BARF, the recently-formed Bath-based anarchist group, put on an Introduction to Anarchism event in on Saturday November 24th, with speakers and discussions about anarchism, with around 25 people attending, and ample amounts of free tea and cake.
The event started with a short introduction explaining the take on anarchism that BARF promotes - essentially that it is against oppression, discrimination and capitalism; that people are generally decent and responsible and can determine what they do without need for authority and that power corrupts, even temporary power.
The next section was a history lesson, with a talk on the Peterloo Massacre of 1819, where a huge anti-poverty and pro-democracy rally took place and was broken up by police, with 18 deaths and hundreds injured, and the eventual implications of movements and demonstrations where people fought for their rights on today's society.
Anarchism in the workplace was the next topic, with the speaker knocking dead the suggestion that anarchists tend to shy away from work with the statement "The best place to contest capitalism is the workplace". We live in a so-called democracy, but at work it is often a dictatorship, and the workplace that anarchists wish to see is very different. Unions are now bureaucratic structures and their aim is not anti-capitalist - the struggle needs to move beyond what unions can achieve. A big part of anarchism is direct action - taking action yourself, rather than waiting for unions to do it, and in the workplace, solidarity with other workers and looking out for them is the key to defending rights at work. An example of an anarchist workplace is occupied factories in Argentina, where factories facing closing down are now run by the workers. Working hours are now down and wages are up, and excess profit was used to build a co-operative hospital.
The final talk of the day was on anarchism and violence. Anarchists are often portrayed as violent, however the is a large pacifist contingent within the anarchist movement. There is no guarantee that you can avoid damage to things other than the target during violent actions, and the assassination of a leader simply results in a new leader. The debate about violence in anarchy masks the other aspects e.g. workplace organising and community projects. Violence may be necessary in some cases, especially if there was a revolution. Millions die in wars and of starvation and in the workplace from being over-worked - all of which are symptoms of capitalism, which poses the question: Is it more violent to break a window than to fight a war? However, the means have to be consistent with the ends and violent means could result in violent ends. In order for the people to take over, we would have to face police and military - violence may be necessary, a large movement in solidarity could make it easier.
The second half of the event was taken up with discussions over tea, including overcoming barriers to anarchism and supporting those affected by the legal system.
For more information on BARF's take on anarchism, see the very first on by guest blog series "Politcal Perspectives", written by BARF - What is Anarchism?
BARF's website is here: https://network23.org/barf/
For more information on the Peterloo Massacre, On This Deity has a short article, and for a more detailed account check out http://www.peterloomassacre.org/history.html