The following editorial is published in the Anarchist Federation’s latest Organise! magazine #81, Winter 2013 whose main theme is ASPECTS OF THE FUTURE SOCIETY. Visit the above link for the full contents which include articles on: Science Fiction Utopias, Education and Anarchism, Children of the Commune. PLUS: In Defence of Malatesta, The Libertarian Socialist Movement in Egypt, Syria’s Grassroots Civil Opposition… AND MUCH MORE.
Editorial – What’s in the latest Organise!?
It might seem a bit peculiar to have as one of our main themes the idea of Utopia, at a time when the situation both in Britain and around the world seems in many ways to be at its grimmest for many decades. We have seen deteriorating economic conditions as the ruling class and its governments impose massive austerity measures in many countries, we have seen increasing moves to States increasing their repressive powers in response to people daring to fight back against these attacks. We have seen the rise of far-right and anti-immigrant and anti-minority parties throughout Europe. We have seen increasing racism and homophobia, with homosexuality now criminalised in Russia by the Putin regime, coupled with vicious attacks on gay people there by fascist groups.
We have seen the National Health Service under increasing attack in this country, along with plans to privatise Royal Mail. Along with this are further attacks on the unemployed, the imposition of the Bedroom Tax (Poll Tax Mark Two), and massively rising food and energy prices. The increased State surveillance of our mails and phone calls has been revealed and the United States is seen as Spy-Master in Chief, with the British government as a willing accomplice.
The Arab Spring itself, which enthused many, is now turning to an Autumn of Repression; the green shoots of revolt appear to be turning into the brown leaves of repression, with the military regime installed in Egypt. Those old revolutionary hopes that re-emerged in the late nineteen sixties and endured for many decades now seem like foolish fantasies. Yes, that period was a time of great hope, and Utopia was invoked many times, but where are these hopes now, swept away by the greyness of austerity, cuts and the growing power of the police state.
But that is exactly why we have dedicated some of this issue to the idea of Utopia. Even in the grimmest times we need a vision of What Could Be to sustain us. This was the outlook of the revolutionary workers movement when it emerged in the nineteenth century. Anarchists and socialists regularly referred to a future society, where life had been radically transformed. We had works like William Morris’s News from Nowhere, Oscar Wilde’s The Soul of Man Under Socialism, and How We Shall Bring About the Revolution by Pouget and Pataud, as well as The Conquest of Bread and Fields, Factories and Workshops by Kropotkin and Anarchy by Malatesta.
Now all the socialists can offer us is either praise of the market, as with the social-democrat and Labourite parties throughout the world, where it would be difficult to tell the difference between their policies and outlook and those of the Conservative, Republican and Christian-Democrat outfits; and the small Leninist groups, with their vision of a repeat of the fiasco in the Soviet Union, where one repressive and autocratic regime was replaced with another, and which are revealed in their internal practices today- witness the appalling Gerry Healey, as well as the SWP. Only the social, class struggle anarchists still offer the hope of a better world, where there are no wars, no borders, and no inequality, where the fruits of the world are shared in common and prejudice is a thing of the past. That is what should continue to make us fight on, even in grim times. The vision of such a society, a Utopia if you will, should be seen as a lighthouse sending out its beams in the darkness. They must enthuse us to strive for something better, and they must be the inspiring vision of more and more of us as we look for a way out of the social catastrophe that life on this planet now seems. We feel that anarchism can renew itself and once again act as a challenge to the system. As the song Les Anarchistes by the singer Leo Ferré goes, anarchists “Struck so hard, that they can strike again”.
In this issue we talk about the possibilities of what education could look like in a genuine free society basing them on social experiments in education in the past and present. We look at the field of science fiction, a literary form often conducive to showing us a different point of view and of different possibilities. We look at the work of Henri Edmond Cross, one of the French post-impressionist painters enthused by the anarchist idea, who sought to represent this new society on canvas. We reprint Wayne Price’s article on the idea of Utopia itself, where he argues strongly for a re-affirmation of a Utopian outlook.
Also in this issue we look at the ideas and lives of people who fought hard to bring about the birth of this new society. Carlo Tresca was imprisoned and persecuted for his beliefs before ending up being slain by a gunman. Errico Malatesta also suffered many years of persecution, imprisonment and exile, ending up dying under house arrest in Mussolini’s Italy. Neither of them saw this new society, but we hope in the long term that what they dedicated their lives to, what inspired them in extremely difficult situations, can be realised. Indeed it must be realised if we do not want to see a world of barbarism, of the repressive strong state, of war after war, of famine, poverty, and ecological devastation.
We have included examinations of the state of the social movements in Egypt and Syria. Despite the repression of the Assad regime in Syria and the newly installed rule of the Army in Egypt , despite the Islamist threat, despite the strong arm of the police and the Army, despite the carnage and barbarity, we can see that these movements still offer hopes for the future, hopes for the masses in the Middle East and beyond. Remember, the wave of the Arab Spring was unprecedented, and Egypt was seen as an extremely docile and passive place by its neighbours. It took the determined and inspired action of a few, then many, to change this and we saw masses of people on the street there and in neighbouring Tunisia. New social movements attempting to fight the attacks on civil rights, on attacks on pay and conditions, and a whole range of other issues, were to spring up in Turkey, Greece, Brazil and Argentina. This is not the end of the struggle, it is just the beginning.
Did people believe that Louis XVI would be overthrown, that that symbol of ruling class power, the Bastille, would be razed to the ground, even a few days before the revolutionary events of 1789? And yet it happened. Did anyone envisage the end of Charles I before the 1640s? And yet it happened. The fall of the Tsar, the fall of the regimes in Eastern Europe, the fall of Morsi? Great revolutionary movements have emerged and fallen back in the course of the last two centuries, but they all offer us a vision of a new society through their original methods of organisation and their example that power can be challenged. They fell victim to bloody repression and betrayal, but they still endure as to What Can Be.
Recently the government was defeated over its war plans for Syria, with general distaste among the population for such an adventure contributing to this defeat. This was reflected among the general population in the USA and France, and the Allies, at least temporarily, have backed off. What was revealed was the general weakness of the government. This was already there, with the Conservatives, with a minority of votes, maintained in power by their Liberal Democrat allies. Now we see signs of the Liberal Democrats attempting to distance themselves from the Conservatives, in readiness to broker a deal with Labour at the next election. But if the Coalition can be defeated over war plans, surely it can be defeated over the Post Office, over the National Health Service. It only needs the emergence of a mass movement on the streets and in the workplaces to make this come about. We have seen examples of mass movements that were capable of overthrowing regimes emerge around the world. Everywhere the ruling class has been terrified by these developments. It has employed increasingly heavy police measures, not least in Britain, to stop this coming about. Everywhere we have seen the police as brutal and willing servants of the boss class. The union bureaucrats and Labour will attempt to sabotage any such developments, but as we have seen, we need just the conscious will and determination of first fairly small numbers, then many, to give birth to a movement that can stop the Coalition in its tracks.
Finally in this issue, we have republished Malatesta’s article on the need for anarchists to organise effectively. The Anarchist Federation has consistently argued for effective organisation since 1986. We will continue to do so. Anarchists here and abroad must break with their rejection of organisation and develop effective and efficient means of spreading our ideas and examples of libertarian practice. We must involve ourselves in day to day struggles in order to help with the self-confidence of the working class as a whole and to popularise anarchist ideas and practice. as Malatesta has illustrated, this has to be done through the building of a specific anarchist organisation, with effective propaganda, and the growth of mass movements.