Organised Choas

By Home, Stewart | The Independent (London, England), October 25, 1994 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

Organised Choas

Home, Stewart, The Independent (London, England)

Anarchism is often associated with chaos, which is one reason it makes headlines whenever there's a riot on the British mainland. However, the Anarchy in the UK festival in London this week demonstrates that the vast majority of anarchists have little interest in throwing bricks and bottles at the police.

While anarchism as a political doctrine has never exerted much influence outside Spain and the Ukraine, the impact of anarchist ideas on the arts has been enormous. Bohemianism is a quintessentially anarchist pursuit and it is this, principally in its subcultural guises, that forms the focus for the 10-day festival, which began on Friday.

The event is the brainchild of Ian Bone, a founder member of the Class War newspaper and Class War Federation. His past activities do little to inspire trust among old hands at anarchist politics. At one point, he left the federation to set up the rival Class War Organisation, which collapsed after publishing just one issue of its national newspaper. Among revolutionary anarchists, Anarchy in the UK is derisively referred to as the Bone Show.

While the festival will thrill all rebellious punk squatters, the major British anarchist groups are refusing to participate in what they perceive as a desperate attempt to revive the careers of some second-rate rock bands.

An obsession with autonomy, or freedom, is what characterises all anarchist thought. Naturally, this leads to sectarianism. One of the major divisions within anarchist thinking is between collectivist and individualist ideologies. While anarcho-individualists have never attempted to build mass political organisations, their collectivist brethren find that although there is a great deal of support for anarchist ideas, very few people are willing to become paid-up members of the movement. Indeed, no British anarchist group has more than one hundred active members.

In this context, it seems absurd to claim, as the tabloid press has done, that the Class War Federation is responsible for the rioting during recent demonstrations against the Criminal Justice Bill. Class War is in no position to organise riots; almost all its time and energy is put into producing and selling its newspaper. Most of the Class War groups around the country consist of one or two people with a post-box address and a can of spray paint. While some people participating in riots may have become sympathetic to anarchist ideas after experiencing unemployment and heavy-handed policing, very few are members of any political organisation.

The most active strand of British anarchism throughout the Eighties was that of pacifism and non-violence. Many anarchists, who are happy to glue shut the locks of butchers' shops and participate in animal rights campaigns, would never dream of taking part in a riot. Likewise, anarcho-individualists and anarcho-capitalists are generally contemptuous of demonstrations and acts of public disorder.

Many of the younger and more committed class-struggle anarchists, who do view rioting as a viable political tactic, quickly leave the movement. They often find themselves unable to resist the lure of left-communist splinter groups. In attacking democracy as a bourgeois distraction, organisations such as the International Communist Current provide a much more coherent ideology than the anarchist movement.

One of the attractions of anarchism is that it can be practised without a great deal of commitment. Bohemian types may voice support for Class War, but they are unlikely to join a group which demands they stand on street corners selling political literature and attend boring meetings. Likewise, squatters may find the doctrine of anarcho-syndicalism appealing, without actually wanting to go into an industrial workplace to participate in rank and file activism.

Class War began as a witty attack on both the left and anarcho-pacifism.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Cite this article

Cited article

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

Organised Choas


Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?