Setting out our stall

This piece was originally published on our sister blog, On Uncertain Ground. As our blogs seem to have parallel rather than overlapping audiences, we’re re-posting it here so everyone who knows us is clear about how we want to approach the bookfairs we’ll be attending this year.


Our stall at the London Anarchist Bookfair last October

Anarchism is a broad church stretching from those of us focusing on community activism and class struggle politics all the way over to those who focus on various aspects of identity politics. Anarchist bookfairs are one of the occasions where the various strands of anarchism are together under one roof for a day. Which is good for anyone new to anarchism and who wants to find a form of activism that suits their outlook and temperament. They’re also a good opportunity for the varying strands of anarchism to discuss and debate with each other about their differing approaches and outlooks. We would hope that after a few recent blips, that tradition of open and honest debate can continue in 2018.

In the absence of the London Anarchist Bookfair this year, we’re doing our level best to get out and about to other bookfairs. We have got stalls booked at the Bristol Anarchist Bookfair on Saturday May 12th and also at the Dorset Radical Bookfair on Saturday 4th August. In addition to this, we’ll also be at the London Radical Bookfair on Saturday 2nd June handing out our papers. Obviously we’d like to be doing more than this but the costs of travelling and other commitments put constraints on what we can do.

The papers, flyers and mini display we’ll be having on our stall are very much focused on the community activism we do under the banner of the Essex Social Strategic Alliance which is us, Basildon & Southend Housing Action and a number of local, resident led community groups. It’s our belief that if a successful movement for radical change is going to be built, there has to be a base at the grassroots in our neighbourhoods. Our community activism is focused on facilitating residents to improves conditions on their estates and in their neighbourhoods and in the process of doing so, empower and slowly radicalise them so they become more ambitious in their demands. It also has to be said that once we hit a certain level of activity and recognition on an estate, it makes it a lot harder for elements of the far right to muscle in and try to get a foothold.

We’re not going to these bookfairs saying that our approach is the only way and that everyone else is wrong – that would be an arrogant and counter-productive approach leading to unnecessary rows and divisions. All we’re saying is that there needs to be a base on the estates and in the neighbourhoods to support all the other forms of activity and action that make up anarchist practice. We recognise the need for a creative diversity of tactics taking into account the circumstances prevailing at the time to get the message across. However, there should be an ongoing discussion about which tactics are effective and which need some serious re-thinking.

We admit that we have in the past expressed views about certain strands of identity politics and that we have ruffled a few feathers in the process. We would like to remind people that for the moment, we’ve withdrawn from what in our view was becoming a toxic and divisive row to focus on what we do with our community activism and class struggle politics: There have been some changes on this blog. It’s not our intention to get dragged back into that row when we’re out and about at the bookfairs this year – life’s too short for that! Having said this, there is room for a respectful, nuanced debate within anarchism about the balance between class struggle politics on the one hand and identity politics on the other.

So that’s it, we’ve set out our stall for how we intend to approach our presence at various bookfairs this year. We’re looking forward to talking to people about our approach and an interesting cross fertilisation of ideas with those taking a different approach.

Advertisements

Stirrer No.6 off to the printer

The sixth print edition of the South Essex Stirrer was sent to our friends at Oxford GreenPrint yesterday for printing. It will be hitting the streets a few days after the local elections. We also plan to take a small bundle with us for our stall at the Bristol Anarchist Bookfair on Saturday May 12th. As there’s no London Anarchist Bookfair this year, we’re going to a few other fairs around the country. These are good opportunities to talk to people about our grassroots community action approach and our class struggle politics.

As ever, help with distribution of the Stirrer is always appreciated. If you live anywhere in southern Essex (see the map below) and want a small bundle to hand out to friends and neighbours, get in touch (see About us) and we’ll take it from there. As we can only afford a small print run, a downloadable PDF of the Stirrer will be available once the local elections are out of the way – trust us, there is a good reason for this delay in making it available!

The spring/summer 2018 edition of the Stirrer is on its way!

Since the print edition of the Stirrer we brought out at the start of the year, we’ve also brought out the second edition of The Estuary Alternative and a generic edition of the Stirrer to hand out on protests and at bookfairs. We’re getting well into 2018 and it’s time to bring out another edition of the Stirrer to reflect on what’s shaping up to be an interesting year.

Once the local elections are over and the results digested to give us a better understanding of the political landscape we’re operating in out here in Essex, writing on the next edition will be underway in earnest. We’re aiming to have all of the copy written by the second week in May and allowing a day for design and layout, it’ll be off to the printer by the middle of May ready for distribution from the start of June onwards.

We’re starting to experiment with a variety of distribution methods to make sure the paper gets to the people who want/need to read it and reduce wastage. As ever, if any of our supporters across southern Essex want a bundle to hand out to friends and neighbours, let us know and we’ll sort out a way of getting them to you. See the map below for an idea of the area we cover.

The reason we continue to produce a paper is that the audience for this and pretty much any other political blog is largely self selecting. If we’re going to build a movement that will achieve real change, we need to get our message out to as many people as possible. While papers may not be perfect, they do have a role in getting our ideas across to people who would otherwise have never heard of us.

On Uncertain Ground – there have been some changes

Regular readers of our sister blog On Uncertain Ground will notice some fairly significant changes on there. Changes that come in the form of absences. These absences are of posts relating to the complex, sensitive and increasingly divisive issue of gender identity plus those on how this issue has divided our movement. Also missing are the readings on gender identity we had put in the identity politics reading list. There are valid reasons why we’ve made these changes which we’ll endeavour to explain.

We’ve been trying to get our heads round the issue of gender identity ever since the ‘events’ at the London Anarchist Bookfair last October. One major motive in doing this is trying to understand why this issue is dividing our movement and to see if there’s any chance of reconciliation between the factions. We’ve read a lot of material from all sides of the debate and to be honest, we’re still trying to work out why this issue has been allowed to split our movement in the way it has. Researching gender identity and trying to understand why it’s taken such a hold on the movement has been a time consuming, frustrating and painful experience. We’ve fallen out with long standing comrades because they’ve allowed themselves to get sucked into the vortex of gender identity politics.

What we want to do is draw a line under it and move on. First and foremost, we’re class struggle anarchists and grassroots community activists with more than a pinch of green and animal rights politics thrown in for good measure. This is what we want to get on with. We’re happy to work with groups and people as and when our agendas match each other. We no longer have the time, energy and inclination to get involved in the toxic rows over gender identity that are dividing our movement.

This is why we’ve stripped the content about gender identity and the effects the divisions over it are having on the movement out of the On Uncertain Ground blog. We have kept the identity politics section but that’s mainly about cultural identity where we feel we’re on surer ground. From this point onwards, that blog will focus on taking a more in depth look at the issues we encounter in our work on the estates and which feature on here. Hopefully, it’s onwards and upwards from this point…

South Essex Working Class Action


We’ve re-purposed one of our Facebook pages as South Essex Working Class Action. This page reflects the work we do alongside our mates from Basildon & Southend Housing Action (BASHA) on class struggle / community activist politics. It’s totally focused on promoting a radical, progressive working class political agenda. As such, the page will be an identity politics free zone. We make no apologies for this as we feel there’s a need for a space promoting an explicit working class political agenda.

As we move forwards, when we and BASHA undertake actions and campaigns with a pro-working class political agenda, it will be under the name of South Essex Working Class Action. As the flyer clearly states, it does what it says on the tin! All this is is doing is formalising an arrangement that has been operating for almost four years between us and BASHA. In doing this, we hope to act as a pole of attraction for those of our class looking for a radical alternative.

As to how we operate, it will be pretty much business as normal but under a new banner. In other words, a bit pushy, mouthy, irreverent, sometimes disrespectful and always calling truth to power. Also, as you may guess from the image of the blob men and pitchforks that has been associated with us for a few years, our piss taking sense of humour will never be that far from the surface.

Our other Facebook page is South Essex Radical Media. This reflects the content from this blog and our two sister blogs, On Uncertain Ground and The Estuary Alternative. Discussion of identity politics and how divisive some strands of that are proving to be to the anarchist movement will continue on the South Essex Radical Media page. As time progresses, each page will develop it’s own unique character and focus and play their respective parts in reflecting the various facets of how we operate.

Stirrer special edition back from the printer

For a while we’ve needed something we can hand out at anarchist/radical bookfairs, on protests and to any people interested in what we’re doing to explain what we’re about. Sure we can give them a printed copy of the Stirrer but that’s generally us commenting on local issues from our political perspective rather than explaining where we’re coming from as activists. To resolve this, we’ve produced a special edition of the Stirrer on two sides of a sheet of A4 which explains our roots in class struggle and community activism, arguing that to achieve real change, you have to build from the grassroots upwards. It’s fairly generic in its content so it’s a resource we can use for the rest of this year – or until we run out:) All things being equal, we hope to be at the Bristol Anarchist Bookfair on Saturday May 12th and we’ll be handing them out then. Hopefully our message about building from the grassroots will get a positive reception and we’ll take it from there…

As ever, we don’t have a massive budget and can’t afford long print runs so we’re making the paper available as a downloadable PDF from here.

Explaining a few changes…

We have a bit of a social media presence and here’s an explanation of how it works. We have South Essex Radical Media on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/southessexradmedia/ and also on Twitter: https://twitter.com/SthEssRadMedia What the South Essex Radical Media social media presence does is reflect the content from this blog and our sister blogs, On Uncertain Ground: https://onuncertainground.wordpress.com/ and The Estuary Alternative: https://theestuaryalternative.wordpress.com/ As these blogs each have a different function, it means that discussions on the South Essex Radical Media social media presence can cover a wide range of issues, including identity politics.

Then there’s South Essex Working Class Action on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/southessexwca/ As you can guess from the name, the function of this page is the promotion of progressive, pro-working class politics. What this page allows us to do is reflect what we at the Stirrer along with our comrades from Basildon & Southend Housing Action and the various community groups they work with on the estates, do to promote a working class political agenda – as things move forwards, we want this page to take more of a lead in doing this.

Of necessity, the South Essex Working Class Action Facebook page will be an identity politics free zone. We make no apologies for this – it’s well known we have concerns about the way too many parts of our movement are getting sucked into the vortex of identity politics and we want to carve out a space where the politics of class struggle come first.