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In progress.

Thursday, 19 December 2013


I hope in 2015 to go around the world, to repeat/continue and maybe even conclude the anarchist pilgrimage that I began in 2010.

But there's no way I can afford that in 2014. I need to spend at least some of the year saving up the money. And there are some other linked things I want to do here, at the beginning, at home. This blog post now is to introduce one of these.

It will be in March, I think. I've sent out feelers but nothing's fully confirmed. It comes from a suggestion that AJ made and that I've talked to quite a few of you about. About local research, about our specific cities, and about the difference between the past and now.

In the pretty recent past, men and women from the non-stinking-rich section of society tried to reach out across the world. They made international ties and formed mass organisations, the likes of which we would hardly dream of now. These were ties, were organisations, that took real commitment, with meetings, discussion, reading and organising, disputing and deciding and working out what it meant to work together, as a class. And they were revolutionary : their aim was to overthrow this world of exploitation, of poverty, rich versus poor, of lies and manipulation in the cause of injustice. Bakunin and Marx are the most famous names connected to the International on its European stage, and their famous falling out remains a source of worthwhile study: it spells out the difference between opposed political ideas, both revolutionary, and both a part of the vanished world that those predecessors of ours struggled and lived and died in.

There was a split into two rival, parallel Internationals, with Marx determined to keep it under his control and guidance, employing all his arsenal of libel, allegation, bullying and bureaucracy against real, potential or imagined rivals. Many would not join and obey him, and instead they formed an International that was longer lived, broader-based, and full to the brim with anarchists. It followed the spirit of international brotherhood that its members felt Marx's managerial dictatorship destroyed.

Now which of these two Internationals was the one that the groups of working men and women in your industrial city were part of? Which was their International? Was it the one full of anarchists or the one full of Marx? Were they rivals or were they combined, perhaps confused? Did the groups distinguish, discuss, debate and explicitly decide? Or was it just some distant continental nonsense that could be ignored. Are there traces of real antagonism between these different versions of the same goal?

I don't know, I haven't looked yet. But I think there will be some clues, and they will be in Bradford, Manchester, Sheffield, Middlesbrough. Some record will have survived, and some experts will have found out about this in their local context. And so this will be the aim of my next, much more regionally-traversible journey.

I think it will be March. Maybe a bit of February if I include Scotland. And I will be asking for your help, and staying over. I'll spend time in the archives, the local history section of the public library, and I might draw a blank. I've not done pre-research so I don't know yet if it's a fool's errand. But I'll find out something in the attempt, and I'd like to share it with you.

My idea is to tie the different findings together by presenting (& recording) them at suitable locations and events in the places that I go to. Not with a seated audience or anything, but as a small bit of 'extra', added to events that I think tie in. More details will follow.

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