21st Century Anarchism

Anarchism's major strength is its ability to adapt to changing circumstances without altering its core principles. The 21 st century is the anarchist century because the core principles of anarchism are principles that can unseat the four horsemen of a modern 21 st century apocalypse that has arisen because of increasing population growth, finite resources, an international economic system based on the creation of increasing profits irrespective of the human, social and environmental costs and human induced climate change.

For the Toilers of the Sea: Tom Barker's Revolutionary Adventures in Marine Transport

"Many readers will remember Tom Barker, one time of Auckland," reported the Maoriland Worker in 1921:

who, under the pen-name of "Spanwire", used to write Auckland notes for this paper. Since Tom gave up punching tickets and collecting fares on the trams of the Queen City, he has had enough of adventure to satisfy a dozen men... Incidentally he mentions that he is writing a book, "An Industrial Handbook on the Marine Transport Industry".

I discovered the existence of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW or 'Wobbly') pamphlet The Story of the Sea: Marine Transport Workers' Handbook almost by accident, during a keyword search in the Australian National Library. I was looking for background on early 20th century marine transport workers, and their participation in the IWW. It was one of those serendipitous discoveries that often happen in the obscure and under-researched field of radical working-class history. The author of the pamphlet was not identified, but once I checked the US IWW monthly publications from this era, where the pamphlet was originally published as a series of articles, the pieces fell into place. For the author was none other than the legendary Antipodean Wobbly, Tom Barker.

The Early Days of Mutualism

The execution of Eugen Varlin

It's been argued that contemporary mutualism is largely an Internet based movement and has lacked any relevance since the mid-19th century. However, it is worth remembering that if it wasn't for Mutualism, there would be no worker unions or co-operative federations.

To begin with, in 1857, Eugene Varlin founded a bookbinders' mutual aid society, becoming the nucleus of a bookbinders' trade union + he founded the bookbinders' mutual savings and credit association, organised along Proudhonist lines. Believing in sexual equality, he promoted the anarchist feminist Nathalie Lemel within the credit union. The Workers' Mutual Help Association was formed in Bologna, 1860 to safeguard employment, education, right to strike and universal suffrage. The International Workingmen’s Association was established by the Proudhonist Henri Tolain in July 1863, of which Varlin was a member.

Varlin organised the very first strike of the Parisian bookbinders in 1864 which was a success. In 1867 he and Nathalie Lemel started a co-operative La Ménagère. In 1868 Varlin and Lemel co-founded the co-operative restaurant La Marmite, which remained in business until after the Paris Commune. Varlin believed that trade unions should overcome their professional, local and national sectarianism to form a united international labour movement, dedicated, "to the constant improvement of the conditions of existence of ... the workers of all professions and all countries and to [bringing] workers into possession of the instruments of their labour", as the statutes of his bookbinders' union put it.

North Korea: Human Rights and International Relations

Presentation to the Isocracy Network on Friday April 19, 2014 at Trades Hall. PDF slides of the presentation are also available.

What I'm going to try and do tonight is do more than simply discuss how terrible the human rights situation is in North Korea. I will speak about that, but what I think will be far more useful will be to explain how things got to where they are, and what I believe the possibilities for progress are. To do this we first must go back in time, and while giving some general background I will touch on a few things that tend to get overlooked in mainstream accounts that I think are very important for understanding North Korea. Now, to tell the history of North Korea is to tell the history of Kim Il-sung, as perhaps more than any other state in history, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea or DPRK was, and continues to be, shaped by the character of its founder and leader for almost 50 years.

North Korea : Human Rights and International Relations

North Korea at night

North Korea has been described by former Australian justice Michael Kirby, in a report to the United Nations Human Rights Councils, as committing crimes against humanity. The report accused the regime of mass killings and torture and said responsible officials should face the International Criminal Court.

Apartheid and Zionism : Precise Definitions, Visceral Ontologies

Nelson Mandela in 2008
The death of Nelson Mandela has reminded many of the criminal history of the apartheid regime in South Africa. Whilst others have spoken about the personal characteristics of Mandela, and have done so appropriately [1], it is also unsurprisingly to see a debate on the critical fringes of politics debating the role of Mandela and the ANC, noisily challenging the polite and mainstream celebrations of his life. From the left, there has been those who have criticised the disconnect between politicians like Obama who celebrate Mandela's resistance, yet still find need to condemn and jail those who leak evidence of widespread surveillance against their own citizens and unfriendly spying activities [2]. Others have drawn attention to the long-term recognition held by Mandela, Tutu, and other anti-apartheid leaders who saw great similarity between their condition and that of Palestinians in the occupied territories. Ami Kaufman, at 972mag, picked five top examples of Israeli politicians who condemn apartheid and celebrate its fighters from afar, but not those who are too close for comfort [3]. Matthew Taylor, at Mondoweiss, described Obama's speech both moving and hypocritical on his failure to make the same connection between South Africa and Israel as Mandela did [4]. Reviewing the difference between Mandela's politics and those world leaders who sing his praises, Seumas Milne writes [5]:

To a New Year, Isocracy!

Back to the Future
The incontrovertible dictates of the Gregorian Calendar state that another year is presently coming to a close, and another, laden with potential, is soon to dawn.

As earnest believers in human freedom, this is one holiday that I believe we can rally behind. A new year, a new chapter in the so far interminable story of our universe that we author for our more intimate human micro-universe.

So, 2014, another chance for human freedom!

Market Fundamentalism as a Religion

Praying to the Bull

by Chet Gaines. Image from Wonkette of people praying to the Golden Bull on Wall Street for economic improvement.

Modern economic theory is presented as a science. Elaborate mathematics and diagrams are employed to derive principles that are assumed to be universal among economic actors, even though the specialized math used is a “dated version” (Keen 6) and such diagrams “often contain outright fallacies” (Keen 14). After a closer examination of the dominant economic theory and its critics, one might come to the conclusion that it is actually a belief system quite similar to a religion, not an actual scientific study. The following definition of religion is given by Clifford Geertz:

“(1) a system of symbols which acts to (2) establish powerful, pervasive, and long-lasting moods and motivations in men by (3) formulating conceptions of a general order of existence and (4) clothing these conceptions with such an aura of factuality that (5) the moods and motivations seem uniquely realistic.” (Bowie 20)

Just a few thousand hectares of your land, please

by Nairi Porter

World map according to cropland

"Buy land, they're not making it anymore", Mark Twain famously urged his audience. These words have been the motto of the markets for agricultural land for a long time, and they describe the mindset of the active land buyers across the developing world.

During the last decade, agricultural land (mostly across Africa and South-East Asia) roughly equivalent to the territory of Germany (33 million hectares, according to the most conservative estimates) has been purchased by foreign governments and companies. They develop enormous estates for food-growing and biofuel processing, the bulk of that production either returning directly to the original market or being exported on the international markets.

Criminalization is the Crime: Part 1 - Original Sin Lies in the State

California prison overcrowding
In the 19th century, amid the turmoil of industrial capitalism's early development, French thinker Pierre-Joseph Proudhon exclaimed that 'Property is theft!' His political work is, in general, highly instructive. In particular, for those of us researching the connection between the criminalization of conduct and the existence of crime, Proudhon's remark is a fitting analogy: Criminalization is criminal!

For there to be a criminal, there must first be a crime, and for a crime to exist, there must first be an authority, namely the State, which purports to act on behalf of the public. Now, whether this means in the public interest or for the public is a different, though crucial point. Each crime recognized by the State calls upon a range of rationales for the so-called public interest. For instance, in criminalizing a drug, say marijuana, the State will muster forth an argument that draws upon moral and social concerns, as well as political and economic factors, some apparent, others perhaps hidden from first glance.


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