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As all that is solid melts to air and everything holy is profaned...

Monday, January 01, 2007

Stuart Christie/ Granny made me an anarchist

Midnight. Someone just let off some fireworks. Guess it must be a new year.

I have just finished reading Stuart Christie’s Granny made me and Anarchist . It stops at 1975 though, just after he has met Iris Mills and Ronan Bennett.


1. Stuart’s granny came from Wigtownshire/ Galloway and was a Presbyterian protestant. He doesn’t mention it, but if she was ‘of that ilk’, then should would have been brought up on tales of the Covenanters… so there could be a link from Richard Cameron and James Renwick to Stuart’s version of anarchism. The later Covenanters like Cameron and Renwick were ‘political’ - Cameron took up arms against the state, and his Sanquhar Declaration could be read as a radical republican tract. To the extent that the later Covenanters refused to have any dealings with the UK state (rejecting even William of Orange) and placed liberty of conscience above/against respect for the rule of law they were almost anarchists. But they derived their politics from religious belief and so were not.

2. Situationists not directly involved in events of May 1968 - what Stuart says is that having known and talked to folk who were directly involved, Situationist theory/practice was a background rather than foreground influence.

3. Having been released from Spanish prison in summer 1967, he returned to London at height of ‘underground’ (UFO club etc) period but did not think much of its dope-smoking/ acid taking atmosphere, although he does rate IT (International Times). He ended up working as a fitter for the Gas Board, during conversion from coal gas to north sea gas. Anarchists have a protestant work ethic? Doesn’t quite say that, but implication there. Anarchists engage with the everyday world of work and working people‘s lives. They don’t drop out.

4. Anarchy is not Freedom. Stuart distinguishes the anarchist practice he advocates from that of the Freedom Press in Whitechapel, who he describes as following a Gandhian (pacifist) version of anarchism.
This is important for any discussion of anarcho-punk and Crass. The version of anarchism promoted by Crass was closer to that of the Freedom Press than that of Suart’s Ceinfeugos Press/ Black Flag.

5. CND - Stuart was actively involved with CND in late fifties, but followed the more direct action approach adopted by the Committee of 100.

6 Angry Brigade. Makes the point that he was the only actual ‘anarchist’ amongst those put on trial, others claimed to be ‘ libertarian socialists’. In context of Angry Brigade, flags up right-wing paranoia [stimulated by events of 1968] directed against Harold Wilson and plans made for a right wing coup in the UK…. Also discuses the 1970-1974 Heath government’s attack on the working class. But with cut off date of 1975, does not carry theme on into Thatcher era, and way in which this has shaped New Labour.

All in all, a rattling good read.


Blogger Transpontine said...

I haven't read this, but have read earlier version 'The Christie File'. I think you have to take anything Christie says about the Situationists with a pinch of salt - in the old Black Flag Christie and Albert Meltzer were pretty sectarian about Situs, council communists etc. It is true the SI were a background influence rather the driving force of May 1968, but there is an abundance of evidence that those around the SI were actively involved in the events.


8:24 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I too have only read (a couple of times over the last 20 years) the earlier 'Christie File' but liked it a lot.

8:40 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

No one can say that Stuart Christie hasn't done his bit, but I don't find him very reliable when describing other people's politics. For a reasonably balanced view of the Situationists and 1968 see Andrew Hussey's 'The Game of War' (biography of Guy Debord), where he describes in detail the personal involvement of Debord and other situationists in the occupation of the Sorbonne in Paris 1968, a key moment in the events of May. We don't have to accept the myth that the Situationists inspired Paris '68, it was a much broader movement, but equally we don't have to accept Christie's view that they were just a bunch of theoreticians who didn't get their hands dirty.

5:28 pm  

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