H edinburgh university anarchist society I
POLEMIC A To Afflict The Comfortable, To Comfort The Afflicted A
ISSUE 1. FEBRUARY 2010. FREE.
We are the newly formed EUAS. In these pages you will read words, words to make you think; to aggrovate, to challenge, to knock down walls. Forget thinking outside the box; destroy the box. Because if we do not challenge, we will never change. We are affiliated to no party, funded by no company, in line with no ideology, settled in no camp.
WHO. WHAT. WHY.
Polemic, Issue 1. February 2010. Compiled entirely using opensource, free software. All articles are published anonymously.
"WE ARE ALL MIDDLE CLASS NOW" - John Prescott, then Deputy Prime Minister
The working class have got richer, but so have the middle classes. And so have the upper classes. More than that, the gulf between those at the upper end of the scale and those at the bottom has grown. It may be easy to believe for you, but it is dangerous, it silences those in real trouble. We are not all middle class now, it is a lie. A lie that perpetuates apathy. Claiming we are middle class is the wet dream of those who think that our system is perfect. That it works, for everyone.
Faith in Anarchy
Anarchism is political humanism. Without some sort of quasi-spiritual faith in humanity’s ability to act in its own collective best interests, our viewpoint is utopian and pointless. Many would argue that it already is. Anarchism’s biggest critics usually take the line of its unfeasibility, that it is a nice idea that is impossible in the real world. A quick perusal of the British Humanist Association website shows a loose belief system based around the goodness of the human race, and our ability to govern ourselves in the absence of a divine authority. That sounds a lot like us talking, and we would do well to forge links with organisations that share the value that we hold distinct from more statist left-wing groups. If the leap into the anarchist “faith” is akin to the adoption of some sort of belief in humanity, does that make us a religion? Not exactly, and although it sounds like arguing semantics, the distinction between “religion” and “spirituality” should be emphasised. “No Gods, No Masters” remains a rallying call of the anarchist movement. This is more a rejection of religious authority than of the spiritual concept of an intelligent creator, a belief which is personal and does not infringe upon the liberties of others. It is, on the other hand, sad that the only reason some people do good is that
"No one gives a f**k about anything apart from their own selfish life"
"All rebellion is fake" "Everyone owns too much to do anything" Richard James Edward
"Fill your home with anything you like but you can't invent another colour" "Culture is a chequebook"
Noam Chomsky "The more you can increase fear of drugs and crime, welfare mothers, immigrants and aliens, the more you control all the people"
they fear the retribution of a divine judge. As anarchists we do not oppose spirituality as a facet of a person’s worldview, merely the infringement of liberty, equality and respect by powerhungry religious organisations. As a human-centred organisation, anarchism’s co-operative and egalitarian focus is the vessel through which our power is channelled out. Humans are social animals, and to work alone is to work backwards in the line of evolution. We cannot work with others at all without believing at least a small part in their essential good nature, and this is the basis of friendship. One needs no “incentive” to co-operate freely with friends. In the same way, free associations of individuals as a part of a wider society are much easier to set up if transactions take place between two people in mutual agreement rather than between two stacks of currency. It is hard to cheat a person that you know. It is much harder to cheat a person that you respect. In repetition of a familiar-sounding adage: We must treat other people the way that we would wish to be treated. Then, there will be no call for any authority to make superfluous laws and structures of government that serve only to solidify existing power. Anarchism is simply the faith that humanity can do this free from coercion, violence and arbitrary authority. It is not a religion, nor a mere political standpoint. The
STOP THE BOREDOM
role of faith in anarchism shall continue to be debated.
STOP THE BLEEDING
29 teenagers fatally stabbed in London in 2008. Nearly all of them were from backgrounds of poverty and destitution, growing up in estates you can’t escape. Places you only see from your car. WHOLE SWATHES of this country exist with nothing to do. We are so SCARED of the youths in hoodies because they represent the crass frustrated face of this system's failure, right there on our news screens
The Supreme Court defines pornography by specific facets, including: if the work arouses lustful thought and if the work has no artistic/literary or scientific value. We recommend the Supreme Court sit down and watch the 16 minutes an hour of soulless, sexed up ADVERTISING bleeding into American minds, leaked from their televisions.
face and every stupid man and every sexualised child in those 30 seconds of hardcore selling, and consider the social relations they create as they deaden the capacity to think. We recommend the Supreme Court realise just how much the pornography of consumption is the spine of the American dogma of capitalism, re-examine the system, and start questioning why the culture they sculpt propagates violence, demonizes sex and oppresses "difference."
IN THE END, EVERYTHING IS RETAIL.
"If we choose, we can live in a world of comforting illusion" "The Bible is one of the most genocidal books in history"
T SI S E R
"Any dictator would admire the uniformity and obediance of the US media"
a development and the survival of the species.
ideologies, each attacking the other over This shouldn’t, however, be understood as a trivial theory. Noam Chomsky defines the nostalgia for a more primitive society and movement as “a belief that no structure of lifestyle as some green anarchists argue, but authority is self-justified”. Yet even this instead as a jump towards the further simple idea of being suspicious towards development of our species within the authority doesn’t do the movement justice, framework of a sustainable and just society. which has for centuries strived to replace Indeed, Capitalism cannot be maintained state cohesion, fascism and all inequalities for much longer. The private ownership created as a result of the state over the means of with a just society, based on
production and the ruthless
cooperation, equality, respect,
free market which leaves
free from the boundaries of
In essence, Anarchism is a
destroying our planet will
return to the natural order of
come to an end, either as a
mankind. Not in a new-age,
result of popular will or by
hippie-pantheistic sense but
force under the threat of
as revival of society best suited destruction towards humanity as determined by our coming ecological crisis. evolutionary history. As Peter Kropotkin
(pictured) argues in his highly influential What Anarchism offers, on the other hand, book, Mutual Aid; the vast majority of is not simply a means of survival but a animal species live in societies in which system in which all people are free to they collectively struggle, not just for the discover, build, research, work and devote simple means of existence but against all time towards any activity, any area of study, natural conditions unfavourable to the any technology that doesn’t harm the species. Therefore the mutual protection human species and our natural world.
Ursula Le Guin - "It is above all by the imagination that we achieve perception and compassion and hope."
Defining Anarchism has long been a gained as a result paves the way for contested issue often destroying all hope for obtaining experience, old age, intellectual
"The power of the harrasser, the abuser, the rapist, depends above all on the silence of women."
T SI S E R
"Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself." "If you want to be happy, be." - Leo Tolstoy
“Nothing is true, everything is permitted”. Not in the classic nihilistic sense in which the saying is often interpreted but as a desire to break free from the constraints of late capitalist society. To escape from indulgence in only what is profitable, what is deemed acceptable by a small elite, what will lead to better career opportunities and discover
And to those who dismiss these thoughts as “idealists”? Of course Anarchists are idealists! What is the shame in this? Isn’t it preferable to be an idealist, to endlessly strive for a equal, classless society in which wealth is abolished and everybody works for the advancement of society and culture, rather than accept a abominable, inhuman and all to bleak definition of “reality”?
CELEBRATING CULTURES OF RESISTANCE: FILM FESTIVAL HOSTED BY THE ANARCHIST FEDERATION. 20/03/2010. 11.00-23.00, BANSHEE LABYRINTH, 45 NIDDRY STREET, EDINBURGH. FREE ADMISSION. OF COURSE YOU ARE FREE TO PROTEST
JUST PLEASE KINDLY STAY INSIDE THE CAGE... On the 17th November 2009, 15 protesters gathered outside Old College, Edinburgh to pressurise a NATO conference and express anger over NATO military action. Within five minutes of their arrival, the protesters were banned from the university grounds and
Upon standing on the pavement to observe, police immediately began to film us. Forward Intelligence Teams thrust cameras in your face. Your only crime? Standing on the pavement. A policewoman approached us, "If you're going to protest, you need to get in the cage."
boxed behind iron railings, surrounded and outnumbered by police on all sides.
Our government now refers to political protesters as 'DOMESTIC EXTREMISTS'.
That means if you voice your opinion you are now no longer just an ordinary citizen, you are a problem. What happened to the right to protest? What happened to our democratic rights to the street? This is no fictional dystopia; this is the reality in the UK today. Did you know that 3,600 new criminal offences have been introduced since 1997? Consider that next time you think the law is objective. "The state calls its own violence law, and that of the individual, crime" - Max Stirner "In a completely sane world, madness is the only freedom." - J.G. Ballard
THE FORGOTTEN RURAL LIFE
The countryside is fast becoming the residence of the few and the wealthy. The rural economy has collapsed. The farming way of life is increasingly held by an ageing population that is rapidly decreasing in size. Farms are owned by less people, worked by less people, and riddled with ever growing legislation with no prospects of attracting a
new generation of labourer. Farm work has poor pay, unaffordable housing, long hours, and strenuous labour: farmers have one of the highest suicide rates in the country. The drive for economic efficiency has destroyed the British rural economy. Mass production and monoculture in food production means that it is impossible for Britain to feed its own population. The oldest, most basic and most necessary process of harvesting food is becoming increasingly difficult in the one of the most economically developed countries in the world. That is something urban dwellers sometimes forget. It is something that needs to be changed.
THOUGHT FOR FOOD
It is possible for us to feed the world’s entire population dozens of times over but 6 million children under the age of five die of hunger every year. Every day, ‘British’ people throw away the equivalent of 220,000 loaves of bread, 1.6m bananas, 5,500 chickens, 5.1m potatoes and 660,000 eggs. We are complicit in our negligence. 840 million people worldwide suffer from malnourishment. In 200708 India produced 230.67 million tonnes of food and yet India has over 200 million people suffering from hunger. Food should be for necessity, not profit. This is the system you live in. Don’t pretend you have a ‘choice’ when you shop.
Nobody RANTS anymore. It's gone out of fashion. Art is now a product to be made to be sold, to be bought to be consumed. A canvas print of an Anarchist A in pink selling for 200 pounds because the original was by Banksy. Even politicians no longer speak the speak of utopia; there is nothing to aim for. Around the dinner table, when the talk turns to CHANGING something, eyes roll, smiles break out. The word 'comrade' sounds like a joke coming from the mouth of anyone under 50. The media placates us with stories of breast implants and broken marriages. The music we listen to is so safe, so banal. Go get the girl and sleep with her, that's all your aim is for today. Or perhaps you could become a REAL radical and take some drugs, the system sleeping safely at night knowing you are changing nothing but your own ability to percieve.
T SI S E R
An Anarchist State?
An interesting question was posed to me the other day, and although I had no trouble answering it it made me think more widely about the role of anarchism in a democratic state. The question was â€œif a hypothetical 'Anarchist Party' gained a majority in parliament, and was thus in a position to pass legislation, how would you begin dismantling the state?â€?. Ignoring the obvious practical improbability of such an event, let's consider where it might take us. My immediate response was to laugh and point out that we would now have at least half the country's population working together, and hopefully they would be some way towards sustainable living, independent of the state. This would make our 'dismantling' of it immediately superfluous, and such an 'anarchist government' wouldn't even need to formally disband itself, it would just do nothing, a government or even entity in name only. Of course there would be problems; I predict that a large proportion of those who hadn't voted for us would be in some way involved with either the armed forces or the police, and would not take kindly to their unofficial disbanding. But the point remains the same: by the time an anarchist movement had the political power to enact legislative change, such change would no longer be necessary. This led me to consider my own attitude towards politics, and in particular voting. If it is anything, an anarchist movement should be practical and not ideological. This is why, on the whole, I disagree with those who say we should abstain or spoil our ballots. Even if it is a corrupt and alienating system, it can produce at least short term goods, or prevent something worse. If we're faced with two choices, I would pick the lesser of the two evils every time rather than stand by and stoically observe in the name of 'principal'. All of this doesn't make me some kind of self-contradicting 'state anarchist', however. Whilst partaking in the system I still fully believe, essentially, in its eventual demise. What it is important to realise is that there is no dichotomy between on the one hand trying to bring about 'change from above', and on the other supporting the grass roots change that will in time cause the organ of state to wither and die. I see a distinction between political and social anarchism, the former advocating absolute defiance of the state and the latter a way of life that aims to defy the prevalent materialistic obsession with ownership and greed. Under these definitions, I am not a political anarchist. To be so, I think, is to stubbornly follow an imagined doctrine at the expense of practical options that can make a very real, and immediate difference to the lives of many.
The Edinburgh University Anarchist Society was formed barely six months ago by a group of students who wanted a forum for the fermentation of radical ideas. We do not have a concrete ideology; even within our members, there are disagreements, there are arguments, there is plenty of debate. But we are united by our common quest to question, and to build from those questions answers for a better future. The main aim of the society is to pursue goals conducive to a free and equal anarchism in wider humanity. We hold and wish to promote the values of equality, liberty and respect, and these are the founding ideals upon which the society is based. To get involved in our discussions, come along to one of our meetings, every Wednesday at 3pm in the Forest Cafe. You may get a free banana. You don't need to be a self-described Anarchist to show your face; we're friendly people, we promise.
Response To The Student Editorial On Lesser-Known Societies We’re thrilled to have been included. The publicity is of course welcome, and our “subterfuge” of the EUSA indexing system wasn’t really done on political grounds, we’d honestly rather have the free publicity from that, too. The stall was a success despite its, ahem, unplanned nature, however illicit stall occupations were not the sole preserve of revolutionaries such as ourselves! With regard to our footwear and coats, it was rather cold, I seem to remember, and trying to turn over capitalism and the state is just miserable with cold feet. “Menacing” wasn’t quite what we were going for, I’m sure. It’s good that we’re finally out there, and the brainchild of the back first-year philosophy lectures is finally becoming realised. We wore boots and trenchcoats that winter too. It’s Edinburgh.
Hthe edinburgh university anarchist societyI Join in the debate: http://euas.noflag.org.uk
"One must start with the impossible in order to reach the possible" - Hermann Hesse
First Issue of Polemic, the magazine of the Edinburgh University Anarchist Society