The Glasgow Summer School 1993
Anarchist Summer School, Glasgow, Scotland.
Review of Anarchist Summer School, May 1993, Glasgow, Scotland
by Ian Heavens and Jack Campin
The Glasgow anarchist summer school was held on May 29th to May 31st, in the Govanhill Neighbourhood Centre, Daisy St., Govanhill, Glasgow. It was organized by Glasgow Class War, Counter Information (an Edinburgh group who produce a freesheet), the Free University Network, Libertarian Social Committee and individual anarchists and libertarian socialists. There was a turnout of two hundred to two hundred and fifty anarchists from all over Britain and elsewhere, including an Italian autonomist. Bookstalls from A K Press (Edinburgh), Northern Herald Books (Bradford) and various local groups were on display.
Some of the workshops are reviewed here. Others included:
Popular Culture (including Mass Media),
Philosophy of the Individual
John Perroti and Prisoners' Support
Women, Feminism and Revolution
Workers, Class Struggle and the Unions
Scotland and National Liberation
Sex and the Working Class
Ireland and State Preparation
Crime and Working Class Community
Public Sector Pay Disputes, Community Resistance (including Water Privatisation/Poll Tax)
Fighting the Law (including Asbestos)
Italy: State, Corruption, new radical forces.
Anarchist films and videos were shown throughout the weekend:
- Despite TV, The Battle of Trafalgar; what really happened during the Trafalgar Square Poll Tax riot.
- The Jewish Anarchists; documents the Jewish immigrant anarchist movement in the U.S.A. and the 87 year history of the anarchist newspaper "Die Frei Arbeiter Stimmer".
- Survival Research Laboratories - Maimed Artist; S.R.L. are San Francisco based performance artists who build machines that fight with each other.
- The Wobblies; documentary charting the history of the Industrial Workers Of The World, including interviews with many I.W.W. activists.
- Behold The Pale Horse; Gregory Peck as a character very closely based on Sabate, the Spanish anarchist guerilla.
Impressions from Jack:
I was at the summer school on Saturday and Sunday, and went to four workshops: fascism, anarchism & marxism, the New World Order, and computer networking. Fascism:
about 20 people. It hit me straight off that was a rather male gathering (so was the whole weekend). No very strong disagreements: the points people made included these:
- organized fascism is not a big deal in the UK and not going anywhere fast.
- one particular example of this is in Scotland where Protestant Loyalism resists incorporation into British fascism despite having substantial common aims (the British fascist parties being happy to work with Catholic fascists from Europe who are poison to the Loyalists). In practice this doesn't make a great deal of difference to us: the ruling class uses both in the same way.
- this is not like the situation in Germany where the state has chosen to use the fascists as a disavowable force.
- anti-fascism in the UK, as practiced by the front organizations of Marxist parties, is mainly about recruiting members and disregards the real needs of the black working class. They make a huge fuss when one of their paper-sellers gets attacked but ignore the problem of racist violence that isn't fascist-organized - either from the police or from clueless elements of the white working class.
what it takes to respond to this is real community organization, an unattractive option for a vanguardist as it means staying put in a local community at the cost of upward mobility in some national power structure.
some specific problems with vanguard anti-fascist groups:
Anti-Fascist Action in Glasgow has now split into two factions, an anarchist one and one controlled by Red Action (a small Trotskyist party who are trying to use AFA across Britain as a power base). Searchlight (a well-established magazine now associated with AFA) has long been used by MI5 and the police as a two-way channel of information, thanks to its opportunistic anything-goes-in-fighting- fascism stance, and (this emerged at the plenary on Sunday) seems lately to have been used in attempt to smear Class War (see their April 93 issue; there's a pamphlet about this that I haven't read yet). Searchlight also has a very limited concept of what fascism is; you won't find them pointing to fascism in the Israeli state. Basically their line is that the destruction of fascism should be the concern of the repressive apparatus of the state and the working class should have nothing to with it but look on.
Black bourgeois nationalist groups take the same line, e.g. the Black Lawyers group in London that organized a disastrous march through a heavily fascist-infiltrated area and got their supporters hammered. Again this seems to have been a recruiting measure; to persuade the black working class that the only protection they can expect is from the black nationalists. White Trotskyist anti- fascists are doing their level best to prove them right by doing no organization whatever among the white working class.
Marxism & anarchism:
I went to this one by mistake because I couldn't find the room for the one about John Perotti and prisoner support. Wish I'd looked harder. It started with a long and self-indulgent talk by Albert Meltzer and continued with a mindless slugfest between a Trot who fancied himself as sympathetic to anarchism (but...), a guy from Class War who mistakenly tried to say something constructive and intelligent, and Robert Lynn (the elderly Glasgow anarchist whose idea this summer school was) in full tub-thumping sermon mode. Do we really need any more meetings about Kronstadt or whether Bakunin predicted the Soviet system?
The New World Order:
I found this rather insubstantial. The facilitator tried something that might have potential for other meetings - collectively constructing one of the conceptual network diagrams as described in Tony Buzan's "Use Your Head" - but I don't think it worked here as the ideas didn't emerge fast enough. This does raise an interesting point: if he didn't get that idea from Buzan (where I read it) he probably got it from some management book. Maybe there are other useful ideas there we could pick up on? After all, the ruling elite is quite capable of exploiting non-authoritarian organizational techniques *among themselves* if they further the control they exert *as a class*. Maybe some of us ought to take a stiff dose of anti-emetic and try reading some management literature...
The social on Saturday night: OK but not exactly orgiastic. I spent the evening talking to someone I hadn't met for years, and quiet socializing was what most people were doing. This isn't what Glasgow is supposed to be like!!! General organization: bloody good. I wasn't involved in setting this up and the people who were must have worked their arses off. Absolutely *nothing* went wrong that I noticed. The venue (a community centre) made for some difficulties; we had to be out of the building in the early evening, which disrupted the flow.
Completely agreed with Jack on the excellent organization, a credit to the Glasgow comrades. The main hall was hung with a large GLASGOW ANARCHIST SUMMER SCHOOL logo in red and black, and the names of well known anarchists were plastered over the walls. It was stimulating to see so many anarchists together, and the continuity of the anarchist tradition: Robert Lynn, a prime mover in the summer school was 69, and Charlie Baird is the son of the Charlie Baird who was a secretary of the Glasgow Anarchist group after the Second World War. I also met an anarcho syndicalist from Hull and an Oxford anarchist, both of whom were there with their parents; really encouraging, I hope we all go out and breed lots of tiny anarchists...the youngest attendee was my son Daniel, aged 13 months.
I attended the workshops on Latin American Anarchism and the Basque Struggle. Both were run by anarchists who had spent some time in the respective countries; Jake Lagnado, who spent last year in Peru and Argentina, and a guy called Buzz from Glasgow, who had spent time in the Basque country and Catalonia. Their experiences and insights were very interesting, though I felt the discussions did not get as far as they could have done. Jake had some anarchist publications in Spanish and talked about the movements emerging in Argentina and Uruguay after the collapse of military government. Buzz described the relationship of the CNT and CGT to the Basque struggle; interestingly, the CNT's failure to take a positive attitude to Basque independence has lost them influence. He found some elements of the Basque independent movement to be quite positive from an anarchist point of view. I have an article from Jake on Peruvian anarchism which should be available through Spunk Press.
The summer school was good for Spunk Press. A hundred leaflets asking for material were given out, and both publishers present agreed to make their catalogues available to us; A K Press have a really impressive catalogue, over 100 pages, and it will be excellent to get this online. Material is also being received from 'Here and Now', a Glasgow/Leeds based alternative magazine, and Working Press, a London radical publishing outfit. Individual articles from the Glasgow group (including its 'History of Scottish Anarchism') and others should follow. Those using PCs to write articles and catalogues are often a bit diffident about the fact, possibly as a result of the antitechnology bias among anarchists, and did not see the point of and electronic archive until explained to them; A K Press got enthusiastic when I told them that up to ten million people could access their catalogue if it was online - though how many would order their books is another question.
Computer Networking Workshop
The Computer Networking Workshop was organized by Jack, Ian and Chris Hutchinson from the Anarchist Communist Federation. There was nowhere near enough time to explain and demonstrate the potential of networking, so that the aims of the workshops should probably have been more limited. Also, setting up and tearing down the computer and modem in an unfamiliar situation, with a strict time constraint on telephone access - combined with the fact that none of us are hardware buffs - made the online demonstration an energy and time consuming operation. We are just overawed by the fact that we managed to get it working at all! There are a lot of lessons to be learnt from the way we ran the workshop; by demonstrating the sophistication of the technology, it is possible to alienate people rather than persuade them of its usefulness. However, there was a lot of interest and useful contacts made.
This article was taken from Spunk Press
Posted by John Couzin.