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Recommended reading - four short book reviews

Black Flags and Windmills: Hope, Anarchy, and the Common Ground Collective, by scott crow. $26

I'm still reading this and having trouble putting it down. It's about an anarchist who worked with the poor black people of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina flooded the city in 2005. A collective (The Common Ground Collective) of mostly middle class whites, about 23,000 volunteers, came together to help rebuild the black neighbourhoods when the authorities abandoned them: a society without the State developed (well, yes, but with only a little exaggeration). This is a personal story of scott crow (no upper case) and his journey into anarchism and anarchist activism, as well as the story of the people of New Orleans and the Collective. In the book, crow uses the term 'emergency heart love', which sort of coincides with Chomksy's use of the term 'expanding the floor of the cage'. The author talks about his major influences: anarchism from the Spanish Revolution, the Black Panther Party, and the Zapatistas.

While I can understand the references to the Spanish Revolution and the Zapatistas, the reference to the Black Panthers and their often sexist behaviour goes without critique, as does their sometime fascination with Nechaev's authoritarianism. What he does get from them is their dedication to mixing it with the poor, gaining their trust by meeting their practical needs (education, health etc). There's a lot of 'philosophy confronting reality' throughout the book, and achieved in a very easily digestible way. It's really great, but what I don't get, despite the reference to 30's Spain, is the lack of dealing with the larger organisational questions that anarcho-syndicalism answers. Well, there's still a bit to go in my reading of the book, so maybe all will be revealed! Just a note, I'm reading the first edition, but the updated second is at Jura, too.

Imperiled Life: Revolution Against Climate Catastrophe, by Javier Sethness-Castro. $19

Well, where do I start? This is a book that will be liked by all the anarchists who still have an inclination towards Marx or marxism - of what is sometimes considered the less authoritarian sort. I don't hold that there is such a beast, but others do. In the case of this author, he constantly refers to the Frankfurt School people, Adorno, Horkheimer, Marcuse, as well as Marx, Gramsci. The odd thing is that, in the end, he advocates a sort of anarcho-communism, so he also occasionally makes mention of Chomsky or Bookchin. How one gets from Marx to anarcho-communism via Adorno beats me, but maybe others can see something that I can't. However, on the brighter side, the author does put a good case about the unfolding climate catastrophe and the need for urgent action. He also provides a good, if too brief, critique of liberal campaigners for climate sense.

Government in the Future, by Noam Chomsky. $15

This is a great little book for someone who wants to know what Uncle Noam says about better ways to organise society, and the basic thoughts that underpin those ideas. So there's a bit of philosophy in there, but not too much for the novice. For the more advanced, the book gives a good road map towards several foundation thinkers and some practical examples of what actual people actually did strive to achieve. The references to Marx still puzzle me a bit, but I think Chomsky talks more about what Marx wished for an end point of a revolutionary process. Unfortunately, Marx always confused means and ends, and could never get rid of his Statist/authoritatian methods to achieve the liberatory ends. The book is more of a pamphlet, and is presented in a lecture style, as it was originally given as a lecture, so that's no surprise. However, it is an easy read.

Adbusters: Manifesto for World Revolution, by Adbusters Foundation. $12

This is a beautifully produced magazine that I find enthralling in its poetic, imaginative use of imagery. Visually stimulating and often very confronting, but so wonderfully done - amazing, really. Like the image of a naked woman lying on her side, cuddled up to a.....pregnant man. What startling imagery....makes one think. Now, I do have some reservations about the politics of the Adbusters crew, no matter how much I do admire their work. There is still that troubling 'ephemeral anarchism' about them...so it's fine to have a critique, and it's fine to promote, in fact, initiate Occupy Wall Street, but where is the organisational structure/mechanism to get us from 'here', which they so well describe and critique, to 'there', a society in revolutionary transformation? Still, I always take a look and have a read - well worth the visit.


Red and Black Forum: Anarchism, Marxism and economics

Date and Time: 
Sun, 25/10/2015 - 2:00pm to 4:00pm

Red and Black Forum: Anarchism, Marxism and economics – a discussion of Ronald Tabor's "The Tyranny of Theory: a Contribution to the Anarchist Critique of Marxism." Presented by Paul Rubner and Sid Parissi.

Anarchists have sometimes accepted Marx's economic analysis, though not Marxist politics. In recent years, especially since the GFC, there has been renewed interest in economic matters, and by some anarchists, in 'Marxist economics'. This has polarised opinion among anarchists as to the validity of Marx's critique of political economy, and its relevance to anarchism. This Forum will be a discussion between Paul Rubner and Sid Parissi of these matters, with reference to Tabor's book.

Reading Tabor’s book is recommended, however not absolutely necessary. You’ll still get a lot out of the discussion if you haven’t read the book. It is available at Jura for $45.





Provisional Anarchist Federation Australia formed


At a meeting on 14th June 2015 at Jura Books, delegates from four anarchist groups agreed to form a provisional Anarchist Federation Australia. The four founding groups were Jura Books, the Melbourne Anarchist Club, the Melbourne Anarchist Communist Group and Perth Libertarians. At the meeting a number of individual observers were also present as well as an observer from Black Rose and Black Flag. The provisional Federation is based on this constitution. However the constitution is still being discussed, and changes may be made at the first Congress of the Federation - tentatively scheduled for December 2015 in Melbourne. As well as being geographically diverse, the groups making up the federation have a range of political differences, but we hope to work together cooperatively to spread anarchist ideas in Australia. Other anarchist groups are welcome to join us.



To give some background and context, here is a summary of the current federation process, to the best of our knowledge. It’s based on a few different accounts, leading up to May 2015.

In 2007, some members of the Mutiny Collective called for expressions of interest in holding a conference to discuss the idea of an anarchist federation in Australia and/or NZ. In response to this initiative, the Melbourne Anarchist Club (MAC) organised a conference held during Easter 2008. About 60 people from across Australia attended and a broad range of views were expressed from opposition to enthusiasm. There were no delegates as such and each participant attended as an individual. While there were some differences in attitude to federation there was a significant amount of common ground. Following on from this, MAC decided in March 2013 to hold the Towards Federation Anarchist Conference in June 2013. It was proposed to invite groups (as opposed to individuals, although individuals were encouraged to attend as observers). A proposed constitution was presented for discussion and about 30 people attended including delegates from MAC, Libertarian Workers for a Self-managed Society (LWSS), and Melbourne Anarchist Communist Group (MACG). There were also observers from Anarchist Affinity and Jura. In January 2014, a follow up conference was held at Jura at which delegates from MAC, MACG and Jura attended (and an observer from a Canberra anarchist group). The draft constitution was discussed and suggestions for amending it were made. People from Jura agreed to do another re-draft of the proposed constitution.

In May 2015, Jura completed a re-draft of the constitution, which was then circulated. There was also an open discussion about federation as part of one of the workshops at the Sydney Anarchist Bookfair, on Saturday 13th June 2015.

Over the last few years, there has also been a fair bit of online discussion about the federation, for example on Libcom and Facebook.

We also intend for the federation to develop a ‘Statement of Shared Positions’ and a program of activities/projects, in the near future, which will give it more form and substance.


Groups that have been contacted about the federation at some point since March 2013:

  • Anarchist Affinity (Melbourne) - Declined to send a delegate but did send an observer to the 2013 conference, a statement was made stating that while Anarchist Affinity supported the idea in principle, they were not ready to proceed and indicated that they would take no further part at this stage.
  • BAG (Brisbane) - Agreed to proceed on the basis of the proposed constitution in April 2013. Subsequently re-affirmed in January 2014.
  • Black Flag (Western Sydney) - Contacted in person by Jura people in 2015. Current position on the federation unknown.
  • Black Rose (Sydney) - Was initially contacted through what came to be discovered a defunct email account. Was contacted again in person by Jura people in 2014. Held a meeting to discuss the federation. Current position on the federation unknown.
  • Black Swan (Adelaide) - Has been sent the proposed constitution but no follow-up to date. Current position on the federation unknown.
  • Brisbane Solidarity Network - Has been sent the proposed constitution but no follow-up to date. Current position on the federation unknown.
  • Byron Bay Anarchists - Requested a copy of proposed constitution in 2014 but no response since. MAC unable to independently confirm the existence of the group.
  • Grupo de Melbourne - This is a group of the remaining Spanish exiles. A member came to MAC to express disappointment that they had not been invited to participate. Subsequently sent the January 2014 version of the proposed constitution by MAC. Discussed the proposed constitution over a weekend in May 2014 to develop a submission. Currently awaiting an English translation.
  • Jura Books (Sydney) - Had an observer participate in the June 2013 conference and hosted the January 2014 conference at which the proposed constitution was discussed. Discussed, amended and agreed on the May 2015 draft of the constitution. Hosted the meeting on 14th June 2015, at which two Jura delegates attended, and it was agreed that the provisional Anarchist Federation Australia be formed.
  • Libertarian Workers for a Self-managed Society (Melbourne) - LWSS sent a submission and a delegate to June 2013 conference. Some of the LWSS submission was incorporated into the current proposed constitution. Since then, there has been no follow-up contact with LWSS. Current position on the federation unknown.
  • Melbourne Anarchist Club - Initiators of the current project to found an anarchist federation. Two MAC delegates attended the meeting on 14th June 2015 at Jura, where it was agreed to form the provisional Anarchist Federation Australia.
  • Melbourne Anarchist Communist Group - Sent two delegates to June 2013 Conference and January 2014 conference. The MACG have expressed support and a desire to have the principles of 'the platform' incorporated into the constitution. Has participated in two joint meetings with the MAC to discuss the proposed constitution and have proposed some additions and modifications which were incorporated into the proposed constitution that was presented to the January 2014 conference. One MACG delegate attended the meeting on 14th June 2015 at Jura, where it was agreed to form the provisional Anarchist Federation Australia.
  • Perth Libertarians - A meeting of of anarchists in Perth was held on 12 September 2014 and a decision was made to form a group with a view to federating in accordance with the proposed constitution (Jan 2014 version). One Perth Libertarians delegate attended the meeting on 14th June 2015 at Jura, where it was agreed to form the provisional Anarchist Federation Australia.




Occupy Sydney 3 year anniversary; all charges dropped

Today marks the 3 year anniversary of the initial massive, violent dawn police eviction of Occupy Sydney on 23 October 2011. Up to Monday, 11 people still faced criminal charges ranging from ‘camping’ to assault police primarily from this eviction. The hearing of these matters was continuously adjourned due to an Occupy Sydney constitutional challenge to the ‘camping’ charges i.e. that the implied right to the freedom of political communication in the Australian Constitution should have protected the political occupation that occurred at Martin Place as part of the global Occupy movement. Sadly this case reached the end of its road last Friday when it was considered by the High Court of Australia in regards to whether special leave should be granted for the case to be heard in the High Court. Leave was refused.
On Monday, the 11 people with ongoing Occupy Sydney charges had their matters mentioned in the Local Court for almost the 20th time, with their matters due to be set down for a hearing. FINALLY THE POLICE DROPPED ALL OF THE REMAINING OCCUPY SYDNEY CHARGES. This result is a vindication of the dodgy arrests made of and charges given to these Occupy Sydney protestors, as happens extremely often at protests. These 11 people have had their charges hanging over them for ALMOST 3 YEARS as the constitutional contest of the legitimacy of the police actions made its way through the slow and conservative Australian legal system. One of these people took on the risk of costs against him from the City of Sydney Council and the NSW Government for being the main applicant in the constitutional challenge. STAY TUNED re word of potential costs against this brave person.
Members of the Jura collective would like to say congratulations to these 11 people on the outcome on Monday. We admire their strength and conviction in standing up for themselves and with each other for such a long time. We stand in solidarity with ALL of the people that stood up to the police and legal system to defend their ability to participate in Occupy Sydney. There were almost 100 arrests made of Occupy Sydney protestors over the first 4 months of the protests. ALMOST ALL THE CHARGES AND FINES that were contested by defendants were withdrawn by the police or dismissed by the court. The Occupy Sydney network is also currently working on at least one court case against the cops for a clear false arrest of a protestor – stay tuned regarding this too!
The Occupy Sydney legal matters remind us of: the limited protection in Australian law in regards to the ability to protest - both the Occupy Sydney and Melbourne constitutional cases have been useful in providing clarity about the (regrettably limited) scope of the implied right in the Constitution to the freedom of political communication. Having said this, we again learn that the police are usually extremely underhanded in their policing of protests. Ultimately they know that the charges they give to protestors often won’t stand up in the courts, but they arrest us anyway to criminalise, hurt and intimidate us and to damage our movements. Often the state succeeds. So we are reminded of the importance of organising collectively, including of legal support, so that we can look out for each other, push back against the state, and keep struggling FTW. Jura Books stands in solidarity with people struggling for a better world in the streets, workplaces, cages and schools in Sydney and everywhere.

Finally, if you are in a position to donate to the Occupy Sydney legal fund, details are below. Any additional funds will go towards other protest legal support funds.

Account Number - 51298S1
BSB Number - 802884
Bank - Maritime Mining Power Credit Union


Interview: anarchism and the meaning of freedom

Jeremy was interviewed by Daisy, a high-school student from Blacktown, in July 2014.

"Hi Daisy, I've done my best to answer your questions properly, but briefly. It was very difficult! You've asked lots of interesting and challenging questions which we anarchists think deserve thorough consideration. In fact, that's exactly why we at Jura run a bookshop and library filled with thousands of books dealing with these questions and issues! I hope you will come in and check them out – you'll find much more thorough answers than the ones I've given below.

Direct Action - Series 2, No. 3, 3 June 1928

Direct Action - Series 2, issue number 3, published 3 June 1928 p. 1, 4