Debate between Dick Donnelly, (SPGB), and Albert Meltzer, ('Black Flag' (anarchist)), Duke of York, Islington, London, 12 February 1987
One of the difficulties when we deal with the anarchist group is trying to find out which particular anarchist group it is, because Mr. Heinz and his 57 varieties didn’t have a look in. So it’s sometimes quite difficult and I hope I’m not attacking a specific brand of anarchism that my friend here doesn’t happen to share. I’ve got hold of the Black Flag which is their newspaper of course and I’ve had a go at it as much as I can, try and make sure I don’t make those mistakes. If I make a mistake I’m sure my opponent tonight will put me correct.
Now, recently in Glasgow, we had a meeting called Why We Oppose the Anarchists and of course we had a variety of those anarchists turning up. Some who were in favour of democracy, some who were opposed. Some who were in favour of trade unions, some who were opposed. Some in favour of syndicalism, some who were in favour of direct action and so on and so on. And of course, one of the other brands that we have, is that peculiar brand of Spanish history where they always laud the golden age in Barcelona. And I rather imagine that may be the attack my opponent will take this evening but time will tell. I do notice an article on that specific period of history, at least one constant references to it in the Black Flag.
What I intend to do as a spokesman for the Socialist party this evening is deal with it in basically three ways. What is a revolution? Because I think that is absolutely essential that we all know what each other is talking about and if there is any doubt about it then we can at least clear that one out of the way at the beginning. And secondly, why it is that the organisation that I represent, the Socialist party is opposed to all those different groups that come under a sort of umbrella called anarchists. And thirdly and more importantly, to the real point of the whole discussion of this evening, I hope, that is how can a real revolution be achieved.
So to the first item, namely what is a revolution, let us discount immediately all references to it in the popular press and the TV and so on. Every advertiser tells you it is a revolution in food, there is revolution in shoes, there is a revolution in all sorts of ladies underwear and so on and so on. And every political pundit talks about South America and Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday one president, Thursday, Friday, Saturday another one and that is a revolution. People talk of Marxist revolution, of the Chile Allende revolution, I suppose following that because it is another change, the ITT revolution in Chile. In other words any change at all is looked upon as a revolution. Now I am not going to use it in that sense at all. I am not going to talk about punk revolution or a hippy revolution or a sexual revolution.
What I am going to talk about as far as I am concerned, what the term means in politics is a basic transformation in the whole basis of society and as such we recognise certain basic changes. The break-up of old kinship society, chattel-slavery, feudalism, and modern day capitalism, these were basic economic changes. In turn, of course, the whole political atmosphere and the whole political power structure changed along with it. So we mean, that the socialist talks about a revolution, he means something very specific, he or she means something very specific. We mean a change in the basic economic relationships in society.
Very briefly, and I do not want to labour the point, but if anybody has got any doubts on it, we have got the figures here, roughly we can say in the modern world with few exceptions the world is divided into two classes. As far as the modern industrial civilised society is concerned that is absolutely true. On the one hand a very small handful of fortunate men and women who own all the factories and the land, all the means of communication and transport and commerce, and the vast majority of mankind, all the men and women who produce all the wealth of the world, but own very little of the means of producing and distributing wealth. As I say if anyone doubts that we can give you figures worldwide or recent figures, the Royal commission’s in wealth and so on. Roughly we can say that is splits up something less than ten per cent of the population own ninety per cent of the whole world’s wealth, all the natural resources and the commercial and transport undertakings. In other words, socialists see the world today as a capitalist one that is divided between two groups, between two classes.
Further you see that the whole purpose of production in this modern society is not to satisfy need but in order to sell on a world market. Further we see that all the political superstructure that is based upon those economic relationships all over the world, whether in the so-called free west or the enslaved east or this bloc or that bloc, the north or the south or however the political pundits like to put it, all over the world, from the north pole to the south pole, from Siberia to the Rockies, a worldwide system with a government’s institutions that represent the owning class. We see a state machine that represents the interests of the real owners of the world today. So it is against that background that we would ask you to consider how can a real revolution be achieved.
Now the whole basis of the power of the owning class is in their ownership and the way that they protect that ownership is by their laws. There are no divine laws that says this river should belong to this man or woman to the exclusion of all others. There is no divine law that says this means of production and distribution should be owned. To find out how ownership came about is the job of a historian, is the job of looking back and seeing how it came about, I don’t intend to give a lecture in that. In the main, it came about with murder, it came about with trickery, it came about with straight theft in many instances especially when you consider in this country the enclosures act, the Highland clearances and so on. Suffice to say however that this owning class no matter how stupid they may be. No matter how ill-informed they may be politically are very property conscious and these institutions of government whether in the so-called Communist bloc or whether in the democratic bloc or fascist bloc or whatever, the whole purpose of government is to protect that class ownership. Any attempt to even endanger it is ruthlessly dealt with and it is here of course that the socialist takes a complete departure from any group of anarchists.
It may be that some anarchists will speak about a future society very like that that the socialist would speak of. About the abolition of property, about the abolition of classes and so on, but some of them would, but even those that have that viewpoint, have nevertheless got the viewpoint that real enemy to the attainment of that is of course this state machine and it is no accident that the Black Flag rather like a lot of anarchist organisations and like a lot of left-wing organisations, one of whom I debated here, see the state as the bogeyman. And it is all about fights, either between the strikers in France in this case, or some punk in Belfast at a concert, and the policeman is the guy with the heavy truncheon and there is a noble anarchist or a noble freedom lover having a hell of bad time of it. And all of their propaganda and all of their efforts are put towards trying to direct workers energies towards seeing this bogeyman of the state. In none of the ones that I have read, and I may be unfortunate, not having read very much of it, but in all of the anarchists stuff that I have read, they never anywhere put the emphasis on the real bogeyman and the real cause of the problems, namely the class ownership of the means of producing and distributing wealth. And because of that they then take another step back from their position because it is our view that not only do we have capitalism because of the historical growth of the means of production and methods of production, we also have a working class that support that viewpoint.
It is not a case here of the world’s working class, all these wonderful people who produce everything and distribute everything having this terrible con trick put upon them. On the contrary in most developed capitalist countries, it is the case that they actively support it. In other words the world’s working class take the viewpoint that this set of social relationships, owners and non-owners, buyers and sellers, stolen from and thieves is the only possible social arrangement. It is a popular misconception, it always has been, it is, and it always will be.
Now of course it is true that amongst that world’s working class because of the problems they have got to face, they look for all sorts of solutions. And the history of anarchism is that where it had great support, in the main, if you looked at it in Italy in France and especially in Spain and in Russia, it was usually where there was a backward agrarian economy. Because basically historically the case for anarchism is a case of the peasant, the case of the small proprietor. The case for socialism on the other hand is the case for a working-class, worldwide working-class who are dealing with the real modern industrial world.
Now the Socialist party therefore stresses in all its efforts trying to put forward the case for socialism, and you can search back through all the Socialist Standards, and it would be a rather strange one in which you did not see some reference and in some cases articles, on the importance of understanding. Because the socialists take the viewpoint that is what is called for to bring this transformation is a revolution in the ideas, the people’s perception of the buying and selling system has got to be changed. And I will deal with that a little later on in the last part; how can we achieve this transformation.
But suffice to say if I looked at any of the three issues in the supplement that they have produced and various other pieces of anarchist literature, what you would find is a rather ambiguous viewpoint in regard to how you can achieve this and having achieved it, what exactly it would be because, we don’t agree on that. Nor can I find specifically in this Black Flag, the actual group we are dealing with this evening, can I find anything really concrete about it, but what I can see is some rather strange attitudes. For instance, in an article entitled ‘News from Barcelona’, what they do is they have a look at an exhibition put on there in the fiftieth anniversary of the Spanish Civil War and the commentator looks back on this of course as a wonderful period where they had this anarchist revolution, well not in a developed form, but at least in some sort of form and there are rather strange ideas all through it. But one of them struck me as particularly peculiar and it may seem a small point but I think it is very symptomatic is their attitude towards humour.
Here’s one, it is talking about the exhibition and it says ‘there are moments when this can be macabre, for example at one stage a CNT commando found an old well-dressed German gentleman with spectacles in a house outside Barcelona. They were about to take him off to be shot …’ Naturally what would you do if you see an old guy who is well-dressed, particularly if they are German, ‘taking him for a fascist boss before somebody recognised him, it turned out to be Max Nettlau, the greatest historian of the anarchist movement.’ This is his comment here ‘I would imagine they had a good laugh about it afterwards.’ It is a good job they recognised him isn’t it. Mind you that might have been a good laugh as well.
So I mean there is this attitude all through it, for instance in the dispute with the railway workers in France, they talk about there to be more militant, to get more direct action, quote as far as I can see approvingly that what you should do in the question of strike is break up property. One of them is that you should cut the railway lines, you should blow up signal boxes and so on. I don’t know how the anarchists would feel about that if he was hurtling in a train through Paris-Nord and the signal box put him on the same line as one coming into Paris-Nord, whether he would think direct action was such a good thing there.
But nevertheless what you will get here is a thing which accords all the time of what is ambiguously called the left wing. That is the loser’s wing, the people who will permanently be in opposition. What they say is we will shake a fist at orthodoxy, we will throw our thunderbolts at authority but it is all rather pathetic. It has never got them anywhere. I mean in 1936 they were on the verge of this great revolution which of course is well known they did not achieve. Instead of that a fascist dictatorship came about and despite all the direct actionists that were in Spain, according to this there was millions of them, during that time they did not manage to knock off Generalissimo Franco. It is true that they blew up bus shelters, killed tourists and blew up beaches and Christ knows all what. But they never managed to get the man that presumably they would have looked upon as being a feather in their cap, naïve romantics that they are.
So we take our viewpoint here, that the real issue that intelligent men and women of the working-class should be addressing themselves to is not knocking over policeman’s hats in Belfast or laughing about how they nearly shot an anarchist historian. What we should be doing instead is saying why is it that members of the working-class who produce all the wealth in the world live in terror, live in poverty, live in insecurity, why is this, that here in a technically advanced society, well beyond what anybody could have dreamed of in the last century or well beyond what members of the Communist party and anarchists and all the other funny initials that existed in Spain in ’36 and so on, a world they could hardly imagine, technical dream world as it were, a world of communication satellites and all the rest of it. And yet, we cannot solve a medieval problem almost, the one of war and poverty, and famine. Now the reason the socialists would say is not because a bad crooked policeman or bad crooked politicians or people selling one another up pathways and all the rest of it but instead the basic society, the fact that we have this thing called, this institution, this relationship called private ownership.
And that brings me to the most important bit, namely how do we bring about a real revolution, how can we achieve it. It is all very well decrying the fact that people starve while food is destroyed, it is all very well talking about the horrors of a bomb become but you can all just have a pint and mutter into it and say what a terrible thing, but the socialists take the viewpoint that something can be done. We take the viewpoint that far from it just being a case of throwing a few marbles under policeman’s police horse’s hoofs, I was going to say policemen in hoofs there, at demonstrations, what you can do is a real practical thing, it will not get you in the newspapers of course, it will not get you in the committee of the hundred, it will not get you in the angry brigade, it will not get you up on a murder charge, it will not get you thousands of people sending you Christmas cards as you’re incarcerated in a jail in Spain or in South America and fight and martyrdom and all the rest of it.
What you could do instead is address yourself to the real world and the real power structure. The working-class not only produce and distribute all the wealth of the world they also organise its production and distribution. It is members of the working class who wear all the uniforms, the privates and the generals. In the main, the armed forces are made up of the working class. Even the police force, they are not recruited from Eton and Harrow. They are recruited, they come from the Gorbals and Islington and so on. The men and women of the working class run this society from top to bottom. Now the socialists take the viewpoint that what is called for is a growth of socialist knowledge.
We think there are two agencies working here that will lead to a real revolution. The first one and the most important one is how capitalism develops itself. Capitalism as it develops makes more and more untenable, nobody can hold on to those ideas about people who are starving because there is not enough to go around when you can switch on the box, not a question of 1904 when the socialist party was formed and the speaker on the street corner, now at the turn of a switch you can see people starving and you can see the Lord Mayors banquet. They can see great technical advances and people living in substandard housing, mind you, you don’t need a telly for that you just look out the window. In other words, what is happening is experience of the working-class have driven them to reject old solutions. Political parties have come into being and disappeared, political movements have come into being and disappeared. Amongst them a variety of anarchist movements. Now we take the viewpoint that that change, that changes in the method of production, more and more make it the case that the superstructure, the political ideology no longer can contain it, that even the best brains of capitalism sit and ponder, Frankenstein problems. Like how can you possibly deal with this food mountain, this is a real problem, many of these economists would probably pray for some terrible holocaust to come about to get those food mountains down.
Now that is not just a whim, apparently cotton growers way back in the thirties in the USA seriously proposed introduced the boll weevil into the cotton fields to decimate the crops in order to keep up prices. Now of course in the Guardian this week I see one of these experts telling us quite blithely that old idea of giving butter to the Salvation army to hand out is not a very good idea. They called it lunacy. It goes on here about the real effort, they say, the Minister of Agriculture is burn it, burn it, that is the best way to get rid of your surpluses. Burn it! Oh well, let’s face it, pretty logical that, you are producing for a market, the market cannot consume it, people cannot afford it, we just burn it. That way the market will be there and we can start producing again.
Now that is the insanity of it and it becomes more even more apparent to people who think along orthodox lines that this society is splitting asunder by its own contradictions. Now the socialists say the only answer, the only way you can bring about that transformation in the basis of society is the transforming of the ideas of the people who support capitalism – the working class. It is all very well saying the capitalist class support it, but to hell with them, we are not going to ask them to organise to bring about society that will do away with their wealth and privilege. Our remarks, our case is only addressed to the working class.
And to go back to that Spain, think of the difference of what was written there last year or this year, I am not too sure, with what appears in the Socialist Standard which puts out an article which appeared in the Socialist Standard in 1936 about the very thing that this triumph is on about how wonderful it all was. And it goes on, I will just very briefly, read a wee bit of it, ‘the agony of Spain is only a matter of concern for the capitalists of other nations if any of them have interests involved or if there is any prospect of gain by fishing in troubled waters. To the rest it is a matter of minor importance that thousands of Spanish workers are losing their lives just because landowners and the Catholic church want to keep intact their privilege to rob the wealth producers of the products of their toil.’
Now that was written at the time, 1937, it saw the conflict not as a battle between liberty and totalitarianism, but a battle between the old landowners, the Church and other landowners and a new burgeoning bourgeoisie. Now it has taken, what fifty years to the death of the dictator, but look at Spain now, is it not one of the most developing industrial countries in Europe, you have all seen the adverts for their cars and all the rest of it, washing machines, Christ knows all what. They are right in the world market now, they have been taken out of the old medieval thing. Now that was what was going on there, to benefit one section of the owners against another. Now as it happened the landowners and the church and so on, the finance group won against the industrialists and retarded the development of industry in that country to the extent that their main industry, was and is I still think, is tourism. A cheap holiday, a cheap bevy but now Spain is into the world markets. Now Spain is facing the same problems as the rest of world capitalism. So far from being romantic, millions of workers died in that conflict, a bitter bitter conflict, one of the first modern wars in the sense of guerrilla warfare and so on, fighting in streets with citizens in the front line. But rather than romanticise that, we take the viewpoint is that you learn from it, learn from it that the only step forward is the step proposed there in that article in 1937, ‘yet in the advanced countries, at any rate, the workers produce and distribute the wealth upon which all the, while the capitalists control the wealth, they use their position to live in idleness and so on in luxury,’ it goes on to say that the only solution is for the worlds working class to take back that means of production from them. So we propose, before my opponent starts, just to quickly go over where we differ from them. We say the cause of all working-class problems today is the way society is organised, production for profit, as it is class ownership is the cause of all modern social problems. The answer lies not in attacking an effect of it, its authoritarian fist, the answer lies in socialist knowledge of organising politically to take that machine off them. Not for workers to go up with broken bottles and razors and chains on the streets of Glasgow against nuclear weapons but instead to capture that state machine. Capitalism cannot last when the majority of the working class reject it. So the Socialist party entered the political arena in 1904 saying socialism is a practical alternative. Now of course history has shown that we were far too optimistic, because here after all, we are in 1987, eighty odd years later, and in a sense that the ownership is even more entrenched in the hands of a smaller and smaller group we have failed. But in a sense that our case and our analysis has proven correct as to the mad men of the left wing and the anarchists who try to recruit workers for various bloodbaths, our case has been proved correct, it is the sane logical one and you ignore that sane logical case at the peril of your very existence. The only answer is for men and women of the working class to organise politically and democratically to organise a new society.
Well I am sorry if I don’t look very naïve or romantic, I don’t even look like a peasant, I thought I would bring my work smart but I will do my best. I notice that comrade Donnelly started off by attacking the anarchists because there is fifty seven varieties, there is so many of them, so various, he could not tell the difference, by that I take it he meant that when we take socialists, there is only one type of socialist. Wherever you come across the word socialist, there must only be one type. Whether they are carrying out mass murders in Eastern Europe, whether they are extermination camps in Eastern Europe, whether its reformism in Western Europe, whatever, there is only one socialist according to him because he rejects the fact that there could possibly be fifty seven varieties of socialist.
But of course we know there is all these different, this five thousand and seven hundred different types of socialist, and they have got one thing in common, they have got a number of things in common, one thing they have got in common is anarchism, they always insist on one thing, the anarchists must take responsibility, not only for everybody who calls themselves an anarchist whether, even for people who don’t call themselves anarchists but who are referred to as anarchists by the press or whatever. But they themselves are only prepared to take any responsibility for signed up paid up members of their own particular group. That goes for the communist party, that goes for the Trotskyists, the Maoists and for the SPGB.
And I am surprised he was a bit audacious in referring to the butter mountain because that is the most significant thing of what he said as regards the SPGB. The original, I don’t know if the original idea, but the first apologist for the butter mountain came actually from a person whose father was a member of the SPGB who had been a member of the SPGB herself, who had understand everything about the SPGB in speeches equally as eloquent as he is and had passed over to become a Labour minister, Miss Joan Lestor. Now how is it that somebody who obviously knew as much about socialism as it is put as he does, was able to kid herself that capitalism does solve anything, that the Labour party reformist can solve anything, doesn’t it seem that there is something lacking in the elite itself.
That perhaps it might be the case that it isn’t the fact that the working class are deluded but that socialists of every type whatever they call themselves always consider themselves a cut above the working class. They all think that they can give the working class a leadership, they can tell the working class what to do and they never have to support the workers, they simply step aside and say ‘well you know all this is quite wrong, we must give you an eloquent speech explaining socialism instead.’ Now that to me is not the way to achieve a revolution.
And you notice that throughout his speech, very eloquent, he kept saying we are going to come to the end to how to achieve a revolution and he kept dodging it, he kept saying we are coming to this at the finish. We are going to come to this and what finish he didn’t come to, a revolution in ideas. Now that is a very nice idea if we change everybody’s opinions first.
Of course you don’t need any problem. It all happens if the other side want to shoot them down. He said ‘Oh you are recruiting them to a bloodbath.’ Well okay so if they are shot down you say ‘yeah they were wrong, they should not have resisted. They should have changed our ideas first.’ How do they change our ideas?
Today, more than ever, and far more than when Marx was alive, the ruling class have far more at their disposal than near repressions. They have these repressions in certain cases and in the Soviet Union for years they have had to use it in the name of socialism, but they are gradually turning, you know they are gradually turning away from mass repression if they do not have to use it. If people are submissive, if people obey, if people do what they are told, obviously they do not need mass repression.
People talk about certain races being arrogant, well of course, that is not what creates war, what creates war is when they are submissive when they take what is told to them. And the majority of Russians being conditioned by mass repression and by mass propaganda but particularly by mass propaganda do not particularly rebelling and when people rebel that is not the revolution I mean it is only fools or ideologues who think that you know if agitators are there calling for people for a mass bloodbath. Sort of ‘lets come out in the streets with a few policemen.’ Those people don’t exist, I mean that is imagination. There are not people saying knock policeman’s helmets off today and cause a revolution, there are not people saying well if you shoot enough policemen, then no more will come. There are not people who are saying if we kill enough capitalists then capitalism will go. They don’t exist. That is what journalists believe. But it is not serious, it does not exist.
But what does happen of course is you cannot bring a revolution about, you cannot bring a social revolution about unless people are prepared to carry it through. Now how are they going to be prepared to carry it through? Only by being resistant to the means of capitalism. Now he pretends he has got a monopoly on resistance to capitalism, only the Socialist party of Great Britain believes that the capitalist class is all in things and the capitalist class has control of the monopoly of production and so on. Well of course, nobody, that is not true. But what they do not have is any determination to resist capitalism. When Mr Murdoch really spits in the eye of his workers and they object and they resist well of course that is not going to overthrow capitalism, we know that. But if they accepted it meekly, they would certainly entrench it very strongly. If people are prepared to be independent they are not going to accept the dictates of capitalism ultimately. The notion that what they need is a good lecture in economics and that is all. And when they have got that lecture in economics they will be superior and they will be able to go out and preach that to other people is rubbish.
I mean the SPGB know that better than anybody else because they have been producing generations and generations of people who have had all this indoctrination and what have they done. They have either like Miss Joan Lestor finished up in the government or they finish up in business or whatever. They don’t achieve anything. They simply go on perpetuating the old myth that they are able to give things to people, they are able to tell them what to do and the world can be transformed by lectures in economics. It cannot be. The only way it can be transformed is by people learning to become independent, learning that by struggling they can resist capitalism and learning that they can take over the industry themselves.
The vast majority of people I have been and spoken to, they are not interesting in the, they were not interested in the, in just the sort of the pyrotechnics of it you know, the sort of the fighting of the policeman and the rest of it. They were like the miners, many of them believed previously that the police were an independent body which as I said was there to preserve law and order. Now they know better. A lot of them believed that the capitalists were giving them work. Now they know better.
Even if one supposes that all this was in vain, it was not caused by any one particular group or any particular people, it was caused by the workers themselves and it is the workers themselves who have to achieve a revolution or it will not be achieved. The idea that they are a sort of a sociology class and need an explanation in order to pass the ultimate examinations is a fairy tale.
When this notion that anarchism comes from a backward peasant agrarian economy, well this again, is part of the common Marxist heritage which go throughout the world movements calling themselves Marxists including all the Stalinists and Trotskyists and so on, they all repeat this story which after all comes from a period of about the 1860s to the 1880s when there was a struggle in the First International between Bakunin and Marx and Bakunin had the support of some of the countries which were more agrarian and Marx had the support of countries which were industrial proletariat. But when I say had the support of countries, I must realise of course, what does it mean, I mean about a hundred people representing each country no more.
So this myth perpetuates itself in Marxism, somewhat like the story of the Good Samaritan because Jesus mentioned about one Samaritan, all Samaritans have to be good. You see this story persists even now, I’m sure there must have been millions of bad Samaritans over the years, but they are all forgotten you see. Samaritans are good because they are sort of encapsulated in one parable. Similarly even today when sort of the whole of China is under Marxism and South America is ruled by so-called socialists, Marxists still repeat ‘well of course the anarchists are basically a peasant thing and Marxism comes from the industrial proletariat.’ You see if one says that the notion of socialism which he is advocating is different from the socialism which is being advocated by the dictatorships of the world and by part of the capitalist class and afterwards part of the university curriculum in some capitalist countries, if he says well this is different, it is very curious to note how many similarities there in the theory although admittedly different in the practice. But then of course it is easy for them to be different in the practice when they have no chance whatever of practicing it because how are they going to achieve the revolution. They say revolution in ideas. But you see for people to change their views in regard to capitalism means far more that just revising their notions in economics. People have to change their views about things like patriarchy. They have to change their views and people are changing their views about things like patriarchy. People have to change their views about living with other people, whether they regard other people as better or worse because they have got different nationalities. They have to change. These are all things that are part of the struggle. Now it is no use isolating one thing out of all these things and saying ‘oh!’ It is not use saying ‘you have got to change your views on patriarchy’ because that has got nothing to do with social revolution. Well maybe it has and maybe it has not but the point is people only change their views by practice by action, and by action, one does not necessarily mean by violent action, but by action certainly, and once they change their views they have different approaches to what they read in the mass media.
See there is particularly the miners’ strike. I mean who after all are more entrenched in the establishment, admittedly the labour establishment than the miners. Who more patriarchal than the miners? I mean it was essentially a patriarchal society. But you saw during the strike how that radically changed. How women became aware of their consciousness as women. How they entered the strike, they did not like years ago oppose it, they entered into it, they took over the leadership practically. All these things happened during the strike.
And it didn’t happen because you know they had a lecture saying they should go and do it. They did it out of their experiences and out of the experiences came understanding and that is why so many of them now think that perhaps the so-called socialists of the day who said nationalism was a great thing and that the labour party was the finest achievement of the British working-class who flew the flag over the pit heads, basically they were wrong. This struggle has changed their views. It has not been done solely by written propaganda.
It is easy you know to go and pick things out and say to take things out of papers and make them sound funny. It would be very easy, it is so easy it would not be worth one’s while trying to emulate it. But essentially if you are talking about revolution, social revolution, the change of a whole economic basis of society, you have got to talk about people knowing how to do it, which he says, ‘yes that can be done by lecturing,’ but no it has got to be done by action, that is where we differ.
Now of course the old bogey about violence is that really nobody ever or very few people ever believe in violence achieving something in the sense that it is sort of positive action, your sort of ‘let’s go hit somebody over the head with an axe,’ sort of thing, ‘that’s the way to get a revolution,’ a lot of journalists really believe that.
But the thing is what do you do when you are attacked by people who are determined to use violence? What do you do for instance if suddenly through the door, the National Front burst in and started beating people up? Would you stand there and say ‘well you know of course you don’t understand the basis of modern society, you are in fact supporting the capitalist class which is oppressing you’ and walk out with your head streaming with blood. I mean that is not an intelligent approach.
The reason why these anarchists keep getting saddled with these accusations of violence, it all goes back to the French resistance of the 1880s. That during the 1870s, after the suppression of the Paris Commune, the bourgeoisie went round with their police, with their armed guards, killing off one in ten of every worker they saw, if they saw a woman with a box of matches in her handbag she was shot for being an incendiary, people were shot coming out of work. This is because workers of Paris had dared to rise, they were overthrown by the military and this incidentally was not advocated by the anarchists alone, Karl Marx as well claimed to support it but that was okay in 1870s but wrong in 1976.
After this repression happened workers were in a state of apathy and lethargy they felt it was impossible to fight back, to that end the anarchists started individual resistance. When they started off shooting off members of the bourgeoisie, throwing bombs in cafes and all that you see the journalist or the politician will take this thing out of context and say ‘the anarchist Emile Henri threw a bomb in a Paris café, a crowded café’ of course it sounds horrible doesn’t it. But they weren’t saying that this was full of bourgeoisie and that the bourgeoisie had just taken part in these massacres and this was a way of getting back, you had a sudden difference.
I work as a printer actually on a particularly right-wing newspaper the Daily Telegraph, I saw the copy that they had wrote, I saw it going through as it were, which said about anarchists in Carrara who want to raise a statue to Bresci who shot King Umberto after he had ordered the killing of twenty textile workers. Now when that actually finally appeared in the press they missed out that he killed twenty textile workers and I am sure that has been collected in the bits of notes comrade Donnelly has. You see how terrible, how absurd, just killing the king for no reason, probably thought he was going to get a revolution, probably thought that would overthrow the country.
But of course you see it is a vastly different kettle of fish when you look at the things objectively and the point is anarchism says yes there is a problem in overthrowing capitalism. But that is what one should turn ones attention to but in order to get the majority of people to do it one has got to support them in every struggle they have against authority otherwise they will not want to do it. Because nowadays the mass media have got such a hold on people’s lives, that it is impossible to answer, the public opinion is mass produced. I mean the question of hanging or flogging or anything is a mass produced thing, if you can get the answers of sort of seventy per cent people for hanging or for flogging only by means of concerted propaganda in the press. All the propaganda in the press is devoted to it.
So it is not only the state one has to, only the capitalists one has to fight, it is also the state, and it is also of course the media which is used for the state and of course the police. Of course they are recruited from the working class. At any rate they used to be I mean nowadays they tend to come from a slightly higher strata but they are used quite positively by the state in order to enforce the legislation that is makes. Without them there is the parliament just becomes a debating chamber. Without them the people could simply walk in if they disliked a factory owner a printer owner like Mr Murdoch, all they would have to do is walk in and take his presses. But they are conditioned to say well this is impossible. The police are there to make sure it is impossible. But that is why you have got to think not just in terms of overthrowing capitalism not just overthrowing the state and not just abolishing the means of repression including the media as it exists.
But you also have to think in terms of supporting every struggle that goes on providing it is moving towards that society otherwise you are just talking airy fairy nonsense and we will be carrying on forever.