Before we go into the reasons why we feel there’s no longer a place for us within the anarchist ‘movement’ here in the UK, there are a few things we want to make clear to avoid needless, time consuming and energy sapping rows. Firstly, we still retain what we see as anarchist principles and try as best we can to apply them in our day to day lives as well as our political work. Secondly, there are free thinking, independent minded anarchists here we still have a lot of respect for and hope to continue having a working relationship with. Thirdly, away from the parts of anarchism that can best be described as a ‘scene’, at the grassroots there are a decent number of mutual aid and solidarity initiatives that are making a real difference and whose work we continue to support.
Right, let’s get into the nitty gritty… Those of you who know us will realise that our relationship with a number of factions in the anarchist ‘movement’ here in the UK has been somewhat strained for a number of years now. A marked downturn in that relationship occurred in the bitter aftermath of the ill fated 2017 London Anarchist Bookfair where disagreements about gender identity politics really went off the scale. As at that point we were heavily involved with a number of grassroots community projects, we weren’t up to speed with the issue of gender identity politics – it’s not the kind of thing working class people out in Thurrock and Basildon really see as important. However, we felt we had a responsibility to try and get up to speed with the issues at stake, yet even this brought grief down upon our heads when we didn’t fall precisely into line with what appeared to be the prevailing groupthink. When you ask a few pointed questions that could be taken as being gender critical and people you formerly stood in solidarity with start denouncing you as a TERF (trans-exclusionist radical feminist) and a ‘bigot’, you have to ask yourself, what kind of movement have I got myself involved with? Our answer was ‘not one we really wish to be associated with’.
The relationship continued to deteriorate with the onset of the Covid crisis in March 2020 and our questioning from May 2020 onwards of the response to it and the narrative that was used to justify it. It felt like many anarchists simply accepted one version of ‘the science’ at face value and stuck with it. In theory, science is never fixed because it always questions its own findings and revises and refines its observations and conclusions accordingly. Unless the ‘science’ is being brought by companies out to make a fat profit and other dubious actors with an agenda. While we’ve never denied the existence of Covid, as the understanding of what it is grew, it became clear to us that the response to it was akin to using a sledgehammer to crack a nut and that a more proportionate and targeted response was needed.
Lockdown was a disproportionate response that caused distress and harmed many people. These harms ranged from people being plunged into isolation, through to people being denied the right to be with loved ones in hospital who were sick or dying because of ‘Covid restrictions’ through to people not being able to physically comfort each other at funerals because of over-zealous enforcement of guidelines on contact. Then there was the long period of kids having to ‘learn from home’ via an internet connection. Fine if you’re a middle class kid in a leafy suburb. Crap if you’re a working class kid stuck in an overcrowded flat with piss poor internet connectivity. Suffice to say, there’s a fair sized cohort of the latter who feel that society has rejected them and that they owe society nothing back. A telling sign of this is the increase in nihilistic anti-social behaviour in the area we cover from teenagers who feel they have nothing else left to lose. We could go on for page after page detailing the harms of the lockdowns and the rushing out of a vaccine which appears to have a range of adverse side effects way out of proportion to what would be accepted with any other form of medication. We’re assuming that if you’re reading this, you’re pretty open minded and will be only too well aware of what those harms are. Over the last two years, we’ve tried our level best to get the anarchist ‘movement’ here in the UK to acknowledge them and time after time, we were getting brushed off, dismissed and on occasions, insulted. Sure, there were a few anarchists we trust who did ‘get it’ but sadly, they were in the minority.
Then there’s the way the Covid crisis has and is being leveraged by an array of actors and interests to bring about what many have described as the ‘great reset’/’fourth industrial revolution’ (4IR). Part of the agenda is the imposition of a universal digital identity, the elimination of physical cash and it’s replacement by digital ‘cash’ which has the potential to be programmed by the issuer – that makes it possible to control what people can and can’t spend their ‘cash’ on. All developments that have been discussed in the mainstream media if anyone cares to look. So when the 4IR is featured on the front cover of time and is the subject of books by the likes of Klaus Schwab of the World Economic Forum, being accused of being a ‘tinfoil hat wearing conspiracy theorist’ by anarchists who should know better is pretty galling.
When you take into consideration the harms caused by lockdowns, the concerns about a vaccine that was rushed out and last but by no means least, the way the Covid crisis has and is being leveraged to bring about the 4IR, it was hardly surprising that there would be protests. Ones that attracted a wide range of people from those who had never taken to the streets before through a number of disillusioned leftists and anarchists and across to a small fringe of dodgy elements seeking to exploit peoples concerns for their own dubious ends. In other words, pretty much what you would expect from what can best be described as a new social phenomena. One which could possibly be compared to the Gilets Jaunes over in France. One which any thinking person would have hoped anarchists should at least be curious about. Sure, a number of more independently minded anarchists have been curious and took part in these protests. However, much of the anarchist ‘movement’ immediately dismissed those attending the protests as ‘conspiracy theorists’ and being taken in by the alt-right. From what we could make out, at no point have the anarchists dismissing those of us attending these protests made any effort to acknowledge the real harms that the lockdowns caused, let alone the way the crisis was being leveraged to bring about the 4IR. That for us was unacceptable.
By the middle of 2021, having read a lot about what others thought of these protests, I decided that the best course of action was to attend a few to see for myself what they were really about and who was attending them. The vehicle I used as a point of engagement was producing a paper to hand out on the protests. PDFs of the papers I produced can be downloaded from this page: Papers. Let’s just say I got a fair bit of stick from a number of anarchists for my efforts! These two pieces are my thoughts on what these currents of opposition turning up on these protests are about: Dealing with reality… 2.2.22 and: Re-assessing positions 1.2.22. I’ve tried my best to get a number of anarchists here in the UK to read these pieces in the hope that there could be some kind of informed discussion on what the various currents of opposition to lockdowns, vaccine passports and the fourth industrial revolution actually signify. Suffice to say that banging my head against a brick wall would have been more productive and less painful!
Enough! There’s only so much anyone can be expected to take of being shunned and blanked by self appointed gatekeepers before something gives and we’ve reached that point. Bearing in mind the caveats listed at the start of this piece, it’s official, we’re out of what passes for an anarchist ‘movement’ here in the UK.
Mind you, that brief announcement merely formalises what has been the case for at least two years to be honest. Any regrets? A few initially, but since 2020, we’ve made contact online with a lot of open minded free thinkers. We’ve become more willing to listen to people we disagree with and to engage in discussion with them rather than stick to a small, self referential circle. We’ve had to do this to be part of the broad coalition that fought lockdowns, and are continuing to fight vaccine passports and the 4IR. Sure, I’ve made mistakes in doing this and have possibly been to one or two events and associated with some individuals that I probably shouldn’t have done. That’s part of the inevitable learning curve that will happen when new currents of resistance and new movements are emerging.
It was a stark choice between remaining in a movement that felt like it was becoming more self referential and less tolerant of any dissent or being part of something new that has the potential to bring about real change. We’ve chosen to be part of something new, albeit it’s still messy and imperfect. One part of this new phenomena are the various currents of opposition to vaccine passports and the fourth industrial revolution who have been and continue to be out and about on the streets. Another component of this is the growing number of people contributing to the Nevermore project. We’re one of the contributors. How that is developing is described in this piece: Growing the new resistance! – Winter Oak | March 18, 2022.
All we ask is that we’re allowed to get on with participating in and building these new currents of resistance without undue harassment or grief. If those inward looking sections of the anarchist ‘movement’ want to carry on doing what they do in their own circles, so long as they leave us alone, we’re happy for them to get on with it and we’ll leave them alone. Should they decide to carry on smearing and denigrating us and then start to actively harass us, then we’ll have no option but to respond in whatever way we see fit. Hopefully it won’t come to that.
To conclude, the last couple of years have been a struggle, personally as well as politically. Having former comrades refuse to acknowledge the real harms lockdowns caused hurt and that’s something we cannot just sweep under the carpet and forget about. However, we have also found ‘our tribe’ who have had our backs during this time. Hopefully, it’s onwards and upwards from this point as the real rebels get to work:)
PS – We’ve left any mention of the international anarchist response to the conflict between Russia and Ukraine out of this piece because to date, it’s complex and overall, reasonably nuanced… Suffice to say, there’s potential for a truly anti-war/anti-imperialist alliance BUT it needs a lot of stepping out of self referential circles, compromise, open mindedness and above all, vision to pull it off from all parties. This is something we hope to address in a future piece.