness (though there is a greater danger of tyranny of tyranny). Without a party structure one can have the domination of the loudest voice, the worship of orator, demagogues or writers, reliance upon ‘militants’ as distinct from all others and so a drift into a situation where hierarchy and bureaucracy having been thrown out of the door creep in through the window. One is also wide open to penetration by other people who do have a party when one has a body which has no leadership. It is unfortunately impossible to say decisively that all problems are solved if one does not have a revolutionary party. But on the positive side it has no purpose beyond domination, and it should be recognised as an evil.

Generations of ‘revolutionary parties’ in Britain have achieved only one thing: the almost total alienation of the working class from what was once the working class movement.

Albert Meltzer.

Meltzer: Anarchism in the West of Scotland

A Glimpse of Working Class History
By Albert Meltzer
Black Flag: Organ of the Anarchist Black Cross VOL III, No 19, April 1975

many older anarchists used to speak affectionately of Fred and Amy Macdonald who were active in anarchist propaganda in the West of Scotland as far back as a hundred years ago. Fred was a german baker who had been intimately connected with the International and with the Anarchist workers’ faction in Germany that sided with Bakunin. (Fred, who died about 1912 always used Amy’s name; his own is not known to me). They formed a circle which met in their tiny flat somewhere in Bridgeton. Whether it was the first Anarchist group in the West of Scotland I have ni idea; but its existence shows that anarchist propaganda there well exceeds a century.

As it was a working class movement we have no historical record of it, since records as a rule exist of succesful working class organisations or of bourgeois intellectuals who make sure they leave records behind (iy is true that today this ‘rule’ is being altered). For many years Amy (who lived until 1935) used to tell of the old days when the solitary bands of Anarchists used to speak at the Green and elsewhere and sometimes be pulled from their platforms or chased by angry crowds of excited Christians disturbed at hearing their superstitions mocked. Their attacks on the Liberal M.P.s (the dominant in the West of Scotland) were the first to crack the gigantic edifice parliamentary radicalism had built up among the workers. Among well known propagandists of the libertarian idea was James Dick, who was in the old Socialist League.

There were other socialist groups apart from the Anarchists of course; and Glasgow led the way in socialist education and understanding. The Independent Labour Party was strong was strong there from its foundation – with its dour emphasis on socialism – in contrast to the Social Democratic Federation which tried at least to introduce a bit of gaiety (with the Clarion Club movement and so on). It is said that once Keir Hardie turned up at a S.D.F. meeting where he was invited to give a fraternal address from the I.L.P. – he was perturbed to find it upstairs in a pub but horrified when he got up their to find the debauched scene – not merely socialists drinking but ladies smoking! He turned and fled, thinking he was in a brothel. Asked on one occasion what he thought of Anarchism, he said he was only once in an anarchist meeting ”and the language was terrible … I didna stop to listen”. Yet he was several times on the platform with Peter Kropotkin, whose language may be assumed to have been proper.

Between the pioneer days of Fred and Amy and the exciting period before the first world war, when revolutionary syndicalism made so great an impact on the West of Scotland, (with the Syndicalist movement proper, the IWWs, the dissident Wobs who formed a second organisation here, and the anarcho-syndicalist grouping) there must have been an upsurge of the anarchist idea in the West of Scotland. Perhaps somebody will research it one day: a huge number of working class militants must have been anarchists, as one can judge by these activists who later switched into other parties and thus by their defection provide a yardstick as to how wide the movement must have been. (e.g. John Maclean always denounced William Gallacher – later Communist MP – for having been a ”recent recruit” to Marxism from anarcho-syndicalism and having only gone over when there was a Bolshevik bandwagon to jump on, always implying he had clung to the movement he left merely for popularity).

Guy Aldred, a Londoner, saw very clearly in the pre-war period that Glasgow was to be the libertarian hotbed and at first tried to divide his activity between Shepherd’s Bush (always his stomping ground in London) and Glasgow, later devoting his whole time to Glasgow. He was an anarchist but had differencies with some in the anarchist movement of his day (especially with the Rudolf Rocker circle – a personal and family difference, as Rocker was in fact his brother-in-law). He tended therefore to call himself a revolutionary socialist, or sometimes a ”Bakuninist” (”Marx expressed the social revolution but Bakunin lived it”) combining both Marxism and Anarchism. He pioneered Council-Communism in this country and his long propagandism for the form of council-communism in which virtually there is not much difference between those from a Marxist and those from an Anarchist tradition was long and tireless, despite his constant battle against poverty (he relied entirely on his lectures and sales of literature for a living). That at the end of his life Aldred tended to capitulate in some of the ideas he had expressed all his life was due entirely to the fact that he was totally worn out by the struggle and poverty.

The anarchist movement which had been noticeably strong in the pre-world war period did not fold up, though most of its members did in Glasgow accept the Bolshevik myth for a time. This was probably due to the expressive propagandism of John Maclean – one of the few honest socialist leaders – who combined standard-bearing of the Russian Revolution (which he thought had triumphed) with criticism of Lenin and his authoritarian centralism. It was thought by many that it was possible to defend the gains of the Russsian revolution while not accepting Lenin’s triumph – something which with only small hindsight seems a tall proposition – but Glasgow was of course during the whole of the war and its aftermath in a bubbling state of revolution of its own – tanks being brought down the streets to curb the workers even after the war – and its factory form of organisation was at times almost able to surpass the achievements of the Russian workers in bringing down tsarism – and it would have been difficult to have imposed a party dictatorship on the Lenin model there, in the circumstances prevailing.

Several Englishmen went north, attracted by the numbers of Anarchists with their roots in working class organisation – one being George Ballard, of Bristol – who (as ”George Barrett”) became a fluent speaker for the Anarchist cause in Glasgow, and also edited ”The Voice of Labour”, a syndicalist weekly. Among the Scots who came to London were James Dick, james Murray, Florence Stephen and several others who helped to build up the anarchist influence in the syndicalist movement of pre-world war I. Florence Stephen (author of ”Suffrage or Syndicalism”) later moved into trade union activity among women shop assistants helping John Turner (secretary and pioneer of the Shop Assistants Union and one time editor of Freedom).

The Miners

As in South Wales, the miners were particularly receptive to Anarchist ideas. It is interesting to note that on one occasion Peter Kropotkin went to Blantyre and Burnbank to speak to the miners there.

The memory of Kropotkin’s visit stayed with the miners of Lanarkshire. Anarchism did not die there until two or three whole generations had passed away. Even during the second world war it was possible for anarchists to go and speak to the Burnbank miners – I did myself – and received a warm welcome. They were old veterans. Like the South Wales libertarian miners, they warmly supported the anarchist movement even though in practice they had to accept the existence of socialist and communist leaderships. The belonged to the miners’ lodge and allowed the Labour and Communist nominees to struggle for the jobs of parliamentary representaation. They did not have a distinctive culture from the working class culture of the time and merged into their background; they would have been the irreducible backbone of the movement had it obtained strength in the rest of the country. As it was they had little contact except by ”literature” – and that contact was broken when (as in the case of the South Wales miners – see Black Flag No. 17) bourgeois pacifist and liberal ideas began to infiltrate in the more formally constituted anarchist movement in complete alienation to anything in which they were interested.

However it was not the same situation as in South Wales where the anarchist movement became so informally constituted and so identified with its background that it lost its identity among the advancing state socialist organisations. On the contrary, it was sharply sectarian. The ”Solidarity” group (no connection between any of the Glasgow ”Solidarity” groups – there were three succeeding each other – or the present group using the name) went to the extreme of rejecting not only parliamentary but trade union activity: they refused to join unions, and this in highly organised industries like shipbuilding and car making. Some of them maintained this attitude as late as the thirties – I remember some of the Scots comrades even at Ford’s of Dagenham maintaining their ”conscientious objection” to trade unionism like Jehovah’s Wotnesses. It is interesting to note (for those that think trade unionists are necesssarily bigoted in these matters) that their fellow workers always perfectly understood their position, not only accepting them as militants but even in some cases (quite agaainst the rule book) as shop stewards.

The association of anarchists and council-communists, in the Anti-Parliamentary Communist Federation, in particular (founded by Aldred, but he later left it to form his own organisation the United Socialist Movement) went on until the late thirties (publishing Solidarity and the Fighting Call). Then it became specifically anarchist again, chiefly influenced by Frank Leech, one of the most tireless propagandists the British anarchist movement has known. He was a burly ex-Navy boxer, whose work couldn’t be measured. He spoke week after week to audiences of never less than a thousand – for a long time he spoke in the open air every Sunday afternoon and again in a hall – with several hundreds attending – in the evening. He organised a press, he helped in factory gate meetings and factory organisation, started an anarchist bookshop and a meeting hall, and gave untold help to the German anarchist movement in the late thirties as well as to the Spanish movement.

During the war the movement seemed to grow rapidly, but it was disorganised despite its growth. There were two very brilliant speakers Jimmy Raeside and Eddie Shaw. Their views on anarcchism were original: they described themselves as Conscious Egoists and Stirnerites but rejected the bourgeois individualism often asssociated with those ideas (e.g. shop factory committees were ”unions of egoists”; anarcho-syndicalism was ”applied eoism” and so on), which at any rate made old ideas sound new and which influenced many people at the time. The generation of Glasgow activists which followed on called themselves (some still do) Stirnerites, and it was this generation which gave the drive and continuity of revolutionary anarcho-syndicalist ideas to the influx of younger militants following the Scottish apprentices strike; the disillusionment with the Labour Party (Y.S.), and the political short-sightedness of the Committee of 100 in the early sixties.

Albert Meltzer

Meltzer: ‘Ministerial Inefficiency’

By Albert Meltzer
War Commentary, October 1940
”World War – Cold War: Selections from the Anarchist Journals War Commentary & Freedom 1939-1950″

The inefficiency of Ministers used as a slogan for victory? It sounds almost incredible, and maybe it would be in another country, but it is a fact today in Britain. The Tory leaders are thoroughly discredited: Chamberlain has been an omen of disaster to the Conservative Party, and his followers, local Tory MPs who were full of praise for Hitler and Mussolini, would have no chance in the country if – as is not now possible – a General Election came. The man-in-the-street would be very likely to agree now with the statement of one Conservative MP some years ago: ”The Blackshirts have what the Conservatives need” – not dictatorship but Brixton!

This is shown by the phenomenal success of the book Guilty Men. It had a very good send-off by being unofficially banned, but it created a sensation apart from that. Guilty Men tells the familiar tale of a complacent Chamberlain leading a Hitler-loving Conservative solid majority in the days of Munichism. More and more people are coming to recognise this fact: yet, conversely, the Government does not lose in popularity. The antodote to all criticism is: ‘But now it is all different’. A Chamberlain is out, a Churchill is in. Apart from Mr Churchill looking more like a bulldog than his colleague and the more important fact that his support and warmhearted defence of fascism under Signor Mussolini has had a chance to be forgotten while Mr Chamberlain’s visits to Munich are too fresh in the public mind, there is little difference. But the man-in-the-street is fooled: he is led to believe we have suffered some defeats because of inefficient Mr Chamberlain, and now are to be led to victory, via the change of Prime Minister, by Mr Churchill.

Even now, with the change of Ministry to ‘efficient’ Ministers, criticism of them has to continue. Mr Duff Cooper went into office in a blaze of glory, having made a brilliant speech crying out to Chamberlain, ‘Go, go, in heaven’s name, go!’ It was a dangerous speech, though, for now everyone is crying that at Mr Duff Cooper. True Mr Cooper has to defend the ridiculous methods of the Ministry of Information, sure Minister-breaker, since the Ministry can only give official policy, while the nation wants the soothing syrup of Transport House variety, the ‘better land after the war’ type, which the rulers may promise but cannot specify too closely. Also, he has had to tread on the corns of neewspapermen by censorship of news – always a risky business! But apart from that, what significance has Mr Cooper’s inefficiency? True, propaganda could be a great force in the war, and he is retarding it; but no more than any other member of his class would.

The reason seems clear: the Cabinet may be likened to the proverbial Russian sledge, after which the wolves of public opinion run. The mother on the sledge has to throw off her babies one by one: a hard parting, but inevitable, anything to allay the wolves. And this mother is distiinctly hard-hearted and will throw them all off if she can maintain her position on the sledge. Some of the babies, though, are lusty brats and run after the sledge crying, ‘Shame!’ – e.g. Mr Hore-Belisha!

The ruling class can well afford one or two Ministers as a burnt-offering if it can stop the public from thinking and acting thereby.

At the moment, there is some denunciation of Sir John Anderson, and a demand that he should resign, because of the suppression of liberty underneath him, and also because of the internment of so many refugees either anti-Nazi or friendly to the allied cause. But we are not concerned with whether Sir John would resign or not: the question is whether such practices would stop if we had a new Home Secretary. The agitation must be against the offence, not the individual acting as figure-head or held responsible.

In the trade unions, it is the same: agitation against any particular person sometimes leads to their being replaced by better men, who in turn, because of the method of trade union bureaucracy, become equally reactionary. The introduction of Labour leaders into the Government has not altered the character of the war: Mr Attlee, who before had led the demand for a statement of peace aims, once Lord Privy Seal, had to declare that the time for stating peace aims was ‘inopportune’. Labour MPs led the demand for such things as nationalisation of mines; now a Labour Minister of Mines has to state that this cannot be done. So it seems that change of Ministers does not lead to a change of methods. But the agitation against inefficiency leads to a lessening of the struggle against the system, and that, of course, is what the ruling class want.

It might be stated that there is an interesting excepttion to the rule that inefficiency against individual Ministers is largely inspired by a desire to avoid essential criticism rather than to face actual criticism. That is the wide-spread belief in this country that Britain is inefficient, too lenient, too humane, etc. which is, of course, fostered with the intention of making the people believe that we must be less lenient, less humane, etc. If it were stated bluntly – ‘we must be intolerant, we must be inhumane’, etc. – it is doubtful that the British people would agree. But they are told that we are notoriously lenient, ridiculously humane, and are likely to remain so, and the result is support for the reverse action to be adopted. Then, when the news comes out, the reaction is, ‘Well, it’s about time too!’, or the like.

It is, by the way, a remarkable illusion that inefficiency does not exist in Germany – a thing which all good patriots here believe. Why this illusion I cannot fathom: it may have arisen as a means of exhorting people to do their bit, but it has never been very true.

In the last war the myth of German efficiency rose to an alarming extent, but was grossly exaggerated. Hasek has portrayed the corrupt and decaying Austro-Hungarian Army for ever in the Good Soldier Schweik, while as to the German Army in the last war, Bernard Shaw – who has written on everything – pronounced the truest words, in the mouth of a member of the ruling class, who says ”if the British public knew that I had said it, I should at once be hounded down as a pro-German”. It is:

”Our people have for some reason made up their minds that the German War Office is everything that our War Office is not… my own view… is that the German War Office is no better than any other War Office.
I found that opinion on my observation of the character of my brother-in-law; one of whom, by the way, is on the German General Staff.” (Augustus Does His Bit, 1917)

Today, of course, the Nazis have got rid of the aristocratic Junkers: whereas we retain the aristocratic junk. Nevertheless, today in Germany the State is in control: and the State, in its totalitarian stage, though it eliminates capitalist waste and oligarchic inefficiency, creates bureaucracy and its attendant ‘red tape’. When we get much better information on how Germany wages this war (which will only, perhaps, be afterwards), we shall very probably see that Germany has not been winning victories because of the superior efficiency of Nazism, but because the bourgeoisie of the west are fearful, and therefore timid. They fear that a major war of destruction will ruin their property, and expediate social revolution: the Nazis, representatives of a ‘have not’ nation against the ‘have’ imperialisms, and who have deluded at least themselves that revolution is impossible, for they are the revolution, have no such trepidations, and so take the initiative and the drive. They err in underrating social revolution, for it is becoming ever more of an imminence, and will sweep away both them and their bourgeois ‘sisters under their skins’.

A. M.