1976: year zero

1976 : year zero

In year zero I left school in Scotland and went to work on a small-holding in Gloucestershire. I helped look after the goats and geese, ducks and chickens while rebuilding a derelict cottage. Only one room was habitable so I stayed in caravan. The summer of 1976 was ferociously hot. The cottage was built up against a hill. My main job was to dig out a six foot wide by 15 foot deep cutting between the cottage wall and the hillside. The hot weather meant the red clay soil was dry, which made the digging easier, but it was full of large lumps of sandstone rock. These were used to build a retaining wall against the hill. The spoil was tipped at the front of the cottage. Even for a physically fit teenager it was hard work, but I enjoyed it. I imagined I was a Victorian navvy, making a railway cutting. There wasn’t a flushing toilet and there was no bath. I could get a bath nearby, but due to the drought had to syphon the bath water, red with clay dust, out of the window onto a vegetable patch. Cooking was done on a coal fired stove. The cottage was in the Forest of Dean. Under laws dating back to the middle ages, people born in the forest had the right to dig for coal. So when coal was needed, it came from one of these ‘free’ mines. The mine was tiny, just a long sloping tunnel (a drift mine) into the ground with an ancient electric motor to pull tiny trucks of coal up a narrow gauge railway up from the coal face. The coal was tipped into a heap and every so often a lorry would take it to a power station in Wales. I was given a pile of sacks and told to fill them up from the heap. Each sack held about a hundredweight (50.8 kilos) so twenty sacks made a ton of coal. So the next time I had a bath the water was black, not red.

In the middle of the summer of year zero I went to London for a few days. I went via Stonehenge, I had heard about a free festival there. It was advertised on Radio Caroline, a surviving offshore pirate station. The festival was long gone though . He heat at midday was intense, the stones shimmering and dancing I the hot air. The land was parched and dust dry, more like Egypt than Wiltshire. There were dead elm trees everywhere (Dutch elm disease) which made the countryside look like winter. In London I wandered around Notting Hill and Portobello Road. I ‘d been sending Hawkwind science fiction stories and had a reply from Nik Turner. I was hoping to find Hawkwind’s office but didn’t. I did find some old copies of Oz and Frendz and Forbidden Planet where I bought an International Times, which was still going. If there were punks about, I didn’t notice them.

Then one night I I saw flashes of light and thought it was a nuclear war. Then it rained, only a violent thunder storm. Went back to Scotland to Stirling to university and joined an anarchist group. Most of the group were older, post-grads. We sold Black Flag on the anarchist stall, but they were more green, selling a magazine of ‘radical technology’ called Undercurrents. There was a book as well, called Radical Technology which came out in in 1976. In these days of peak oil and climate change it seems very sensible stuff –

Industry can expect to be taxed according to energy units used. Since goods imported from far afield will bear the tax incurred through energy used in transporting them, local materials will be more attractive. Similarly, since finished products sent to distant markets will bear the tax incurred by transport , manufacturers will cater chiefly for local markets. [Rad Tech p.227]

1977: year one
But I didn’t carry on, instead, by late 1977 I was back in Gloucestershire and working in factory. It was down by Lydney docks on the Severn. I worked in the engineering department , in the drawing office between the machine shop and the assembly shop. My job was to keep huge lists of all the parts, right down to each nut and bolt, for a rubber glove making machine which we were building. It was huge great thing. As each section was erected it was checked and the parts numbered then put into containers and sent off to Malaysia. It took a year to construct then deconstruct. The photo below was taken in late 1978 as the last load was shipped.

You can see the engineering shop on the right. I am in the front row, kneeling down, third from the right. As you can see it was an all male crew, although most of the 1000 workers on the site were women who worked packing the rubber gloves we made. It was a family affair, with wives and daughters/ husbands and sons all employed by the J.Allen Rubber Company – which was part of the London Rubber Company group. It is a sad photo really. The whole factory site was shut in 1981/2 and a thousand people lost their jobs. But more about that later.

1979: year three.
After the rubber glove machine had been shipped, my job was over. Luckily I was offered a job in the engineering department at the main site/ headquarters in London. So on 2 Jan 1979 started work there. It was a huge sprawling place on the North Circular Road near the river Lee near Walthamstow / Chingford. There were four rubber glove machines, two household ( Marigold), two surgeons gloves plus two Durex condom making machines and the condom testing and packing lines. On top were a set of offices where all the managers worked. I worked down in the bowels in the engineering foremen’s office. Unfortunately, almost as soon as I got there, the Conservatives got elected. By 1980 their monetarist economic policies were devastating manufacturing industry. The claim was they had to attack inflation but Alan Budd (who was an advisor to the Thatcher government) said in a 1992 TV documentary [Pandora’s Box by Adam Curtis] –

The nightmare I sometimes have, about this whole experience, runs as follows. I was involved in making a number of proposals which were partly at least adopted by the government and put in play by the government. Now, my worry is . . . that there may have been people making the actual policy decisions . . . who never believed for a moment that this was the correct way to bring down inflation. They did, however, see that it would be a very, very good way to raise unemployment, and raising unemployment was an extremely desirable way of reducing the strength of the working classes — if you like, that what was engineered there in Marxist terms was a crisis of capitalism which re-created a reserve army of labour and has allowed the capitalists to make high profits ever since. Now again, I would not say I believe that story, but when I really worry about all this I worry whether that indeed was really what was going on.

Quoted in New Statesman March 2010
The full episode of the documentary plus comment by Adam Curtis can be watched here
[Thanks to Nick Hydra. Documentary also in ten minutes sections on youtube.]

In 1979, this was still in the future. In the even more distant future there was global warming/ climate change. With the benefit of hindsight, I now regret not going along to the editorial meetings of Undercurrents magazine which were held in London and open to readers. I might have become greener sooner, joined the Ecology Party as it then was (now Green Party) and … done something useful? Instead I went to a Ceinfuegus Press readers meeting which was also a Persons Unknown support group meeting … which led to the Crass/ Poison Girls Bloody Revolutions / Persons Unknown single and the Wapping A Centre and – at another meeting towards the end of 1979- meeting up with the Kill Your Pet Puppy collective.

To be continued.

Published by

AL Puppy

I wrote for the original Kill Your Pet Puppy and ran All the Madmen Records for 18 months. Apart from those moments of spectacular exicitment I led and continue to lead, a dull and simple life.

48 thoughts on “1976: year zero”

  1. Good post — I like the diversity of KYPP — You have collected many peoples’ memories and impressions here.

  2. I still have my copy of Radical Technology, an fantastic book, very influential for me, especially Cliff Harper’s ‘Visions’ drawings which I’ve written about here http://www.spiralseed.co.uk/shedtime/ and you can see it on my bookshelf here http://www.spiralseed.co.uk/images/bookshelf.jpg Its a book that I often cite as a riposte to John Seymour’s ‘Self Sufficiency’, to me the latter book and the ‘self-sufficiency’ movement (also popularised by the likes of ‘The Good Life’ on telly) represented a individualist approach wheras Harper/Radical Technology was more about self RELIANCE and a community/collective approach, a current which sometimes gets overlooked in the retrospectives of the era.

  3. It is a great book Graham. I found that Godfrey Boyle (co-editor) is still working away at the Open University
    http://design.open.ac.uk/boyle/index.htm

    Most recent Boyle, G. (2009) “Cities and Climate Change: Leading to a Low Carbon London”, Chapter 15 in Wilson, G et al (eds.) Environment, Development and Sustainability, Oxford University Press (in press).

    You should get in touch and tell him you were inspired by Radical Technology…

  4. Will do Al… BTW, the above is not to say my enjoyment of reruns (or indeed the box set of videos I aquired via Freecycle) of The Good Life is marred by the individualist/survivalist/pro-John Seymour subtext… I still think its aged far better than, say, The Young Ones parody of TGL, which looks quite embarassing through a 21 century lens.
    Wheras the actual Good Life episodes hold up pretty well, some nice acute observations of middle class suburban mores, though I never quite understood why Tom and Barbara didn’t just invest in bicycles and build a selection of Bike Trailers to solve their transport angsts. Still I guess theres less comedy potential in a bike Trailer than there is in some adapted petrol driven lawn mower contraption (although Compo off of Last of The Summer Wine seemed to do quite well comedy potential wise with Zero Carbon transport options such as ‘bath tub heading rapidly down rural hillside’)

  5. When I was a kid there was a John Seymour book in the house ‘The Fat of the Land’. Can’t find it, but checked and first published 1961. I used to enjoy reading it… but your right about the difficulties with individualistic /nuclear family self-sufficiency. Even at ‘small commuity’ level it is tricky. There is what used to be (1972) a commune, now a housing co-op in a big house near Castle Douglas. When Tinsel came to visit one time we went to visit.

    It all seemed very well organised, but Tinsel asked some practical questions -stuff like ‘How do you keep warm in winter?’ -to which the answer was ‘You have to go out into the wood and cut down enough trees to keep your wood burning stove going…’. Fine for able-bodied child-free folk, more tricky if you have kids and no go for the disabled.

    Now that we can see the real threat of global warming, the response has to be scaled up, has to be a social rather than individual change. Example – contract road use and expand rail use to the point where cars and lorries are as exotic as steam traction engines… but such policies have to be state led/ institutionally embedded. But the logic of that leads to a kind of ‘green leninism’.

  6. On the subject of ecological Anarchism , I remember people being very impressed by John Zerzan back in the early 90’s : he seemed to draw in interest from the many diverse corners of the ‘Anarchist camp’; amongst them, the Situationist, Larry Law lot, the Kroptkin, Bakunin, Proudhon and Stirner lot — but Zerzan seems to have disappeared from the radar . Does anyone have any views on him?

    I enjoyed a few of his essays ( esp on time and every day work/leisure ) , but soon found he began to repeat himself.

    Plus, he rarely stated his sources in an acceptable way, and he certainly misrepresented or mangled some of his sources too.

    Now, I find much of his output to be directionless.

  7. Oh, and anyone know the whole Larry Law story? I loved his work, but only knew a few anecdotes about the man himself. Those lovely little Situationist booklets he produced must have literally changed the lives of quite a lot of people.

  8. Thanks for the link Alistair — in the late 70’s, those Larry Law “Spectacular Times” booklets were keenly read by everyone I knew. Yes, they were derivative, but I think that was his intention : presenting some of the more ‘difficult’ Situationist ideas to a new , often younger audience. I know that as a teenager, I wouldn’t have really understood Debord et al fully, and therefore Larry’s booklets were essential bridges for me.

    I haven’t seen the film you link to, but I have watched Guy Debord’s films online at youtube — they are good, but a little pretentious at points. Still, the fundamental message is , I think , a valuable one.

    Stewart Home is the man who has really investigated these ideas I think. His website is a wealth of information. ( And of course, he wrote “Cranked up Really High” which is under rated.)

    http://www.stewarthomesociety.org/sp/assault.htm

    http://www.stewarthomesociety.org/cranked/content.htm

  9. Lion – KYPP did its bit to diversify the anarcho-punk mind set by advertising Spectacular Times – see http://s208.photobucket.com/albums/bb227/killyourpetpuppy/KYPP%20issue%205/?action=view&current=page21.jpg

    Mention of Larry Law reminded me of Bob Black. I am sure (but would need to check in my archives /cardboard boxes) that Bob Black and Larry Law had a feud in the mid -eighties which Joel Biroco published in his Chaos/Kaos mag.

    There is a good piece by Bob Black on ‘The Realizatin and Supression of Situationism’ here http://www.primitivism.com/situationism.htm
    From which I quote Black on Home

    The first attempt to debunk the SI is Stewart Home, The Assault on Culture: Utopian Currents From Lettrisme to Class War (London: Aporia Press/Unpopular Books, 1988). With enemies like Home, the SI doesn’t need friends. His book — a sort of primer on the avant garde — is brief and conclusory, keyed to the TV-trained contemporary attention span. Marred by malice, moralism and misinformation, Home’s screed does recount some of the lost history of the SI — especially its early, arty phase…

    “Marrred by malice, moralism and misinformation”….yup, pretty much sums up Stewart Home, but I guess you disagree.

  10. Hi Alistair, thanks very much for the links — re. Home; I am not at all familiar with his fiction, and I know he has his devotees who seem to consider he can do no wrong, and who seem to hero worship him.

    I am not one of those.

    And yes, I agree he is mischevious, malicious, and certainly given to wilful misinformation : his writings that claim Anarchism is synonymous with Fascism are a prime example. Whilst it is true that early Anarchism and early Fascism do indeed, cross over at times — I think Home ( willfully, mischeviously) makes far too much of the early ‘cross pollinations’ between Anarchism and Fascism, because as we all know, as both ‘ideologies/ developed, they obviously went off at totally different angles from each other.

    Also, I do like Home’s writing on music — I like it a lot, and I think his iconoclastic approach is just what is needed, since so much ‘rock journalism’ is hagiographic, myth making nonsense. Home cuts through all that image making reverence very well.

    His art writings are also very good and well informed.

    However, I am not really aware of any books of his after his first few publications.

  11. Here is the Stewart Home article which annoyed a lot of Anarchists —

    http://www.stewarthomesociety.org/ai.htm

    I think he was being intentionally provocative by equating Anarchism and Fascism — I don’t really think he believed half of it himself.

    But that is why a lot of people enjoy Home’s work I think.

  12. I have skimmed through the Stewart Home article and had a quick look at some of the footnotes. Here is one
    63. Anarcho-communists such as the ACF do themselves no favours by collaborating with far-Right reactionaries like Green Anarchist or looking to Bakunin for inspiration. It is about time the ACF demonstrated some commitment to its political platform by breaking with the circle of eco-fascists gathered around Steve Booth, John Moore and Paul Rogers.

    The article is from 1997 and at the time Home claimed he had evidence of a ‘green/brown’ (brown as in fascist) alliance. This worried me and when a I met Home’s mate Fabian Thompsett soon after I asked him about it. Fabian laughed and said it was all a wind-up, a fake conspiracy theory designed to get under the skins of people who took their green politics too seriously. I think he took my concern as proof that the scam had worked…

    Fair enough, maybe I do take my politics too seriously and can’t see the joke in articles like this which claim anarchists are really fascists. But having been disinformed by Stewart Home then, I assume that everything he writes is bollocks unless independently confirmed by other sources. I

  13. Alistair, I think as with many things Home writes, the ‘truth’ is a blurred area — it’s true that Proudhon inspired early Fascists as much as he did Anarchists, ( see Cercle Proudhon and Georges Sorel ). Also, it’s a depressing fact that Proudhon condoned the expulsion or extermination of all Jews from Europe, and his papers on the subject make shocking reading.

    And it’s true that Mussolini,whilst publicly encouraging his Fascist street gangs to beat up Anarchists, secretly admired Anarchists like Enrico Malatesta, and he openly supported Italian American Anarcho Nihilists, Sacco and Vanzetti. Mussolini had started his ‘career’ by enthusiastically translating Kropotkin, whom he admired, his father also having started out as a devotee of Bakunin. Mussolini also admired Max Stirner.

    And it’s true that Mussolini’s ‘state Fascist artists’, Marrinetti and Boccioni also toyed with Anarchism and Fascism, venerating Anarchists like Galli.

    Korean Anarchists of the early 1900’s onwards, were also committed ethno centric Nationalists, and, ultimately, Conservatives of a definite right wing leaning.

    Also, one of the highest ranking Revolutionary Conservative Fascists, Ernst Junger, was so taken by Max Stirner’s Anarchist writings that he devised his own philosophy rooted in “The Ego and its Own”.

    To me, it’s an unresolved , very odd area,full of bizarre contradictions, and the political scientist Zeev Sternhell has written on the strangeness of what seems to have been a mutual attraction between some early Anarchists and Fascists — the historian Eric Hobsbawm has also acknowledged the strangeness of it — but says ultimately, it was only a passing affinity between the two ‘ideologies’, and one that gives us no real answers.

    Moving the whole Anarchist world to the current time, and out of the early 1900’s, I think Home is also very critical of people like Troy Southgate, a man who calls himself a ‘National Anarchist’ and has attracted quite a following for himself and his ideas, much of which are a bizarre mixture of right wing racism, nationalism and bourgeois hating Anarchism.

    So — perplexing as Home’s writing on the topic is, ( and I do grant you he is trying to wind people up ) I do think he is communicating something of value amongst the intended mystifications. He bases much of his work on Zeev Sternhell’s research in the area.

  14. I wrote : “And it’s true that Mussolini,whilst publicly encouraging his Fascist street gangs to beat up Anarchists, secretly admired Anarchists like Enrico Malatesta”…

    Errr….doh, sorry, I meant Errico Malatesta….

  15. Oh help, too many cross connections…
    First up Troy Southgate gets mentioned in this old KYPP thread ‘Nazi anarchists fuck off’
    http://www.killyourpetpuppy.co.uk/news/?p=517

    Second. I have just been checking with Ben Franks’ Rebel Alliances/ history of British anarchism. Ben throws in Wat Tyler and the Peasants Revolt of 1381, the 17th cent Diggers Ranters and Levellers and the Chartists as part of the pre-history of British anarchism. Ben also explains (pages 41-43) that from 1886 onwards – i.e. after Kroptkin and allies started up Freedom – British anarchism was strongly anarchist communist and rejected Proudon’s mutualism and Bakuninist collectivism seeing them as “little better than capitalism”.

    Third. With Stewart Home I think we are dealing with an example of what David Harvey calls the ‘aestheticization of politics’ (phrase orginally used by Walter Benjamin in 1930) in The Condition of Postmodernity – this should give a link to page 33 for an example
    http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=m4HyQpeE_joC&lpg=PP1&ots=GIM2URDItq&dq=david%20harvey%20condition%20of%20postmodernity&pg=PA33#v=onepage&q&f=false

    Oops I am getting ‘dad-ed’ so will have to go – but Harvey’s most recent book The Enigma of Capital is a damn read and a lot more interesting than Stewart Home…

  16. Alistair, that Franks book looks good — thanks for the tip. One to put on the ‘to buy’ list.

    Yeah, that Southgate ‘sect’ and related scenes are just f____d up —

    I can understand if people feel threatened by the fraud of laissez-faire capitalism/globalisation and the disorientation it brings in its wake after shattering communities. I can understand the fear and the uncertainty of living in a post imperialist western world now going down the spout — I can understand all that.

    But, I think it’s clear that embracing atavism, half baked fascism and closing ranks to maintian racial ‘purity’ as these people are doing, is petty minded, and could never be any kind of answer.

    It’s f____d.

  17. P.S. To be honest Alistair, I enjoy most Anarchist theorists and thinkers one
    way or another. I find Kropotkin,Bakunin and Malatesta to be fair minded, and I
    very much like Tolstoy’s Anarchist spirtuality. I also like their rejection of
    Marxism.

    If I were to follow any ‘ideology’ — it would be Tolstoy’s nature aware
    Anarchism.

  18. What is wrong with Marxism? For many years I had an ‘anarchists don’t do Marx’ attitude. But then -as a result of researching /writing a post-grad Scottish history thesis -I had to do a crash course on Marx. What I was trying to get an angle on was the origns of the industrial revolution, esp. the cotton industry in Manchester.

    Since that overlaps with the orgins of modern capitalism I had to look at what Engles (Condition of the Working Classes in England) said and then on to Marx and backwards to Hegel.
    Now I am kicking myself that I didn’t start studying Marx and Hegel thirty years ago. If I had I would have spotted the similarties between the first line of Society of the Spectacle :

    “In societies dominated by modern conditions of production, life is presented as an immense accumulation of spectacles.”

    and the first line of Capital Vol. I :

    “The wealth of those societies in which the capitalist mode of production prevails, presents itself as “an immense accumulation of commodities”. “

    So it is difficult to reject Marx without also having to reject Debord. If you accept the value of Society of the Spectacle, you are necessarily also accepting the value of Marx’s critique of political economy. Which in turn was already present in Hegel…

    … to follow the connections through from the impact of the French Revolution on enlightenment thought through to Marx, try Philosophy and Revolution :from Kant to Marx by Stathis Kouvelakis. Though it is pretty heft chunk of text. On google books here –
    http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=JVidbbSq6vUC&lpg=PP1&dq=Stathis%20Kouvelakis&pg=PP1#v=onepage&q&f=false

  19. Alistair, thanks for the nice links etc. I followed up some links on the author Franks. He looks very interesting. Nice tip.

    I agree entirely with you about Marxism and the fact that large parts of the theory were ‘detourned’ by Debord et al. You are right about the roots in Hegelian logic too. I appreciate that lineage.

    Indeed, I find much of Marx to be very convincing.

    However — it is difficult for me to separate the theory of Marx — from the ghastly horror of how it was utilised by Lenin, Stalin,Trotsky et al; the dictatorship of the proletariat, the vanguards etc, all of which I find repellent on every level.

    I appreciate Marx very much : I just don’t like what was done with his theory. I know the argument goes ” no no no, you’ve got it so wrong; REAL Marxism has never been tried, so why be against it.” But, I find it hard to summon up the belief in Marxism being workable after the mass failed experiments of Eastern Europe.

    I know Badiou and a number of other Marxist ‘intellectuals’ from Eastern Europe, and some from upper middle class British backgrounds, still do the rounds and lecture circuits saying ” let’s give REAL Marxism a try, it has never been applied, and it CAN work; don’t forget the spirit of 1968 etc etc…..” — But, I am not convinced by any of these hacks — they know how to get paid on the ‘tired old intellectual’ circuit , but I wouldn’t put my trust in their ‘left wing’ ‘optimism’. I think they are paid hacks trotting out a very tired old line. I don’t believe in them and their solutions. Most of the rhetoric they come up with is simplistic and banal. I can’t believe the rot especially, that Badiou comes up with , all under the aura of ‘French intellectualism’.

  20. Ben Franks is great. he is in the International Workers of the World and when we were campaigning to save Glasgow University’s Dumfries campus the IWW joined the protest – red and black flags and all- pic here
    http://greengalloway.blogspot.com/2007/05/barcelona-1936-dumfries-2007.html

    Marx was not writing a blueprint for a future society. he was dissecting capitalism, taking it apart to show how it worked and what its consequences would be. The idea that capitalism is somehow ‘natural’ rather than a way of organising society is still with us – and, like in the late seventies/early eighties it is having a crisis for which everyone except the very richest will have to pay. We have to see our standard of living reduced so that the wealth we create keeps the super-rich in their positions of privilege.

    Marx took up his work where Hegel’s ended. Hegel saw the French Revolution as a break-through by human reason, a victory over the religious/feudal form of society which had emerged in the middle ages. Hegel assumed that Germany would be able to benefit from the victory without having to undergo another bloody revolution. What Hegel missed (until almost the end of his life) was that at the same time as the French Revolution, an Industrial Revolution had taken place (was still taking place) in the UK which had the effect of replacing one set of irrational beliefs with another, replacing religious feudalism with industrial capitalism.

    Thus the age of reason was put on hold and since human liberation requires that we are fully conscious of history and have the social institutions in place to embody personal rationality in a politics (and economy) based on rationality ….a further struggle began. Marx expected this struggle to continue for a very long time. Capitalism would have to be torn apart by its inherent contradictions before the next stage of human liberation (which is collective self- liberation) can occur. [be made to happen].

    What the Bolsheviks and their successors tried to do was short -circuit this process, which they were driven to do by the failure of Germany to have a revolution in 1918/19. As history showed, the process cannot be short-circuited.

    We now have a new factor – since the industrial revolution began in Manchester circa 1789, co2 from burning mountains of coal and oceans of oil has built up in the atmosphere, warming and now changing the earth’s climate. No doubt some human beings will survive global climate change, but complex human civilisation will not. Unfortunately, since cheap coal and oil have fuelled capitalism’s growth for over 200 years, we can’t shift to a sustainable future without overcoming capitalism on the way.

  21. I recently read a book (the name of which escapes me at the moment), which specifically rejected many claims that Anarchism had a historical pedigree going back to Lao Tzu and classical Greece, because they defined anarchism as a doctrine that to be ‘anarchism’, must have a component that specifically calls for the transformation of society (not always via revolution) into an anarchist model.

    This book also rejected Stirner on the basis of his indvidualism, and Tolstoy on the basis of his retreat from the world (or ‘dropping-out’ as we would call it).

    Having read Stirner, I can see why Mussollini was a fan, as his basic philosophy was “no ones going to make me do anything I don’t want to, and no one’s going to stop me doing something I do want to do”, which is fine up to a point until you get to the what about rapist and murderers/ who’s going to empty the bins? argument where it all falls apart and becomes in essence fascism with a small f.

    The cross over with fascism/ anarchism/ and marxism is really in the fact that all these ideoligies agree that there is something fundamentally wrong with the way things are, that cannot be solved by piecmeal reform, and a lot of the things that they think are wrong are the same. Fascist are (at least in theory) as opposed to capitalism as Marxists and Anarchists

    The divergence comes when they look at why these things are happening – Fascism goes of into it’s boshevik/ Jewish/ capitalist conspiricy at this point -, and how these problems are to be solved. Marxism with the dictatorship of the proletariat/ withering away of the state, Anarchism with a variety of streams, but essentially trusting in the basic goodness of humanity to make sure no one fucks over anyone else.

    Utopian dreaming perhaps, but the argument I always have with Marxists is that they want to impose (with force if needed) a more ‘realistic’ option which by their own admission will result in the suppression of any dissent (again, with violence), and the murder of thousands, perhaps tens of thousands, to achieve a point where the state will ‘wither away’, which as history has shown us, is a flawed theory.

    Which brings me to my other proplem with Marxists (as oppossed to Marx himself), that of uncritical acceptance of the correctness of ALL his basic theories. They share this with Fruedians another group of people who I have no time for.

    Remember, Marx was an economist by trade, and was writing at a time when european society was going through an enormous state of flux, and he made predictions based on what he saw as the likely trends of the society he coukld see around him.

    His idea that revolution could only come about in societies where there was a larg industrial proletarian class, and his dismal of what he called the ‘Lumpen Proletariat’ – students, landless peasants etc, has been proved dead wrong by the history of the 20th century.

    Even Russia was mainly agrarian when the Bolsheviks siezed power…

    Again, I think a lot of what he wrote was interesting, and some of it was even right, but it’s the point at which he says “and this is the solution” that I get cold feet.

    Please note: I do not subscribe to the mistaken view that the term Communist/ Socialist is interchangable with Marxist. I consider Anarchism to be one of many strands of communism (which split off from the main body at the point of the 3rd/ 4th international when Marx successfully got the anarchists expelled).

    Sorry, rambling now…

  22. Sorry, lots of spelling mistakes in this one – “dismissal of what he called the “Lumpen Proletariat” etc.

    Interestingly there has been a large “Lumpen Proletariat Posse” graffitti at the end of my road since the late ’70s which someone lovingly re-touched in purple a couple of years ago.

  23. Nice posts all round here , then. Well good. Alistair, what do you reckon of the Primitivists? The Freedom Press lot seemed to be into that in the 90’s, but you don’t hear as much as you used to about the movement.

    Hydra, you expressed it concisely and well mate. Marxists do feel they have ‘the answers’, and they are ready to impose ‘the answers’ on others, which explains Lenin’s condoning of vanguardism, which I can’t accept, because vanguardism translates as “only we the elite are smart enough to ‘get it’ so we’ll have to control the rest of you thickos and suckers with a rod of iron, and we’ll control you with much worse if needs be.”…..

    ….It’s a mentality which also explans why you had up to 14 million slave labourers in Stalin’s Gulags, doing hard manual work and farming to support the “dictatorship of the proletariat” that ole’ Lion mentions above.

    Another point is that Communists and Marxists have often sold out fast, from the early days of ‘the party’ until now — many ‘of the left’ on UK’s political scene of the last 40 years until now, had their roots in Marxism — but sold out to the highest bidder. I don’t want to mention all the Labour Party assholes of the last thirty years or so who definitley had roots in the Communist camp, but acted lilke rank Thatcherites — they exist in the Labour Party even now.

    Lion mentions Eric Hobsbawm who is rightly acclaimed as a great historian : he still calls himself a Communist, but his writing is riddled with priveleged ivory tower elitism and snobbery. Plus, his daughter runs some Gordon Brown led think tank or other, so the privelege and ‘left wing elitism’ may run in the family.

    I just don’t trust Communists and Marxists.

    Fascists are equally bad of course, but you could say at least they are honest about their elitist, discriminatory agenda : Marxists and the left are more clandestine and secretive about their elitist urges, but end up doing just as bad as the Fascists to the struggling people. Marxism is ‘done for the love of the people’ apparently, but it’s really kindness wrapped in a club. With the Fascists, they are complete assholes of course, but they don’t pretend to be in it ‘for the good of the comrades.’

    Peace, and out.

    The Guvna.

  24. Hello Guvna — you mentioned the Primitivists — I have read Derek Jensen and didn’t feel overly impressed, though I did like his contribution to the Primitivist compilation “Against Civilization.” ( a book from the mid 90’s which compiled ‘anti civilization’ philiosophies of the last 500 years or so )

    As for Zerzan, I think Chomsky wrote him off as the “Pol Pot of Anarchism” , saying his ideas of ‘back to the land/return to hunter gatherer’ were nonsensical romance, myth and atavism, and totally unrealistic; indeed,in Chomsky’s view, Primitivist theory, if it were implemented, would result in the deaths of billions due to its dismantling/ignoring of our infra structure.

    Here’s what I wrote on Zerzan earlier in the thread : I enjoyed a few of his essays ( esp on time and every day work/leisure ) , but soon found he began to repeat himself.

    Plus, he rarely stated his sources in an acceptable way, and he certainly misrepresented or mangled some of his sources too.

    Now, I find much of his output to be directionless.

  25. I had to look up John Zerzan/ primitivism – found some stuff on wackypedia
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Zerzan

    Having read the article my response is “absolute bollocks”. My youngest son (now 19) is very, very disabled. In any form of ‘primitivist’ society he would be dead.

    Rather than go on about Marx again, you can read parts of David Harvey’s very very good book The Enigma of Capital here. It shows how Marx can be used to understand why we are in the middle of a global economic crisis.
    http://www.amazon.co.uk/Enigma-Capital-Crises-Capitalism/dp/1846683084#reader_1846683084

    Which you can buy from Housmans
    http://www.shop.housmans.com/BookItem.aspx?item=9781846683084

  26. Alistair, I will check out Harvey.

    Yeah, agreed about the ‘unworkability’ of Zerzan’s work.

    I think though, that he definitely meets a desire in people to ‘go back to nature’, a longing in people who can remember a time when life was closer to the patterns and rhythms of nature, a longing from people who know we’ve been cheated and short changed by Globalisation.

    Zerzan certainly did seem to be gaining in popularity amongst Anarchists about ten years ago, and got interviews in The Guardian etc.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2001/apr/18/mayday.features11

    But the point is, his critique quickly exhausted itself. Also, he doesn’t offer much beyond a kind of ‘romantic longing’ for a natural world — he points out all that is wrong — but there are no workable solutions beyond the rhetoric.( beyond a personal , ‘Tolstoy-ian retreat’ perhaps, and maybe that’s ok; maybe that’s enough? )

    Plus , his work is at times, horribly referenced and confusingly sourced — he relies on a vast wall of sources, but some of them really seem to be mangled, and very likely mis represented, and many reduced to anecdotal musing.

    I would say though, that some of the essays he wrote on time have some interesting reflections —

    http://www.insurgentdesire.org.uk/time.htm

    And on music —

    http://www.insurgentdesire.org.uk/tonality.htm

    I wouldn’t put the guy down though — I do think Zerzan is a well intentioned thinker — he’s no band wagon chancer, or self seeking self publicist.

  27. Reading a very good book at the moment “Direct Action: An Ethnography” by David Graeber (AK Press 2009), which coincidently has a nice little paragraph dealing with Marxism/ anarchism which I was reading on the bus on the way to work today…

    “Many have complained that anarchism lacks high theory. Even those who are considered its founding figures – Godwin, Proudhon, Bakunin, Kropotkin – often seem more pamphleteers or moralists than true philosophers, and the best known anarchists of more recent times have been more likely to produce witty slogans, wild poetic rants, or science fiction novels than sophisticated political economy or dialectical analysis.

    In fact, anarchists have long taken much of their political economy from Marxists – a tradition which goes back to Bakunin, who thought he was a political rival of Marx, also was responsible for the first translation of Capital into Russian – rather than feeling obliged to set up some anarchist school of political economy of their own. Though to be fair, early anarchists also tended to point out that almost all concepts attributed to Marx (or for that matter Proudhon) were really developed within the worker’s movement of the time and merely systematized and elaborated by theorists.”

  28. Good post Hydra : Much to reflect on.

    Marx and Bakunin had a tempestuous relationship –According to Marx, Bakunin was “a man devoid of all theoretical knowledge” ( and was ) “in his element as an intriguer”, while Bakunin for his part believed that “… the instinct of liberty is lacking in him ( Marx); he remains from head to foot, an authoritarian.” Marx also wrote stinging criticisms of Anarchists Proudhon and Stirner too.

    Max Stirner hated the authoritarian nature of Communism too, writing, “Communism rightly revolts against the pressure that I experience from individual proprietors; but still more horrible is the might that it puts in the hands of the collectivity.”

    On your other points Hydra, I agree that some Anarchist theory is more given to attractive moralising rather than a fully thought out systems ,but I don’t think that’s entirely true — I think Kropotkin had a well thought out philosophy, and I do think Tolstoy’s ideas too, could have been, indeed, can be, practised — but perhaps only on a smaller scale than we are used to, and also, with communities who all strongly share the same ideals.

    Regarding larger scale communities and Anarchism now — Some have argued that that is why the Spanish Anarchists failed in the Civil War period : they refused to organise on larger scales because that would have involved hierarchies and bureaucracies and elections, all of which would have compromised their Anarchist commitments. That lack of organisation on a larger scale though, made them easy prey for the Fascists and Communists, who did of course, sweep the Anarchists away eventually.

    Chomsky is convinced that Anarchist theory is superior to the Communist tradition, because it eschews hierarchies, retains humanism and side steps vanguard-ism and the mediation of bureaucratic elites. Chomsky is a firm believer in Anarchism’s ‘workability’,but I have only heard Chomsky discuss Anarchism in relation to small communities. I haven’t heard Chomsky discuss Anarchism as a national system, in inter action with other states/national systems.

    As for me, I’d trust an Anarchist one hundred or more times than I would a Socialist of Communist. In my experience, a man who believes in Lenin and Trotsky is a man who believes in vanguards and elites and mediation and so on, and all the nonsense that eventually brings with it. I don’t trust them.

    And remember, as I think Guvna mentioned in an earlier post — lots of current and past Labour government members have their roots firmly in Marxist movements, which is no great advertisement for its sincerity /workability either.

  29. Alistair and Nick, what do you think of Slavoj Žižek ?

    I don’t know the first thing about him, but I am curious.

    Just listening to his ‘Democracy Now’ interview right now…. I am listening — but I am not sure I understand his popularity and appeal –he doesn’t seem to be saying much which is new or fresh at all; just repeating compiled gems from the left wing canon, from Lukacz, to Trotsky to Lenin, to ’68.

    But — I know so very little about him, and wouldn’t jump to conclusions.

  30. Oh dear, much of what he says in his interview with Amy Goodman regarding Iraq etc is very cliched, humdrum and banal…..

  31. On Zizek “The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways; the point is to change it.”

    [Marx: Theses on Feuerbach, No.11, 1845]

  32. Another quick quote from “Direct Action: An Ethnography” by David Graeber (AK Press 2009), “Marxist theories about labour value, forces of production, and the like are simply the most sophisticated working out of a much more common theme, a concern with creative powers and creative energies that has always been at the center of what came to be known as the Left – a political orientation that, after all, was dedicated to the proposition that since human beings create and recreate the world every day, there is no inherent reason why they should not be able to create one we actually like.”

    Compare this very clear and straightforward articulation of a complex set of ideologies, with this which is from the opening paragraph of “Dispersing Power: Social Movements as Anti-State Forces” by Raul Zibechi. Bear in mind that the translator’s note said “I attempted to use a everyday language that will be familiar to engaged, English speaking readers…”

    Brace yourselves… “During moments of insurrection, mobilizations dissolve state and social movement institutions. Societies in movement, articulated from within quotidian patterns, open fissures in the mechanisms of domination, shred the fabric of social control, and disperse institutions.”

    Sorry, what?

  33. I picked up another John Seymour book in a charity shop in Basildon the other day, havn’t got it to hand so can’t give you the exact quote, but there was something in it about getting away to the countryside to escape all the ‘ignorant people’ who live in cities, which to me kind of speaks volumes about where he was coming from ideologically, and ceratinly isn’t the same place as me!

  34. I have lived in a city and lived in the countryside and found a mixture of ignorance and intelligence in both. If anything, I would say you have to be a bit smarter to survive in the city than in the countryside. City life is more intense, so reactions need to be quicker.

  35. Missed this thread.

    The seemingly unstoppable spread of estuary english into regions hitherto unknown has convinced me that the city (or rather Londinistan) is slowly subsuming the countryside. Maybe Jummy Pursey was right all along!

    AL is on the right track though. Cityfolks seem to process information faster.

    AL, did you hear that last surviving elms in sussex are being killed off by a new outbreak of disease?

  36. Slavoj Žižek shows how redundant middle class communists in Western Europe really are — Zizek, a hack from the old Iron curtain world, is doing little more than trying to re-sell and re-package oppressive Communist crap, dressed up in the garb and aura of ‘radicalism’ , all presented to the same audiences within the same milieu targeted by other frauds like Badiou. It really is redundant. Whatever one thinks of Anarchism ( personally, I favour it ) you got to hand it to Anarchists for rejecting DOP Communism outright and without reservation, from Bakunin to Stirner to Malatesta, onwards and up to modern day ‘Anarchists’ like Chomsky.

    If you ask anyone who actually lived through Stalinist and Leninist hell in places like Ukraine and Poland what they think of people like Badiou and Zizek, you’d get a far more accurate idea of what they are really about.

  37. “If you ask anyone who actually lived through Stalinist and Leninist hell in places like Ukraine and Poland what they think of people like Badiou and Zizek, you’d get a far more accurate idea of what they are really about.”

    I asked my wife & she’s never heard of them.

  38. Heh heh heh….probably a good thing she hasn’t heard of ’em Gerard. I wish I hadn’t heard of ’em too !

    And if you ever did want to know about ’em, here’s an example of the ‘profundity’ of Zizek.

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