Welcome to the sixth instalment of the Irish Anarchist Review, produced by the Workers Solidarity Movement. In this magazine we look to explore ideas about the world around us, how these ideas inform practice and how the intersection of the two leads to new theory, beginning the process afresh. We believe that ideas can only be tested in the laboratory of real life struggle and that this magazine can be a forum for activists who are part of the daily struggle that is going on right now. We hope that the articles here can stimulate discussion and debate and perhaps even motivate some of our readers to respond with articles of their own.
Since the last issue of the IAR, members of the WSM attended the International Anarchist Gathering at St. Imier. The event served two purposes; to commemorate the founding of the Anarchist International one hundred and forty years ago and to allow activists from the current movement the world over to meet and discuss their experience in struggle. There were anarchists of many persuasions in attendance and as the week went on it became clear that for some, class is a contentious issue. For many of us on the left the terms “class”, “working class” and “ruling class” are part of a vocabulary we rarely question, but with the advent of the global occupy movement and the emergence of a whole new layer of activists, many prefer to focus on inequality and the language of “the 99%”.
In Paul Bowman’s article ‘Rethinking Class: From Recomposition to Counter-Power’, he poses the question “Is class still a useful idea?” or “should we instead just dispense with it and go with the raw econometrics of inequality?” He draws a line between revolutionary class analysis and universalist utopianism and goes on to explore the history of different ideas of class and the elusive revolutionary subject. After exploring the intersecting lines of class and identity, he poses the challenge that we as libertarians face as we strive to create “cultural and organisational forms of class power [that] do not unconsciously recreate the... hierarchies of identity and exclusion” that are the hallmark of the present society.
In ‘Not Waving but Drowning: Precarity and the Working Class’, Mark Hoskins takes a critical look at the idea put forward by some academics and even parts of the anti-capitalist movement that the “precariat” is the revolutionary subject of our epoch. After examining the subjective conditions of the precarious subject today and comparing its objective conditions to those of the working class of the last century, he goes on to explore how these conditions relate to our end goal, a communist society and what lessons that can teach us in our attempt to get there.
We need look no further than the north of this island for proof that the politics of identity complicates the project of class re- composition. Guest writer Liam O’Rourke casts his eye over the neo-liberal project of regeneration in the six counties. He notes that the elite sections of both communities have no problem uniting around what he describes as the “shared non-sectarian identity of the consumer” which reduces shared space to “commercial shared space”. Yet the fact that working class people have seen little of the promised “peace dividend” has not lead to heightened class consciousness so much as it has to increased sectarian division.
The occupy movement may have come into our lives just over a year ago with a bang but it went out months later with a whimper. Cathal Larkin uses the benefit of hindsight to look at the phenomenon as it manifested itself on these shores and what anarchists could have done to make it work better. The difficulties as Cathal argues did not lie in making arguments for democracy has been the case in so many other campaigns but in that the occupiers “didn’t see this conception extending to the realm of economic production” and in developing the 99%/1% analysis into a deeper class analysis. Recognising problems with current modes of consciousness raising, he utilises Paulo Freire’s pedagogical framework in an attempt to subject “our own political strategies, methodologies and theories to critical scrutiny”.
There is an ongoing debate within left wing and feminist circles in general and in the WSM in particular on how we see sex work. In two related articles, Leticia Ortega and T.J. give the case for decriminalisation. In “Sex and Sex Work from and anarcha-feminist perspective”, Leticia looks at the theoretical background to the debate between those who argue for decriminalisation and those who “see sex work (or even sex in general) as violence against women”. She argues that because sex is commodified, sex workers should be treated in the same way as others who engage in exploitative labour. “In Turn off the Red Light – Should We Advocate It?”, T.J., explores the problems faced by sex workers in gaining recognition by those who normally fight for workers rights and outlines how criminalisation of demand has created new problems in countries where that has been introduced.
In the second part of an article that appeared in issue five of the IAR, Fin Dwyer looks at the latter years of Ireland’s first post independence government, which having successfully suppressed political opposition and the workers’ movement, went on to “attack women and enforce their moral and ethical values on wider society”. From the clearing of prostitutes from the Monto and the filling of the Magdalene laundries to the institutionalisation of child abuse, he describes how the state’s close association with the Catholic Church played a decisive role in forming attitudes to women and sex that have had a devastating effect on Irish society that can still be felt today.
In our reviews section Liam Hough looks at Chavs: The Demonisation of the Working Class by Owen Jones, Dermot Sreenan tackles Marx’s Economics for Anarchists by Wayne Price while Kevin Doyle tells us about Mentioning the War: Essays and Review by left wing poet, Kevin Higgins.
In a time when much of the left is pre-occupied with building “left unity”, we hope the ideas expressed here can help open up a debate on how we approach building class unity. We want those who read the magazine to develop on them and perhaps respond with ideas of their own.
Words: Mark Hoskins
Paul Bowman, Mark Hoskins, Liam Hough & Cathal Larkin. Thanks to all members of the WSM for contributions, discussion & feedback.
Big thanks to Brian Fagan for layout.
Artwork: Cover graphic, Moira Murphy; Cover painting, Dan O’Flatharta; Back Cover, Guy Falling
about the wsm/
The Workers Solidarity Movement was founded in Dublin, Ireland in 1984 following discussions by a number of local anarchist groups on the need for a national anarchist organisation. At that time with unemployment and inequality on the rise, there seemed every reason to argue for anarchism and for a revolutionary change in Irish society. This has not changed.
Like most socialists we share a fundamental belief that capitalism is the problem. We believe that as a system it must be ended, that the wealth of society should be commonly owned and that its resources should be used to serve the needs of humanity as a whole and not those of a small greedy minority. But, just as importantly, we see this struggle against capitalism as also being a struggle for freedom. We believe that socialism and freedom must go together, that we cannot have one without the other.
Anarchism has always stood for individual freedom. But it also stands for democracy. We believe in democratising the workplace and in workers taking control of all industry. We believe that this is the only real alternative to capitalism with its ongoing reliance on hierarchy and oppression and its depletion of the world’s resources.
PO Box 1528, Dublin 8
We have received some feedback regarding a reference to the Anti-Poll Tax Federation in the article from our last issue titled “Single Issue Campaigns, Community Syndicalism and Direct Democracy”. Unfortunately there isn’t space to add it to this issue, but it has been added to the article’s webpage at wsm.ie/c/campaigns-community-syndicalism- direct-democracy
We have uploaded issue 6 of Irish Anachist Review to Scribd, you can download it from there or scroll through the layout below.