Thursday, 6 January 2011

NORTHERN ANARCHIST NETWORK: Colin Ward, Luddites, students & the new syndicalists

ABOUT 25 attended the NAN last December for a meeting at the Bolton Socialist Club which discussed the place of the anarchists in the current economic crisis. Richard Holland provided us with an outline of the 'hidden history' of the Luddite movement in the North. It was argued that to the conventional left the Luddites presented a bit of a challenge as being something 'not quite Kosher' and not so acceptable as the Chartists, who could be safely categorised as a logical historical step towards 'respectable' historical institutions such as the Labour Party. The NAN agreed to work for a celebration of Luddism in 2012.

In her contribution on the student struggles, Rachel Whittaker disputed that tuition fees were the most significant problem, claiming that the current ideology of the corporate emphasis on career, vocational studies and business management, is the real issue degrading education in modern times. The growth of private colleges run by companies may be an example of this.

Keir from Edinburgh described the situation of the labour movement since the Coalition government began its program of cuts in public services. Keir is one of the voices of the new syndicalists within the National Shop Stewards Network (NSSN), who are emerging as the realisation grows that British party politics is basically a bag of wind. The 'syndicalists' are now perhaps the fastest growing section of the NSSN, which is itself now facing a power grab by the Socialist Party; certainly the syndicalists probably have the most members of the NSSN national steering committee after the Socialist Party.

Dave Goodway addressed another alternative to party politics by looking at the relevance of the ideas of Colin Ward, who died earlier in 2010. Colin Ward's ideas, he said, are rooted in a few books which he made the most of, and can perhaps be best summed up in a proposition expressed in 1910 by Gustav Landauer that stated: 'The state is not something which can be destroyed by a revolution but is a condition, a certain relationship between human beings, a mode of human behaviour; we destroy it by contracting other relationships, by behaving differently.' Given the banal political recipes put forward thus far by the conventional British left and others to deal with the economic crisis, it is surely vital that someone on the libertarian left comes up with a better agenda for social change. By throwing together this eclectic mix of speakers, the NAN may have made a step towards developing a much needed alternative analysis.

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