ATTACK ATTACK ATTACK ATTACK

THE VOICE OF RESPECTABLE MODERATION

ATTACK INTERNATIONAL – Free Newspaper London 1987.

Our copy is slightly tattered, and having only an a4 scanner at the moment it was great to see a comrade recently upload the pdf. One of the favorite and highly influential papers in our collection….

attackcov

and the PDF file for you………..    AttackAttackAttack

 

 

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DEATH OF THE LABOUR PARTY

“the Labour Party is incapable of acting in the interests of the working class. It is an obstacle in our struggle for liberation and must be smashed along with the system it wants to manage”

Newcastle 8th May 1989. Newcastle Anarchist Communist Federation public meeting and talk. We have the full typed talk given at meeting but haven’t re-produced it here as its about 7 a4 pages of faint type, so instead we have another little gem from the archive by Thames Valley Anarchists, written 1986 in a similar vain (see below)….

ncle acf 1989

labour p

And the stolen PDF for you…..  vote-labour-TVA

TREASON

Treason No 1. Sunderland, November 1981.

Not all papers withstand the test of time, so we were pleased to re-discover this little gem on the Spirit Of Revolt archive. PDF file of the paper below…..

Treason one-1

PDF……..   Treason one              enjoy …..

CNT ANARCHIST MILITANT INTERVIEW

July 1986, the 50th anniversary of the Spanish Revolution. To commemorate the occasion members of the Tyneside Revolutionary Syndicalists met with Miguel Rico to carry out a small interview, which was then published in the July 1986 special supplement of The Syndicalist number 7 (picture below).

Reflecting on the period and Miguel Rico, a good friend of the archive tells us……

“The 19th July, as you will all obviously know, is the Anniversary of The Spanish Revolution, a revolution I believe was  far more reaching both socially and politically than the other great revolution of our times, the Russian Revolution.

What the below article fails to point out is that Miguel Rico, along with his wife set up residence in Middlesbrough immediately after the end of WW2, where he remained until his death several years ago.

I had the pleasure of meeting with Miguel on a several occasions when I visited Middlesbrough, to meet with comrades and attend demonstrations. The last occasion I met with Miguel was in Barcelona in 1997, where we were commemorating the life of Albert Meltzer. We scattered his ashes on the grave of Durruti. Of the eight comrades who attended the commemoration from the UK four were from Middlesbrough.

Miguel was also making his annual pilgrimage to the land of his birth in order to pay his annual CNT dues and using the occasion to meet with comrades from his youth.

Middlesbrough comrades may wish to refer to Albert Meltzer’s autobiography for further references to Middlesbrough, as it became his adopted second home outside of London.”

THE INTERVIEW

It was during the Spanish revolution that the ideas of Anarcho-Syndicalism were not just political theory but a practical reality. In many areas of Spain the CNT was faced with the problems of fighting the civil war but also with restructuring the whole of society based on the ideas of libertarian communism.

During the post civil war years under the dictatorship of Franco the CNT and libertarian communist influence was almost smashed. Since the death of Franco the Anarcho-Syndicalist movement has come out of hiding and is again beginning to grow, though at this point in time it is obviously a shadow of its former self.

For the first time documents, reports and eye witness accounts of problems the CNT faced and the solutions arrived at are becoming available. Unfortunately no real attempt has been made to translate these documents and make them accessible to the English reader – that is until now.

Currently in the North East a small group of people are working at this task with the view of publishing some of this material.

We interviewed Miguel Rico who witnessed these events first hand about some of his experiences.

 

Syndicalist– When and where were you born and how did you become involved with the anarchist movement?

Miguel– I was born in the Hospitalet area of Barcelona on the 1st October 1919 but when I was very young my father found work at a cement quarry in a place called Villanueva y Getru. It was there that I was raised and educated. When I was 16 I joined the FIJL (Federation of Libertarian Youth).

Syndicalist– Was that the average age of the members of the federation?

Miguel– Some were younger but most were 17, 18 and 19 years of age.

Syndicalist– How did you become involved?

Miguel– You did not just join, things were not done like that. At that time the police were trying to infiltrate the movement at all levels and there were many informers everywhere. In our town you became a member of the Libertarian Youth on the recommendation of an already respected member. This is what happened to me. I was recommended by an older person who knew my views and beliefs and knew I was to be trusted. I then joined. My brother who was two years younger than me joined by the same method.

Syndicalist– How many were in the Libertarian Youth, and what activities did you engage in?

Miguel– At one time there was as many as 200 in the Libertarian Youth in our small town. Our activities were mainly propaganda, getting our ideas across to the workers but also raising funds for the movement. We would also hold a meeting, as I said we had to be very careful so although the secretary and committee could meet in safe cafes and bars our full meetings were always held outside of town. You see at that time it was very common for people to go on picnics in large groups at weekends, this was what we would do.

Syndicalist– In 1936 the revolution broke out. How did this affect the Libertarian Youth in Villanueva y Getru?

Miguel– The first affect that it had was that the older members joined the militia and went to the battle front. We who were left knew that the work of the Federation had to go on, the fight against the fascists was not just at the front but also at home, a rearguard was needed. A new committee was elected and the work went on. At one time I held the position of local secretary. Once I was delegated to attend a conference in Barcelona it was at the time that the anarchists controlled the city. It was then that I saw what was really possible, how things could be organised with true equality and freedom. We as delegates were booked into one of the biggest hotels in Barcelona. The dining room provided free meals to the delegates. It was here that I met a fellow anarchist nicknamed ‘Zupa’. He was once one of the best pickpockets in Barcelona. I’ll always remember the time that a group of us went to a restaurant that before the revolution was considered very posh, a place that only the rich could afford to eat in, but now it was run by the workers it provided cheap meals to the people of Barcelona as well as the militias who were passing through. The restaurant still used the silver cutlery that it had used before the revolution. While we were eating our meal we noticed that the knives, forks and spoons began to go missing one by one. We all knew it was ‘Zupa’ but we could not catch him in the act. When we got outside ‘Zupa’ put his hand in his pocket and took out all the missing cutlery “‘Zupa,’ we all said “‘you don’t need to steal anymore.” “I know” ‘Zupa’ said after he had taken them back “I was just practising.”

Syndicalist– How long were you secretary of the local Libertarian Youth?

Miguel– About four months and then I joined the militia. I did not tell my mother that I was going to join because I knew that this would upset her.

Syndicalist– What was the name of the militia you joined?

Miguel– I joined the Hortiz Column which was sent to Caspe in Aragon. After that we were sent to help in the battle for Belchite but in order to do this we had first to take a small town called Fuen de Todos. As we entered the town a machine gun started to cut down our comrades. The firing came from a priest who had mounted a machine gun on top of the bell tower of his church. We had to send for a Republican plane to bomb the church, it was the only way that we could take the town. It was during the battle for Belchite that I was wounded, we lost many comrades there.

Syndicalist– You were wounded more than once. Is that right?

Miguel– Yes, after I recovered from the wound I received in the Battle for Belchite I rejoined my Column but was wounded again. I was taken to the hospital and the doctor told me that I was being sent to a recuperation centre and then on to the army barracks at Olot. This was at the time that the Communists were trying to militarize the militias. I told the doctor that I would go home until I was fully recovered and then report to the barracks at Olot. After about three weeks I went to report and was arrested for collaboration with the fascists. I was taken before a court martial and found guilty. I just could not understand it, but later I found out that the communists were doing this to anarchists everywhere. I was put in a cell to await sentence. Eventually I heard the keys in the door and was convinced that I would be taken out and shot. This was the first time that I was really scared. Everyone is scared when going into battle but you tell yourself that somehow you’ll survive but this time I was convinced that I was about to die. The door of the cell opened and there stood a Colonel who said ‘release this man’. I then recognised him as a Colonel who we had fought beside in Aragon. He was only there to inspect the new recruits but had heard that a prisoner was being held and had insisted on seeing me. On his word I was released. There was no doubt about it this man saved my life. Under the communist advisers from Russia the militarization went on and I ended up in a communist led brigade.

Syndicalist– Do you remember the name of the brigade?

Miguel– If I remember rightly I was sent to the 134 Brigade 10th Division First Company.

Syndicalist– What were your experiences there as an anarchist in a communist dominated brigade?

Miguel– Well I kept myself to myself after my experiences at the barracks in Olot. I thought the best thing to do was keep very quiet. By my actions it was clear to everyone that I was not a communist member. One day I was approached by a captain (who I found out later had been a centurion delegate in an anarchist column), he explained that it was not safe for anarchists and that I should be careful what I said and did. I stayed with this captain as his assistant. The collapse of the Republic was soon to follow and I managed to cross the border into France.

Syndicalist– How were the refugees treated by the French Government?

Miguel– The refugee camp that I was in was just like a concentration camp. People there starved. There was food in the camp but the guards made people barter for it with any possessions they might have left. There was no medical treatment so disease spread through the camp. Many of the very old and very young died.

Miguel went on to fight against the Nazis in the French army and eventually with the British troops in North Africa. We finally asked Miguel if he would one day write a book about his life, he replied, “maybe one day I will but at the moment there are more important things to do like translating as much material a possible.”

ts07

THE DURHAM COALFIELD

THE GREAT LABOUR UNREST. Rank-and-file movements and political change in the Durham coalfield. A canny good book from a canny good friend of the archive, although we would recommend you get your local library ( if there is any left ) to order it as it costs anything up to £75. We also include a review by David Douglas.

lewis mates

The period of the “great labour unrest” in the title of this book was between 1910 and 1914 – a period when conflicting ideologies and organisational forms of struggle compete and overlap. This particular work focuses on what was perhaps syndicalism’s finest hour – certainly its most influential period in its challenge to parliamentary reformism and constitutional socialism.

At this time there was an ideological scrum when liberalism – within which the working class in general and the northern miners in particular had roots – and the newly emergent forms of independent labourism and the Labour Party itself were locked in combat with dynamic industrial unionism and revolutionary syndicalism.

Lewis Mates is a tutor in politics at Durham University with a deep interest and involvement with the Durham miners both as an historical subject and an ongoing working class social phenomenon. I regard him as a fellow Tyneside anarcho-syndicalist – our fields of research and political presentations often overlap and complement each other.

As a politics lecturer the author must first establish the veracity of class-struggle perspectives to gain any headway in the prevailing winds of academic iconoclasms, which everywhere now challenge class analysis. For people like myself, born into a world in which one’s entire perspective and everything in society is premised and structured on class struggle, class identity, class history, the very notion that the existence of class can be challenged or debunked is mind-blowing. Yet we cannot simply argue it is, because it is – as though this was some form of deistic belief.

So the first chapters of the book are forced to review the various other theories of conflict in this period in a search for something other than class that motivates action and outlook, which the Marxists have overlooked. In addition to ceaseless academic searches for alternatives to class analysis there are the conflicts within socialist class analysis of what the movements meant, how they were motivated and directed. Anarcho-syndicalist, Leninist or social democratic – all are capable of accentuating their own particular positives, while minimising the opposing negatives.

Of necessity the book makes central reference to the Durham Miners Association (DMA) – that giant, powerful bloc of the mining proletariat – and the struggle to control it: struggles based around democratic control, branch autonomy, centralising bureaucracies and the dominant political hegemony within it.

The book demonstrates the divisions of underground labour and their strategic and sometimes conflicting aims and strengths. In the process it exposes the unique and long-standing areas of job control, jealously guarded from management and owners. It also reveals the conflicting social and cultural traditions, which sometimes weighed against more revolutionary conclusions – such as Methodism and the deeply entrenched allegiance to radical liberalism, which was to fight the emergent independent labour organisations for every foot of ground.

Eight-hour day

The question of northern miners and the eight-hour day is one which has baffled labour historians, and particularly left ones, for some time. Indeed, myself and Lewis have argued over this question since he took up this field of research. It is an issue which prevented the Durham and Northumberland miners affiliating to the Miners Federation of Great Britain – the northern miners by and large already worked less than an eight-hour day, in addition to those who would soon be working fewer hours as they graduated to full-time face work.

But is was not simply the danger of longer hours which mitigated against affiliation to the MFGB. Linked to such questions were the dangerous inroads into those ancient areas of job control spoken of earlier. The northern miners’ short hewing shift usually occurred once – at some pits twice – a day, which kept a tight grip on the amount of coal being produced, and stopped the market being flooded, thus lowering the value of their wages. The eight-hour day demanded a three- and sometimes four-shift cycle. The coal may have belonged to the owners, but control of the hewing space, and who occupied it, belonged to the miners. The cavil system stopped management choosing who worked where – the union decided allocating work by lottery. In fact the legislation for an eight-hour day threw all of this custom and practice, this self-selection and control, into the air. It opened the floodgates to unlimited coaling shifts. Importantly too, surface workers, who worked the longest hours, would gain nothing from the act of parliament.

Lewis seems to learn in the process of exposition and changes his position, as different factors are revealed. At first he seems to suggest that the eight-hour day is the progressive flavour of the month, which the left and the Independent Labour Party take up as their cause célèbre – along with affiliation to the MFGB, which effectively made the eight-hour day a condition. But it is clear it is bitterly opposed by the rank and file and by men who were to the left of the ILP – particularly the syndicalist and industrial unionist supporters. Subsequently, however, Lewis does make clear the reason for the groundswell of opposition, and the left and progressive credentials of some of those doing the opposing.

Of course, the MFGB as a national organisation could and should have approached the issue by ring-fencing those regions with terms and conditions in advance of the eight-hour demand, but its rationale was that of the lowest common denominator – rounding both up and down in terms of hours.

The advanced job controls held in the northern coalfields were not enjoyed elsewhere, and it was these which ought to have been the standard. Amongst the ILP activists in the coalfield arguing for the MFGB and its eight-hour policy, there seems to have been some naivety as to what it would mean in practice – they appear to have believed that safeguards for existing northern conditions would be negotiated. On p87 Lewis expresses his surprise that leading socialists in the coalfields campaigned against the eight-hour legislation and urged all Labour representatives in parliament to oppose it, but by p121 he concludes:

The eight-hour imbroglio had profound outcomes for the DMA’s leadership. Their standing was undoubtedly damaged by the agreement, particularly their failure to take the issue to DMA council before signing, and their subsequent inability, first to appreciate, then to mitigate any of its damaging consequences.

The book indicates in great detail how the issue of the eight-hour agreement caused widespread industrial strife, which raged through the coalfield for years and was never really resolved.

Lewis comments:

Significant though the 1910 Durham and South Wales disputes were, they came too early for syndicalism in Durham to capitalise on greatly. The eight hours agreement strikes ended some months before the Cambrian combine strike began and before Mann’s Industrial Syndicalist had been launched … More generally there seems to have been no relationship between the lodge revolt against the owners and their own agents and explicit syndicalist ideas (p136).

Real syndicalism

I would need to take issue with this line of reasoning. Syndicalism was not invented with the term itself, any more than anarchism was invented when someone chose to adopt that title for their political outlook. Similarly, ‘communist’ was invented neither by Karl Marx by giving analysis and context nor by people consciously identifying with that particular term. A rose by any other name must surely smell as sweet, and it is the substance of what perspectives and actions workers engaged in which mark their political and tactical direction and strategy, not the title someone later invents.

The revolt of the miners in the 1830s of course predates the title ‘syndicalist’, but the press and owners of the period reported the miners were talking of seizing the pits from the owners, working them in common for themselves – and, what is more, as popular, industrial democratic lodges. That surely is syndicalism. The rejection of the pomp and circumstance, the grand rules and bureaucracy of the Durham Miners Association, in favour of rank-and-file direct action organised through democratic miners’ lodges (or sometimes even without formal lodge sanction), the rejection of the courts and labour laws – these were surely features of the age-old miners’ direct democracy and rejection in action of more constitutional or parliamentary routes: syndicalist in everything but formal title. The radical unions and rank-and-file workers’ organisations which sided with Bakunin in the first international were de facto syndicalist formations. The Levellers practised a form of agricultural ‘syndicalism’. These perceptions predate the invention of formal organisational and programmatic labelling.

I appreciate, of course, that Lewis is talking here of formal, self-identified ‘syndicalism’ as a conscious political current and alternative to other strands of the workers’ movement, rather than the de facto form I am referring to. But the tendency to look for form (or self-declared ‘leaders’) rather than essence manifests itself again with the Durham miners’ mass rejection of the settlement and vote to continue strike action. Lewis asks how influential was ‘syndicalism’ in terms of this mood of militancy and looks to the militant lodges which returned the highest votes. Many of these were the home base of the significant syndicalist activists of the region. Chopwell, Will Lawther’s militant lodge, returned, for example, a 95% vote for ongoing action. Lewis discounts this though, as Lawther was studying in London by then. The lodge led by George Harvey (who was an industrial unionist in contradistinction to “a syndicalist”), Handon Hold, returned a 78.3% majority, while South Pelaw, where a Socialist Labour Party caucus operated, registered 94.8%.

Lewis concludes that there is no easily discernible relationship between syndicalism as such and the militant support for continuing the strike, but I tend to see the question the other way round. It was not Lawther who had swung Chopwell behind syndicalist ideas, or Harvey who did something similar at Handon Hold, but the militant, class-combative culture of those lodges which influenced the leaders toward syndicalism and industrial unionism. The ideas of formal syndicalism would not have come as a novel suggestion to the rank-and-file miners of these lodges, who had advocated for generations just such perceptions, conclusions and methods of struggle.

Lewis actually unconsciously makes this point himself later in the book, when discussing the election at Follonsby lodge of George Harvey to the prestigious post of checkweighman, a position he had applied for on an explicitly revolutionary platform. Concluding in his letter that he was “strongly opposed to the kind of men we have so long kept at Durham and whom we in our ignorance believe are tin gods”, he declared: “If you want a gentle Jesus or temperance preacher, for God’s sake don’t consider me as likely to suit” (pp230-31). Lewis notes that his election was quite an achievement. Harvey had no experience as a lodge official, and was standing in opposition to the political and union outlooks of the current DMA leadership against conciliation. Lewis concludes that the vote was an obvious endorsement of his politics and stance. But this demonstrates that Follonsby’s political culture (and that of the older Wardley, to which it was connected) was de facto syndicalist and industrial unionist, predating the formal foundation of those political currents.

Excels

Where this book excels is in the detailed description of the struggle for the minimum wage, and the campaign in Durham to secure support for the demand, and for a national strike. It is truly ground-breaking in describing the complex arguments about who should be able to claim it, and at what level it should start. It follows the controversy over the exclusion of the lowest paid men from the agreement, thus crippling the demand from the start.

Lewis’s coverage of the vote which brought about the largest ever strike for a single industry in the world – with over one million miners downing tools and stopping not only the coalfields, but much else through knock-on effects – is also excellent. He is able to trace the attitudes of the Durham lodges, along with the changing national and county responses, as the government steps in to pre-empt collective bargaining by bringing in the Eight Hours Act. The act specified no details concerning grades or sums of money, which meant that everything was referred back to district bargaining, thus negating the main purpose of the strike: to win a national common pay structure.

The MFGB then conducted a second national ballot on whether to defy parliament and the law in order to force through the original demands and Lewis masterfully traces the various reactions to the new ballot. As far as I know, no other work has remotely looked at this period in such minute and fascinating detail. As it turned out, the Durham miners voted by a two-thirds majority to reject the parliamentary ‘solution’ and continue the strike. Nationally, however, the MFGB achieved 54.8% in favour, short of the two thirds it required.

Lewis sees the “high tide” of syndicalism in Durham as starting in the autumn of 1912, with the founding of the Durham Unofficial Reform Movement and the Miners Next Step Committee. Contrasting the relative failure of both wings of syndicalism to make any lasting gains, or win influence within the union structure, along with that of the young militants of the ILP, he cites the emergence of their Durham Forward Movement in April 1912. This organised parallel Durham miners ‘council meetings’ with more than half of the whole county’s lodges represented, discussing issues, tactics and constitutional changes. This was to impact heavily over the coming years within the political and cultural nature of the DMA.

Lewis believes that the ILP militants in fact stole the syndicalists’ clothes, adopting their rhetoric, slogans and postures, but they also had an extra string to their bow in the form of party and electoral strategies. The whole minimum wage issue, for example, was ultimately being fought out in parliament. The ILP also had a plan to take over structures and positions within the DMA itself, a course of action which anarcho-syndicalist principles precluded (although the industrial unionists softened their opposition to such a course and George Harvey, for example, did run).

This is a masterly work of scholarship, passionately researched and referenced, which addresses a key moment in the history of the miners in general, and in particular the mighty institution of the Durham Miners Association. Not for the last time would the mood of the generally conservative DMA set the pace and swing the tide for national action l

David Douglass

 

“I aint thick its just a trick”

TYNESIDE CLASS WAR   library list  1988/1989 original cover in our collection

cw tyneside cw r

“Self education was always important to the group, as state education didn’t cut it for most of us. School was one of the worst times in my life..strapped, caned, slapped, bullied, belittled, put down, punched down… of course how else does the state keep us scummy little council estate rebels in line.

following the tradition of our predecessors (Newcastle Anarchist Group and Tyneside Anarchist Federation library’s ) we created our own. We had regular discussion meetings on everything from pornography to the ‘then’ situation in Ireland. These were often done in conjunction with Newcastle Anarchist Communist Federation, and some discussions evolved into articles for the national paper and The Heavy Stuff ( Class Wars theoretical magazine, of which we produced a few up here). ”      Ex Tyneside Class War activist.

 

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We have now created a link page above with snippets of archive news + views, so please check in regular for updates.

 

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