Sunday, 23 October 2011

Irish Anarchist Review 4

Welcome to issue 4 of the Irish Anarchist Review, produced by the Workers Solidarity Movement. This magazine aims to provide a forum for the exploration of theories, thoughts and ideas about political struggle, and where we would like to go and how to get there from the current situation. This magazine also seeks to be a place where people interested in revolutionary politics can read first-hand reports from people involved at the ‘coal-face’ of working-class struggles and perhaps reply to it with an article of their own. We believe there can be no revolution worthy of the name without a genuine sharing of political ideas between people.
The political state of Ireland and the wider world today presents a frustrating yet potentially promising prospect for revolutionaries. A class war is being prosecuted by the world’s richest 1% and public opposition to this in many countries including Ireland has been limited to demonstrations of mass public anger at falling living standards, by crowds of atomized individuals who for the most part remain trapped inside a narrative spoken by politicians and a mass media who are controlled by that same richest 1%. Anger is widespread among our class, but effective action by the 99% seems as remote as it was before the current crises, when the neoliberal illusion was unburst and still had a veneer of plausibility.  However, active opposition to austerity and repression in countries like Greece, Chile and Egypt, and the recent protest manifestations like Occupy Wall Street/Dame Street show that resistance is indeed fertile.
Fin Dwyer writes in his essay that a key difference between people in Ireland today and their 19th-century ancestors is popular politicisation and first-person history of mass struggle. The Land War arose from a situation not entirely unlike that faced by 21st-century Irish people, but the response in the former case was shaped by political organisations like the IRB and many individuals with the reach and organising know-how to take that desire for change further than isolated and ineffectual reaction. Fin looks forward to the forthcoming anti-Household Tax campaign as a possible candidate for emulating that successful, if flawed, antecedent of the 1870s and 1880s.
This leads on to Paul Bowman’s article advocating an ‘organiser model’ for developing the emerging campaign against the Household Tax. Paul argues that only a campaign based on increasing the engagement level of members to well beyond the levels usually achieved in most left organising here to date can deliver the scale and personal commitment of membership needed to win the campaign objectives. He outlines a method based on these principles developed by the trade union movement in the United States, where struggles to organise workplaces often have been very hard-fought.
Kostas Avramidis’ piece on current conditions in Greece gives a flavour of what is going on in one of the small number of countries in Europe where there is ongoing mass public action against the austerity agenda. He draws our attention to community campaigns against unwanted capitalist projects, where the traditional political system has been bypassed. Kostas sees this as a symptom of a rising political consciousness among ordinary Greeks, but he poses his own concerns if this will be enough to transform the plight of the Greek working class in a radical way.
Donal O’Driscoll has written an anarchist critique of  the Freeman Movement, which has gained some credence (and members) from among the left activist community.  Donal stresses that the ‘Freemen’’s dependence on concepts like ‘natural law’ and ‘common law’ are antithetical to anarchism’s rejection of authoritarian laws and the ‘appeal to history’ that is central to Freeman thinking lends itself to social conservatism, support for private property, and political reaction.
Eric Hayes’s article on the Participatory Economics blueprint developed by Michael Albert and others follows on from the theme of ‘imagining the future’ begun in the last issue. Parecon is not universally liked in libertarian left circles, but as a fully-thought-out alternative to the current model of economic activity it is worthy of critical scrutiny by anarchists. Eric gives a description of the main features of the model, and draws the reader’s attention to what he sees are its valuable aspects.
James McBarron’s interview with labour historian and author Conor McCabe discusses the economic interests and agenda of the Irish ruling class since 1922, and how these have changed over that time, while noting that certain interests remain unaltered. They also discuss how the Irish working class has experienced the results of the out-working of these in government policy and in their living standards.
Cathal Larkin offers an anarchist’s perspective on the work of Michel Foucault, a 20th-century French sociologist and political philosopher whose opinions on oppression, crime, punishment, power, agency, and the role of the intellectual in popular struggle has made him particularly difficult to pigeon-hole for ideologues of left and right. Cathal says that while Foucault never called himself an anarchist, much of his political stance commends itself readily to the anarchist tradition.
There are also two book reviews to whet your appetite – Cathal Larkin reviews Anarchism And The City, and Eoghan Ryan does Ramor Ryan’s latest, Zapatista Spring.
We offer these ideas not solely as intellectual nourishment, but hope that these will be of use to you in your political activity and everyday life. We also intend that these writings proke others to respond with ideas of their own, and we look forward to receiving responses from you, our readers out there.