Wednesday, 18 July 2018

The Rojava Revolution (extract)

Today marks the 82nd anniversary of the outbreak of the Spanish Revolution on 19 July 1936 - and the 6th anniversary of the outbreak of the Rojava Revolution in 2012, a libertarian communist revolution that is still challenging Ismamist fascism, domestic despotism and Western imperialism in an area that is today larger than Belgium, with a population of some 4,6-million. Here is an extract from my forthcoming book, In the Shadow of a Hurricane, detailing the dawn of that Revolution:

The insurrectionist Social Rebellion (SI) has been directly involved in fighting against the retro-fascist Daesh (Islamic State) terrorist organisation and defending the Rojava Revolution, the libertarian socialist experiment in directly-democratic horizontally-federated free councilism, in the three westernmost cantons of Rojava – the mountainous olive-growing Afrîn Canton to the west, and the flat, wheat- and cotton-growing contiguous cantons of Kobanî, and Cizîre (or Jazîre, which has a significant oil industry) – which declared their autonomy in 2013, and which has in part taken inspiration from the ideas of US libertarian socialist and theorist of free municipalism Murray Bookchin,  foregrounding ecology and putting women in charge, sharing all levels of counter-power with men, from city councils to armed forces. Bookchin’s ideas, along with those of autonomist Marxists like Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri and left communists like Rosa Luxemburg, influenced Abdullah Öcalan, incarcerated leader of the formerly Marxist-Leninist Kurdish People’s Party (PKK) in the Kurdish region of eastern Turkey, who had transformed his party into a “democratic confederalist” organisation, with a mirror-image Democratic Union Party (PYD) founded in the Western Kurdistan (Rojava) region of northern Syria in 2003. The PYD in Rojava drew on three inspirations for the new structures it helped set up: the “democratic confederalist” theories of its jailed leader Abdullah Öcalan; the principles of dual women-and-men delegates at all levels of counter-power that had been formulated by the PKK’s all-women’s army, the YAJK, during the guerrilla war in North Kurdistan (Turkey) from 1984; and the PKK’s DTK practice from 2007 of establishing popular city neighbourhood and village Councils in which all residents of the areas it had controlled in North Kurdistan could participate and wield decision-making powers that were then executed by recallable teams of twinned female and male delegates. In 2005, an umbrella women’s organisation, the Ishtar Union (YI), its name drawn from that of an ancient Mesopotamian goddess, was founded to fight patriarchy and build women’s institutions. In other words, the PYD drew on both revolutionary feminist counter-culture and directly-democratic councillist counter-power – defended by force of arms – for its inspirations. Knapp, Flach and Ayboga write in the first book-length study of the Rojava Revolution: “Within a matter of months, a functioning council system was in place in Rojava’s cities, large and small [the cantons of Afrîn, Kobanî, and Cizîre where the PYD has a strong presence], and in [Shahba Canton centred on the city of] Aleppo” which lies between Afrîn and Kobanî where the PYD was not dominant.  These early Councils were not ubitquitous, initially tending to be centred on Kurdish and Ezidi neighbourhoods and not Arab, Turkmen, Armenian, Syriac, Circassian and Chaldean ones, and with few operating in rural areas – but that would soon change.

As Knapp and his colleagues write, even though under the Ba’athist dictatorship of Bashar al-Assad the councils were illegal, by 2011, “the council system was sufficient to constitute a vibrant structure parallel to the state without being in direct conflict with it.” This pre-existing Council network would prove to be critical to establishing counter-power in Rojava. On 15 March 2011, the pro-liberation fervour of the Arab Spring infected Syrian society when protests over the jailing by police of two young graffiti artists snowballed into nationwide protests against Assad’s regime. In July, dissident veterans of the Syrian security forces, mostly of the majority ethnic Sunni Arabs, formed the Free Syrian Army (FSA) which drew financial support from the Gulf States and Turkey; civil war erupted across the country, but in Rojava, the Kurdish PYD was determined to stay out of the war which it knew would result in a high civilian death toll, widespread infrastructural damage, and probable military intervention by imperialist forces. This proved to be a prescient and prudent decision as, its hands tied with the FSA insurgency and a rapidly evolving war in which radical, Islamist-fascist forces such as Islamic State also emerged, the Syrian regime just didn’t bother with the illegal PYD-initiated Councils. Within weeks, armed popular Self-Protection Units (YXG) – initially created by youths often associated with the Revolutionary Youth Movement (TCŞ), a pre-war anti-Ba’athist force – had been formed, drawing support from the PYD. As a result, Rojava became a relatively peaceful refuge for civilans of diverse ethnicities fleeing the fighting: the population of Afrîn soared from 400,000 to 1,2-million, that of Kobanî from 200,000 to 400,000, and that of Cizîre to 1,37-million (giving the Rojava free zone an initial total population of 2,9-million, comfortably comparable to the Manchurian Heilongjiang free zone of 2-million). Meanwhile, the city neighbourhood and rural village Councils held illegal People’s Assemblies to determine what should be done: with the experience of two decades of the PYD having preached democratic confederalism among the peoples of Rojava, many assemblies adopted the model with relative ease and in August 2011, the PYD formed the People’s Council of West Kurdistan (MGRK) to promote the establishment of Councils across Rojava and to act as an umbrella body for the Councils which would send women and men as mandated, recallable delegates to it. Like the Makhnovist umbrella KBOP before it, the MGRK is a multipartisan, progressive, directly-democratic organ, “open to all peoples and all democratic parties,” in Knapp et al’s words. Elections were held across Rojava and 300 delegates were elected to the MGRK representing its contributing Councils; the Movement for a Democratic Society (Tev-Dem) consisting of 33 out of the 300 delegates (excluding Aleppo) was established to co-ordinate the MGRK’s work and those of the eight Commissions it created for Women (organised in their own right as Women’s Councils), Defence (the YXG, TCŞ youth units, and the all-volunteer Asayîş safety patrols), Economics (production, supply, public enterprises, and Co-operatives), Politics (external diplomacy, inter-party liaison, and municipal administration), Civil Society (employees and employers organised by trade/profession), Free Society (social assistance to youths, families of those killed, and other vulnerable groups), Justice (based on Peace Committees, with separate committees run by women which rule on sexist offences), and Ideology (education, media, culture, language, and art). With the exception of the Women’s Commission, which is exclusively for women, any resident of any ethnicity can join the Tev-Dem delegates on any commission whose work they are interested in, in order to contribute as they see best. As Knapp et all put it, “In the summer and fall of 2011, the state was still running – although poorly – the economy and public services [in Rojava]. Beleagured by the war, it could not handle everything. So the MGRK gradually filled in the gaps and the neighbourhood councils took on more tasks.” Although, they argue, even the PKK experience of Councils in North Kurdistan was insufficient preparation, as people increasingly turned to them for assistance in all areas of life, the Councils evolved, expanded and started to develop new capacities to meet fresh expectations and “they gradually became a real alternative to the state, especially in matters of justice, infrastructure, and security.” In October 2011, sixteen smaller Kurdish parties coalesced and formed the Kurdish National Council in Syria (EKNS) and on 11 July 2012, they signed a power-sharing agreement with the PYD, establishing the joint Supreme Kurdish Council (DKB) as a co-ordinating liaison body. Meanwhile, as Knapp et all write, “By the spring of 2012, hundreds of thousands of people were flocking to the neighbourhood meetings, eager to participate, in numbers greater than the venues could accommodate.” A de facto dual-power situation had been created, comparable to that of the parallel national government and revolutionary soviets in 1918 Ukraine.

The scene was set for a dramatic, full-blown revolution and over the night of 18-19 July 2012 – by serendipity on the 76th anniversary of the outbreak of the Spanish Revolution – the FSA launched assaults on Damascus and Aleppo; in a move intended to pre-empt the Turkey-backed FSA from establishing footholds in Rojava, the YXG seized control of the roads leading into Kobanî city (Ayn Al-Arab), a city of more than 100,000 residents, many of whom, as MGRK supporters, then seized pre-determined state institutions, took down the regime’s flags and ran up PYD flags. A mass of people gathered outside the local Syrian Army base and a delegation informed the soldiers that if they surrendered their arms, including heavy weaponry, their safety would be guaranteed; the soldiers surrendered without a fight, some returning home, and others crossing into Turkey to join the FSA. State buildings were taken over by the people and socialised for tasks of importance to the community; the death penalty was abolished (in this, the Rojavans have proven kinder than the Makhnovists, though this was possibly because their actual seizure of power was almost bloodless), the prisons were emptied of political prisoners, and the Asayîş protection patrols negotiated with neighbouring communities the fate of non-murderous criminals who were usually released under supervision to perform community service; only those convicted of murder, torture or terrorism would in future be jailed for up to 20 years, while those convicted of abusing women faced a minimum of six months behind bars. Former PKK commander Xebat Derik was influential in reorganising the YXG as the more professional People’s Protection Units (YPG) which was soon buttressed by many of the tens of thousands of Syrian female and male Kurds with extensive experience fighting the right-wing Turkish state in Northern Kurdistan in the 1990s-2000s. Knapp et all write that “many fighters with a Rojava background… joined the YPG… Over the next days, as the revolution spread from Kobanî to other cities and villages of West Kurdistan, they were welcomed joyously and the people threw rice at them.” In the city of Dêrîka Hemko (Dêrîk), in eastern Cizîre Canton, many of the regime’s military outposts were similarly bloodlessly disarmed and dispersed, arms were distributed to the people who formed new YPG and Asayîş units, and posters of Assad were torn down and replaced with PYD emblems; only in the town of Girziro was there some resistance, with the local battalion holding out for twelve days while helicopters bombed the revolutionaries, but after only a handful of deaths including the battalion’s commanding officer, the Girziro garrison also surrendered. In western Afrîn Canton, crowds surrounded all regime institutions and forced a peaceful surrender; a handful of security agents held out briefly, but after a two-hour gun-battle surrendered with only three wounded. The Revolution was successful and almost entirely bloodless in three unconnected zones of Rojava centred on the cities of Afrîn, Kobanî and Dêrîka Hemko. Not under PYD control were Shahba Canton centred on the city of Aleppo and the region around the city of Girê Spî between Kobanî and Cizîre Cantons, while government troops remained in the cities of Hesekê and Quamişlo in Cizîre, the latter of which has a population of which about 20% supported the regime; they were left unmolested and the city’s airport remained in government hands (being defensive rather than offensive in nature, the YPG usually fought only when attacked). Although initially the MGRK’s delegates were able to work across Shahba which lies between Afrîn and Kobanî because it was mostly in the hands of the FSA and of the Jabhat Al-Akrad militia associated with the YPG, Kobanî and Cizîre were in initially not linked because the intervening Girê Spî zone was not liberated territory; as a result, in practice, the MGRK though nominally a Rojava-wide body tended to initially operate mostly in zonal silos. Yet the Council system spread rapidly across Rojava in the wake of the Revolution, and proved so popular that two new layers were added to the system: a grassroots first-tier “Commune” layer that in the cities consisted of the residents of individual streets, around 30-200 households, and in the rural areas, entire villages, which sent mandated delegates – in women-and-men teams – to the second-tier Neighbourhood or Villages People’s Councils; and third-tier District People’s Councils (with their own Tev-Dem co-ordinating committees) covering entire cities and surrounding rural lands, to which the Neighbourhood or Villages People’s Council delegates reported and which in turn sent mandated delegates to the regional umbrella fourth-tier MGRK. Political parties and NGOs are only present at the upper two tiers, and in what might prove to be a fatal political error – echoing that of the CNT-FAI in the Spanish Revolution – despite its majority on the ground, the PYD is not proportionately but rather equally represented by the other parties, though this concession has won over many other ethnic parties. At each of the four tiers, where the capacity exists, Commissions were established to cover the eight main areas of revolutionary activity – and co-operate acoss cantons in horizontal networks, especially the Economics Commissions which continued setting up Co-operatives to run a democratised, ecologically-friendly, people-centred economy (this initiative had begun before the Revolution on 10 June 2012, when the Ishtar Union decided to establish Women’s Economic Commissions in each Rojavan city to promote the creation of Co-operatives). Each body meets at least once a week to debate the community’s most pressing issues, from food supplies to curbing domestic violence. In each centre, two government buildings were socialised and converted into a “People’s House” and a “Women’s House” that are guarded and open 24 hours a day for Commission meetings, other popular engagements, and for residents to raise any issue. In the liberated parts of Rojava, the District Peoples’ Council’s Politics Commissions set up “People’s Municipalities” by taking over the control of all of all municipal functions in the cities and countryside; these administrations were purged of regime sympathisers and reactionaries, and dual female-male leaderships and democratic decision-making over municipal development was submitted to District Peoples’ Councils for popular approval. District Peoples’ Councils were set up in Afrîn, in Kobanî, and in Serêkaniyê, Qamişlo, and Dêrika Hemko in Cizîre Canton. In the cities of Qamişlo and Hesekê in Cizîre, where the state remained in charge in some suburbs, the District Peoples’ Councils built new municipal buildings of their own. Taxation has been abolished, but fees of between US$1-2/month per household are levied by the People’s Muncipalities for water provision, rubbish removal and other services; poor families are exempted. The embargo imposed on liberated Rojava imposed by Turkish, Ba’athist, and rebel forces means few staff are employed and their pay is low, that despite perhaps 100,000 tons of wheat being produced in Kobanî and Cizîre Cantons each year, the majority that is not locally consumed cannot be sold abroad for foreign exchange, and although Cizîre produces significant quantities of oil, its MGRK Councils had to figure out a way to refine it into diesel in large quantities (this was previously done in state-controlled Homs) – but this had been achieved by the summer of 2013.

Members of the International Freedom Battalion, a mixed anarchist and communist foreign volunteer formation defending the Rojava Revolution, after the liberation of Tel Abayed from Islamic State.


Meeting Mandela

I met Nelson Mandela on several occasions, but unfortunately do not have scanned the photographs I shot of him in Durban in the 1990s, so here is a picture I shot of his prison cell on Robben Island in 2009. Its chilly austerity in the Cape winter is painfully obvious.

Perhaps because like most South Africans classified as "white" (though I am of mixed race), I did not grow up in the Chartrist tradition, perhaps because I preferred the radicalism of the Pan-Africanist Congress of Azania to the vague leftism of the African National Congress, or perhaps because I simply instinctively distrust the hagiography surrounding mainstream heroes, Nelson Mandela was never "my guy". But in this centenary of his birth, and having listened to Barack Obama's speech in Johannesburg yesterday, attempting to roll back the reactionary wave that is washing over the world, I thought it would be interesting to publish this section from my book A Taste of Bitter Almonds: Perdition and Promise in South Africa (BestRed, Cape Town, 2015) in which I recall an unintentionally funny meeting between Mandela and myself.


The funeral service of SACP stalwart Govan Mbeki – father of
President Thabo Mbeki – is winding down. Oom Gov, as he was
known, died in the city last week aged 91, and his remains were
borne here in a coffin on a howitzer carriage draped in the national
flag. The carriage was accompanied by the slow-marching National
Ceremonial Guard in their antiquated emerald-green uniforms,
carrying bolt-action rifles with their all-white paint jobs a little worn.
I’m now the Sunday Times’s Eastern Cape bureau chief – a grandiose
title for a job that involves running a tiny office on the roof of The Eastern
Cape Herald’s building in Port Elizabeth, together with 77-year-old
sports reporter Mel Channor and freelance photojournalist Marc
Pradervand – so I’m covering the funeral. The pomp and ceremony
are a far cry from the modest affair that Mbeki himself had envisaged
in the weed-ridden Zwide Cemetery, which has been cleaned up
by community volunteers for his burial. Instead it resembles a state
funeral, with flags across the city, which years ago named its main
road after Mbeki, flying at half-mast, and thousands of the poor and
the powerful – from township residents and MK veterans to former
Zambian president Kenneth Kaunda and Lesotho’s prime minister
Pakalitha Mosisili – paying their last respects.
At the funeral Grandson Karl Mbeki read out a letter from Walter
Sisulu, who apologised for not being able to attend the ceremony.
Sisulu, who is now 89, recalls in the letter how he and Mbeki first
met in the 1930s and that they had ‘many differences of opinion’,
citing as an example that during the Rivonia treason trial (which
resulted in them being jailed), Mbeki ‘insisted the national executive
[of the ANC] had approved the Mayibuye Plan’ – the famous plan to
wage an armed struggle. Sisulu describes both Mbeki and himself as
‘stubborn’ and says that the argument went on for years behind bars
on Robben Island. But in the letter, Sisulu says he felt only ‘pride and
great sadness’ at the passing of his ‘age-mate, comrade and friend’.
Karl Mbeki, who spoke on behalf of the Mbeki family, then read a
touching poem he had written about a visit to his grandfather on
Robben Island when he was 14, and the old man 72. The poem ends
by saying that despite Mbeki’s grim surroundings, ‘strength radiates
from behind his glasses’.
Former president Nelson Mandela, who is now 83 years old, paid
tribute to Mbeki, calling him ‘one of the truly great sons of Africa’
and ‘a man of magnificent character’ who was ‘a monument to the
intellectual strength of [the] struggle’. Mandela said he owed much
to Mbeki senior’s ‘decisive mind’. ‘We are not only bidding farewell
to an individual,’ he said. ‘We are losing a piece of ourselves.’ Deputy
President Jacob Zuma, speaking on behalf of the government, said
that ANC leaders ‘regarded Mbeki’s generation... as our fathers’ and
described his death as ‘the end of an era’. President Mbeki maintained
a steely calm throughout the proceedings.
Now that the ceremony is over, Mandela walks slowly down the
steps from the stage and, shadowed by his bodyguards, strolls along
the front row of invited guests who are mostly MK veterans, shaking
hands one by one and exchanging pleasantries. I’m hovering about,
just watching for any interesting interactions, when I somehow get
in the way and before I know it, Mandela is shaking my hand, his
rheumy eyes locking with mine briefly before he moves on. Then,
out of the blue, Eastern Cape Premier Makhenkesi Stofile, who is
not a small man, swoops down on the towering yet frail Mandela
and, grabbing him by the elbow, turns the surprised old man about
on his heels and steers him straight back towards me. Beaming with
enthusiasm, Stofile points at me and tells Mandela, ‘Do you know
who this is? This is Michael Schmidt of the Sunday Times!’
I’m as floored as Mandela is; he certainly looks a little bewildered
to be propelled into engaging with me. We both give embarrassed
smiles and, seeing that the introduction seems to require it, shake
hands again and ask after each other’s health, before the world’s
most famous elder statesman can make good his escape.


Saturday, 14 July 2018

Deepest Black: Defending the Anarchist Mass-line

By the end of this year I should be ready to publish Deepest Black: Defending the Anarchist Mass-line, a book centred on four case studies of anarchist-communist organisations that built mass popular organistions hundreds of thousands strong and defended them by force of arms: the Anarcho-Communist Group (GAK) of the Ukraine over 1918-1921, the Bulgarian Anarchist Communist Federation (FAKB) over 1919-1948, the Korean Anarchist Communist Federation (HMYG) over 1929-1945, and the Uruguayan Anarchist Federation (FAU) over 1956-1976. This is my draft introduction.

INTRODUCTION: On Anarchist-Communist Mass Organisations under Conditions of Armed Struggle

From the 19th Century stereotype of the anarchist as “a ragged, unwashed, long-haired, wild-eyed fiend, armed with smoking revolver and bomb,” to the 21st Century trope of the anarchist as a black-ski-masked, army-booted punk in torn denims, sporting multi-hued hair and hurling a Molotov cocktail, anarchism has always been presumed to be armed and dangerous – not to mention an individualistic revolt against the bourgeois order. But as innumerable studies have shown, although extreme individualists over the past 15 decades since its emergence as a distinct political trend did stretch the truth by identifying as anarchist, and the broad anarchist movement did include a virulent minority insurrectionist tendency – dedicated to precipitating the revolution though catalytic armed actions – by far the larger majority of anarchists built mass organisations of the oppressed classes, from rent-strike committees, neighbourhood assemblies, and resistance societies, to rank-and-file worker networks, directly-democratic consultative bodies, and huge syndicalist trade unions. Such mass movements developed dense networks of interlocking social and industrial initiatives that ran the gamut from theatre troupes, newspapers, and universities, to prisoner-support groups, collective farms, and city-administering councils. And because mass anarchist organisations – numbering in the tens of thousands to the millions – posed the most implacable assault on imperialist capitalism and all its hierarchy of social ills, such as sexism and racism; in other words, because it directly contested vertical bourgeois power with its own horizontal proletarian counter-power, these diverse and multi-layered movements at some point had to develop their own armed forces to defend their ranks and to take the fight to capital and the state. 

The topic of this book is thus mass anarchist organisations, often centred on a key initiating organisation, but rapidly diversified into a plurality of organisations, that formed their own armed forces. I have selected organisations that self-identified as “anarchist-communist” – a designation that is somewhat meaningless in that it has shifted over time, but which here is taken to mean the fundamental economics of “from each according to their ability, to each according to their need,” the political expression of which is Mikhail Bakunin’s statement that “liberty without socialism is privilege, injustice… [yet] socialism without liberty is slavery and brutality.” I have also selected four key struggles of the anarchist movement, only one of which is readily known by historians and anarchists themselves, that of Ukraine: I have included Bulgaria, Manchuria, and Uruguay. The movements in Ukraine and Manchuria managed to establish large-scale revolutionary projects encompassing millions of people and huge swathes of territory, and fought vanguard actions against imperialism, and bolshevism, while the movements in Bulgaria and Uruguay operated in sub-revolutionary conditions, lived “within the shell of the old” state, and fought rearguard actions against imperialism, and fascism. In terms of geographic spread, one example comes from the Far East, two from Eastern Europe, and one from Latin America – regions hosting significant anti-imperialist contestations – while the time period extends from the 1903 Macedonian Revolt, well beyond the defeat of the Spanish Revolution in 1939, to the rise of a fascist dictatorship in Argentina in 1976.

The kernel of this text originated in a pamphlet I wrote in 2008, which was published in English in Johannesburg, South Africa, as Bulgarian Anarchism Armed, and which the following year was more professionally published by comrades in São Paulo, Brazil, in Brazilian Portuguese. Originally intended as a series, it fell onto the back-burner as I threw my efforts into other anarchist initiatives, especially into researching and writing In the Shadow of a Hurricane, which has taken 18 years so far and which, when published, will be the most comprehensive overview in any language of anarchist movement history globally since the 1860s. So when the time came to update and complete the series, I had become aware of so much new information that had become available via key new academic papers, especially regarding the sorely understudied cases of Manchuria and Uruguay, that it made sense to consolidate the whole into a single book – and so to draw collective conclusions from all four of these fascinating examples of mass anarchism in action, establishing and defending the gains of a proletariat under its own free-associative, horizontally confederal self-management.


Friday, 6 July 2018

Internet & Ideology: Against the Nationalist Fragmentation of Cyberspace & Against “Astroturf Activism”

By Michael Schmidt, South Africa, September 2012

The Arab Spring redrew the battle-lines between over the control of information between the statist/capitalist elites and the popular classes – raising questions of increased restriction and surveillance, and of the limits of cyber-activism.
In some ways this battle is often mischaracterised as being a narrow debate between cool intellectual property technocrats and wild-eyed free-use pirates, or as being a political dispute between authoritarian regimes and free speech activists, with no wider relevance to society. 
But it is clear that what is at stake is the global ideology (and exploitative practice) of corporatist enclosure versus that of the creative commons; in other words, it is more even than a universalist human rights concern, but is rather an asymmetrical war between the parasitic and productive classes over a terrain of power/wealth-generation known as the knowledge economy.
A gathering of journalists, media development experts, and online activists (among others) at the Highway Africa media and technology conference in Grahamstown, South Africa, in September 2012 grappled with the paranoid responses of many states to the supposedly social media-driven Arab Spring, but failed to grasp the nettle of the class nature of the statist/capitalist threat.

Nationalist fragmentation in Russia?

One of the keynote speakers was young Alexey Sidorenko of Russian website Teplitsa and author of “New Media Tools for Digital Activists” who spoke about the sea-change that had taken place in Russian cyberspace before the Arab Spring. Before 2011, he said, the old state-controlled legacy media was being bypassed as an information source by the “free blogosphere,” citing the fact that the audience of the website had outgrown that of the leading TV station, Channel 1.
This reflected a shift in trust from the legacy media to the internet, especially among 12 to 34-year-olds, 96% of whom were connected today, making Russia the second-most connected European nation after Germany.
Before the Arab Spring, the Russian authorities, whether retread “communists,” robber barons, or neo-liberals, had viewed the internet with suspicion, but had largely restricted their assaults to the harassment of bloggers (largely by the hacking of their sites, or by swamping the sites with requests in order to stall them – DDoS attacks).
Worryingly, however, they had not only been covertly running “deep-packet inspection” (DPI) surveillance of online content, but had also begun overt prosecutions of internet “extremism” which, Sidorenko said, outlawed the dissemination of some 1,500 prohibited works, including classic 19th Century texts on Islam, or radical thinkers of socialism (including anarchists of course), or nationalism – “but which includes literary and oppositional works”.
In the Arab Spring era, although electoral fraud to the Russian national parliament, the Duma, had continued at similar levels to the 2008/9 period, internet-based evidence of this fraud had rocketed, with the result that sites such as Karta Narusheniy (Map of Violations) and 23 other anti-corruption sites became so popular that they were frozen by DDoS attacks, presumably originating from the state. 
Internet activists responded, however, by mirroring the websites’ content and in December 2011, a 23-year-old activist managed to mobilise demonstrations of tens of thousands of protestors against the cyber-attacks, protests which lasted well into May this year.
The state in turn responded with a three-pronged counter-attack: firstly, they put criminal libel – only decriminalised in 2011 – back on the statute books; secondly, they introduced the blacklisting of internet service-providers (ISPs) whose users posted content the censors found unacceptable; and lastly, they cynically foregrounded child protection as a major issue to be addressed online, creating the possibility that state agents by planting a single item of child porn on an oppositional site could threaten to shut down the entire ISP – and so forcing many ISPs to protect themselves by actively censoring user content.
Sidorenko said there were worrying signs at the international level too, where there were several proposals by the likes of Iran to create and police “national sovereignty in national internet sectors” – which, he feared, could “create isolated, hermetic net islands,” in other words, the replication across the world of the amputated model employed in Belarus or China currently.
“This will lead to an erosion of internet integrity and global interconnectedness, the result of a push by authoritarian regimes who will suppress free speech online as they do in traditional media. My question is how we as media activists can prevent this colonisation, this fragmentation, of the internet.” 
Sanctions against authoritarian regimes who embarked on online and mobile truncation would not work, however, he said, citing the case of the Belarus dictatorship, an ossified Stalinist regime, which had purchased surveillance software through a third party despite sanctions: “Sanctions can’t keep up with technological innovation.” 

Nationalist fragmentation in China

Sidorenko predicted that the big internet companies would readily kowtow to such proposals: we presumably all know about the “Google Wall of China,” whereby the internet giant struck a deal with the red corporatist state to restrict the socio-political functionality of the internet. But what are conditions like in China currently?
Where there is a will, there is a way, and journalists and activists in China have laboured in Kafkaesque conditions to work around the hermetic status of their cyber-island – where internet penetration stands at a population-proportionately whopping 38% (compared to 13% in Africa).
Professor Yuen Ying Chan, director of the Journalism and Media Studies Centre at the University of Hong Kong, sketched a similar picture of digital ascendancy as in Russia, with some online writers having more followers than the multi-million readership of the largest Chinese daily newspapers.
The authorities, apart from creating their own policed versions of Western social media such as Weibo (the “Chinese twitter”), had both human and mechanical censors which trawled Weibo and other internet content for outlawed content. 
Ironically, this data-mining was now being used by journalists and activists themselves. For example, Yuen said though the state had outlawed political reportage on rising “communist” leader Bo Xilai who was axed from his post, journalists used data-mining to map his business relationships in Hong Kong and further afield – because there is a loophole in the legislation on business reportage (and in “communist” China, the convergence between party power and business interests is intense, with the media sector being the third-largest tax revenue earner for the regime).
Still, the lesson is obvious: not only is a “hermetic island” very tough terrain for social, economic and political activists to operate in, but the exact same data-mining processes used by activists can and will be turned on activists themselves by the authorities to gather information sometimes deemed treasonable and punishable by death.
As Niels ten Oever, a fiery Dutch freedom of expression activist who has worked on projects in some very tough regions – Ethiopia, ex-Somalia, and Afghanistan – warned, social media has transformed us into “communications exhibitionists, standing naked at the window, exposing ourselves without knowing who is looking.” 

The Arab Spring & “Astroturf Activism”

Of course, on the rare occasion that it goes down to the wire, as it has in Syria, one wants the whole world to be watching as the sheer deluge of publicity offers some degree of protection or at least of validation of one’s war against the parasitic elite (not that class war is the entire Syrian story).
But, sub-Saharan African activists warned, that cut-and-paste social media solutions, even from the Arab Spring, might not work in other contexts.  Abiye Teklemariam, a Reuters institute fellow from Ethiopia, said an oft-repeated question of why there had been no echo of the Arab Spring in sub-Saharan Africa usually ignored the fact that all the North African regimes had been complacent before a Tunisian vegetable-seller set himself on fire, so similar uprisings could perhaps occur in the south; objective conditions in several southern dictatorships made it possible.
But, he warned, sub-Saharan political activists had often totally misunderstood the use of social media in North Africa as a tool to organise, quietly and for perhaps at least a decade before the uprisings – rather than as a tool to merely mobilise demonstrations in the short-term. In Egypt, for example, Facebook was only used to mobilise the first Tahrir Square protest; the authorities shut it down the next day; from then on, the people organised the protests on the ground.
“There was a perception of Facebook as a magic tool to create revolutions; [sub-Saharan African] activists started overpromising on this basis, and this led to a decline in the public’s trust in activists when they failed to deliver,” Taklemariam said.
“There has also been a rise of Astroturf activism. The original social media was linked through networks of trust, but governments and political parties started creating Astroturf groups and started calling actions, but people soon realised these groups were fake, which had the effect that mistrust started bleeding into the real groups.” 
I need to add that the failure of South African political activist groups to understand the necessity to prepare the groundwork by organising within poor communities for years – as the Zabalaza Anarchist Communist Front (ZACF) of South Africa has done – rather than relying on ersatz internet mobilisations was what lead to the embarrassing displays of Astroturf activism in attempts to mimic (without real grassroots organising) the Northern “Occupy” movements at the Johannesburg Stock Exchange and in Cape Town.
As in Russia, before the Arab Spring in Africa, statist repression was offline only; even if bloggers were targeted, they were targeted by physical assault, rather than by cyberwar. Earlier this year, I met young Egyptian blogger-dissident Kareem Amer and his girlfriend, Egyptian nude blogger-dissident Aliaa Maghda El-Mahdy. Amer said that it was ironic that, having been jailed for four years for blogging against the Mubarak regime, it was only after the regime was toppled that he and Aliaa had had been forced to flee into exile by the insecure conditions of the Arab Spring itself. So even within the Arab Spring countries, repression had merely shifted form.
Admire Mare, an activist, researcher and the director of the Zimbabwe Youth Empowerment and Information Dissemination Trust, who blogs at “Scribbles from the House of Stones,” also asked whether social media could be used for change in southern Africa as it had in Moldova, the Philippines, Indonesia, Iran and Spain – as well as North Africa and Syria: “Is such a revolution possible here?”
He said the battle-lines had been clearly drawn between the partisans of the “technology of surveillance and repression” and the “technology of freedom” – but he warned that social media can’t be automatically assumed to be a democratic space as it was “a profit-driven project,” vulnerable to hostile data-mining, and owned by digital elites: “We need to look at how activists can creatively appropriate this technology. Cut-and-paste models can’t be applied; we need to adapt to local contexts.”


Radio Freedom 2: Freeing the Zimbabwean Airwaves

Radio Freedom presented at Wits University's annual Radio Days Africa summit today, and this forms the station's second podcast: a 40-minute panel presentation by Radio Freedom's Taurai Mabhachi, Zimbabwean political analyst and free press activist Dr Dale McKinley, and Michael Schmidt of the Professional Journalists' Association. A video of the discussion is online here.


Saturday, 16 June 2018

Remembering First Insurrection of 1976-1977

The notorious Brigadier Theuns "Rooi Rus" Swanepoel

There are many things forgotten or deliberately obscured and distorted about the "Soweto Uprising of June 16 1976". For one thing, it was in fact far wider and longer process than its celebration today suggests: it was a nationwide anti-apartheid insurrection over 1975-1977. For another, the spark that initiated it was not, as usually claimed, a schoolchildren's protest against being instructed in Afrikaans (though that was drawn into the mix later), but by working class Soweto residents in January protesting the dramatic increase in rates and services charges imposed by the Western Services Council after the all-white Johannesburg City Council ended its R2-million/year subsidy to it. Then, the students joining the protest in June were not high school pupils but  junior school kids - the protest picked up by the elder kids later. Next, Brigadier Theunis "Rooi Rus" Swanepoel who lead the riot cops against the students in a brutal and murderous fashion was a notorious police torturer who is alleged to have personally executed UN Secretary General Dag Hammarskjold after the latter survived his 1961 air-crash in Zaire in 1998. Also, the Insurrection has been misappropriated in memory as an ANC-inspired uprising, but to the extent that any ideology was dominant at that time, it was Black Consciousness not Charterism. Lastly, according to protest leader Selby Semela, the student leader usually upheld as the hero of the hour, Tietso Mashinini, was actually stoned by fellow students for asking them to back down in the face of police fire. 

Here are some harrowing reminiscences of two of my friends of the fateful day:

Izak Khomo: “I was in Britain on the 16th June 1976, Cardiff to be precise. At 21:00hrs after coming back from the pub and having bought a pasty and chips I sat before a television which had been liberated by a Capetonian friend Gordon, or rather he inherited the TV which had been initially liberated by his girlfriend Heather and thereby inherited by me. All same I was watching the News when what comes up us a report of South African Police having gunned down protesting Black students. Then the footage followed; it was shot from within the police lines. I cried, I was on my own and I immediately knew that things will never be the same again.”

Eric Miyeni was 10 years old in 1976 (as was I) and he recalled for me hearing a woman recently tell how her world had been turned upside down as a young girl on that day: “Her elder sister used to hand her clothes down to her, and she had her eye on this turquoise dress; she was actually jealous of her sister for that dress. Then one day she made a plan with the boy down the street, Thabane with the dreamy eyes, to meet at the corner of Kruis and Commissioner at twelve the next day. It was her first date, and her sister said 'here' and held out the turquoise dress. So she was wearing that dress in the taxi, her face pressed against the window and a smile on her face. She got to Kruis and Commissioner and waited. Twelve, then one, and no sign of Thabane. By four o'clock it was plain he wasn't coming so she took a taxi home and this time her face was sad. When she arrived she heard some boys talking; Thabane had been shot. So she never had that date; and that's how it was; some people were going on a date and it just never happened.”


Monday, 11 June 2018

Working in bars and Boko Haram territory

 Michael Schmidt, Melville, South Africa, 2017 © Noel Coston

I wrote my last two published books in bars primarily because the task of a researcher and writer can be a bit lonely and that is offset by the geselligheid of the hospitality ecosystem. It's established a longstanding relationship with the cleaners, chefs, waiters and waitresses and bar-staff who make such places tick - and now I am planning on perhaps setting up my own juke joint. Rock 'n roll has its roots in the multiracial slave-class of Haiti, and it borrowed the term "juke" from the Mandinka of Mali and it means "unrighteous" which in the context of colonialism can be taken to mean unsubmitted to the West's missionary-colonisers. 

Besides working in bars, I love working in the field and and managed a project for radio and print journalists in Mali in 2008 on reporting on women in agriculture in Africa, in the capital Bamako and in the provincial town of Segou (below) which is half-way down the incredibly broad Niger River to the bend off which Timbuktu lies. Sadly I was unable to go to that wonderful medieval city and ancient centre of African science and literature that was so badly damaged by the Islamo-fascist Ansar al Dine terror group only a few years later, but I found the Tuareg and other Malians to be wonderfully gentle people, deeply infused with a love for the music that has justifiably made them famous. After my field work in Bangladesh among the survivors of the Rohingya Genocide this year, the next countries I hope to work in are Niger, Chad, Nigeria and Cameroon, in Boko Haram territory, training Kanuri-speaking journalists on their operational safety.

Michael Schmidt, Segou, Mali, 2008 © Birgit Schwarz


Sunday, 10 June 2018

New Editions of Cartography

I consider myself an African Makhnovist and “Manchurian” yet I have come a long way in my understanding of the international, organised, revolutionary anarchist movement over the past thirteen years since I first provided a historical sketch of in the pamphlet Five Waves: A Brief Global History of Revolutionary Anarchist Communist Mass Organisational Theory & Practice, Zabalaza Books, Durban, South Africa, 2005. 

A book tour of Canada in 2009 lead to me being approached to write a revised and more detailed and expanded version of the text – combined with parts of my talk which I’d called (De)constructing Counter-power – which was published as Cartographie de l’anarchisme révolutionnaire, translated into French by Alexandre Sánchez, Lux Éditeur, Montreal, Canada, 2012. I remain very proud that that book, or really pocket-book as it weighed in at a mere 35,163 words – forms part of a Lux series entitled Instinct de Liberté alongside great contemporary libertarian socialist theorists such as Noam Chomsky, David Graeber, John Holloway, and Howard Zinn, as well as classic anarchist writers such as my beloved Errico Malatesta, Voltairine de Cleyre and Elisée Reclus. 

That text was polished and slightly updated for its English-language edition in 2013, and I have since revised it and updated it significantly. In particular, I have developed a more refined explanation for the class betrayals of the anarcho-syndicalist House of the World Worker (COM) in Mexico and of the National Confederation of Labour (CNT) in the Mexican and Spanish Revolutions respectively, and have detailed the crucial uncompromised movements of the Manchurian and Ukrainian Revolutions, especially the Korean Anarchist Communist Federation (HMGY) and the Revolutionary Insurgent Army of the Ukraine (RPAU). I have also distilled my now in-depth knowledge of the most important post-WWII anarchist mass movement, that of the Uruguayan Anarchist Federation (FAU) and its associated initiatives which built a union federation 400,000 strong by 1972, and have updated the text by sketching the Rojava Revolution currently underway in Western Kurdistan. 

I have also altered my periodisation to add in a Sixth Wave, by ending the Fourth with the collapse of brown-fascist Spain in 1975, and adding a “short Fifth” that ends with the collapse of the red-fascist USSR in 1991, and have significantly revised the footnotes to guide readers to the most incisive, honest – and critical – academic and movement analyses of the anarchist trajectory and track-record as the world’s most holistic and revolutionary libertarian communist praxis. The result is a text that now – though still a pocketbook – stands at 65,895 words. And now I am ready to have the revised English text published as Cartography of Revolutionary Anarchism – with, I’m sure you’ll agree, a stunning new glossy black on matt black cover by Dutch-South African designer Angela Meuwsen. 

The book is set to be published both as an e-book and in hard copy. The important thing to me is that the revised “Six Waves” English-language edition will be translated into Arabic and Spanish by some wonderful, top-drawer translators from Algeria and Chile respectively, the prior edition intended for the post-“Arab Spring” Maghreb and Mashriq, and the latter to the post-colonial Hispanophone world which is so embattled against neoliberalism and Bolivarist populism. In turn, the Arab world and intersecting Muslim community in particular desperately need an infusion of the practical ideas of proletarian revolutionary anarchist praxis in order to achieve the democratic-horizontalist promise of the Arab Spring.


Tuesday, 29 May 2018

The Return of the Red-Headed Step-child

Introduction: The Return of the Red-headed Step-child

Selby Semela was an 18-year-old school pupil and treasurer of the Soweto Students
Representative Council (SSRC) on June 16, 1976. Forced into exile after being shot
and wounded by a black policeman, he co-wrote this analysis aged about 21, and
the strength of thought that shines through it shows him to have been an exceptional
young man. He is believed to currently reside in New York City, but we have not
been able to interview him, or to discover anything about his co-authors.
Nevertheless, what you hold in you hands is a unique slice of South African history:
an analysis of the watershed ‘76 Revolt by a leading black participant in that insurrection
- from a rare libertarian socialist perspective. The shotgun wedding in which
South Africa was forcibly welded together out of two British colonies and two Boer
republics in 1910 produced grimly racialised authoritarian political offspring: White
Labourism and African Nationalism.
The real multiracial working class alternative of libertarian socialism (in its mass-based
form, revolutionary unionism and parallel revolutionary neighbourhood organisations)
was treated by both the Rand Lord oligarchy that grew rich off and the black
chieftain / merchant class that founded the South African Native National Congress
(SANNC, ancestor of the African National Congress, ANC) in 1912 as a red-headed
step-child. From the founding of a local section of the revolutionary unionist
Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) in 1910, to the establishment of the Industrial
Workers of Africa (IWA) along similar lines in 1917, the step-child flexed its muscles
and served notice on the old order.
But libertarian socialism was crushed in the 1920s in a vice between the devil of
para-fascist Afrikaner nationalism, and the sea of “native republic” Stalinism. It fell
into a coma from which it only surfaced briefly in the late 1950s / early 1960s with
the establishment of a tiny libertarian Marxist current, the Movement for a
Democracy of Content (MDC), which played a key role in the successful Alexandra
bus boycott.
Then the 1960 Sharpeville Massacre and the subsequent banning of the nationalist
“liberation” movements provided the pretext for the authoritarians of both camps to
embark on a war with racist overtones that peaked in 1976/1977 and again in 1985-
1987 (remember: the ANC only fully deracialised in 1985). While libertarian socialist tendencies were present in civic, street and trade union organising in the heat of
the conflict, it was only in the dying days of racial-capitalist apartheid and its pseudo-
opposition that a specific anarchist movement emerged from underground, culminating
in the Zabalaza Anarchist Communist Federation (ZACF) of today, a working
class organisation that agitates among the poor for a rupture, a severence of ties
between the exploited and the parasitic classes that rule us. The red-headed stepchild
had awoken once more!
One of the pseudo-opposition’s main aims in the war was to cynically use rank-andfile
worker and poor community militancy to build the profile of what Semela and
company call “the old spinster/huckster organisations: the African National Congress
(ANC), the Communist Party of South Africa (CPSA), and the Pan Africanist
Congress (PAC).”
Today, these hoary old pseudo-liberators have gone further than the old Afrikaner
elite ever could to help the capitalist state overhaul its image, while maintaining iron
discipline over the blood and bread of the working class. The “democratic” emperor
and his phalanx of “corporate guerrillas” now wear Armani suits over their T-shirts of
that dead Stalinist, Ché Guevara. Capitalist class rule, aided by reworked race classification,
remains intact.
This is the process of deception, disintegration and decay the authors describe here
with regard to Semela’s own organisation back in the ‘70s, the SSRC - and the Black
Consciousness Movement (BCM). Both were, briefly, legitimately used by the
oppressed to throw off their chains. Both are here castigated for their later pretensions
to “leadership” of the struggle, for their “symbiotic” relationship with capitalist
power, and for their substitution of the vanguard party-form for the masses themselves.
That is the primary strength of this pamphlet.
Its main weakness is that while Semela & Co. make a distinctly libertarian socialist
(albeit not anarchist communist) critique, they fail to suggest clear socio-organisational
solutions to the problems they highlight. Hailing working class spontaneity,
they are so shy of “bureaucracy”, having had their fingers burnt by the BCM and
SSRC, that they do not dare spell out what plural and organic forms working class
organisation should take to ensure the continued political autonomy, self-sustainability
and anti-capitalist content of that militancy.
The working class, peasantry and poor need to create their own organisations in
their own image, completely divorced from the compromising models of both the ruling
class and its pseudo-opposition.
These must be organs of decentralised power (not the refusal of power - or the concentration of power), run along direct-democratic lines in which every participant is a
decision-maker, all empowered individuals strengthened by community.
These organs, as much as the “revolution” itself, are the “school of the oppressed”
which train them to create egalitarian grassroots communism in the shell of capital,
even as it is being gutted. These ideas, and not self-appointed leadership cadres,
are what shall lead a future South(ern) African Revolution, the final overthrow of parasitic
class rule and profiteering that our ANC/SACP/PAC/BCM “liberators” have forced to retreat far over our horizon.
True communism is only possible from below, when the vast majority of the underclasses
resolve en masse to end our slavery in our own right, in our own name and
by our own organs of communal power. The social revolution will only be carried out
by the “wretched of the earth”. The time has come for the return of the red-headed
step-child. With the hammer of revolutionary working class unity in her fist, she will
smash capital and the state.

- Michael Schmidt, Zabalaza Anarchist Communist Federation (ZACF), Southern Africa, 2005


Han vill ge ny syn på anarkismen

Michael Schmidt på Sergels torg i Stockholm. Schmidt var i Sverige för att delta i en konferens arrangerad av det globala nätverket Icorn.

Foto: Olle Eriksson

Sydafrika har en lång historia av anarkism och syndikalism, men denna har haft liten eller ingen plats i den västliga anarkistiska historieskrivningen. Michael Schmidt, anarkist, journalist och författare från Sydafrika, vill ändra på det. För Arbetaren berättar han om kommande bokprojekt, rörelser i södra Afrika och sitt arbete med nätverket Icorn (Arbetaren, Sverige, 23 Maj 2012)

Rent allmänt tycker Michael att anarkister har misslyckats med att definiera vad anarkism är för något vilket bidrar till en bild av den som kaotisk, den reduceras till att vara enbart anti-stat och någonting som allt möjligt kan samlas in under.

– Det har alltid funnits en frihetlig sida i mänsklighetens historia men det betyder inte att det alltid funnits en anarkistisk rörelse, säger Michael Schmidt som daterar anarkismens födelse till 1860-talet då Michael Bakunin och hans kamrater levde och verkade. 

Förutom teori tar Black Flame även upp en mängd personer, grupper och organisationer som man anser har arbetat anarkistiskt genom historien. Kritiken mot boken har handlat om att dess definitioner varit alldeles för snäva och att författarna å ena sidan inkluderar personer och grupper som inte så självklart uppfattas av andra – eller ens definierat sig själva – som anarkistiska och å andra sidan exkluderar de många aktivister och grupper som själva kallar sig anarkistiska.

I kommande Global Fire är ambitionen att teckna en sammanhängande historia av anarkistisk organisering över hela världen från 1860-talet fram till i dag.

– Vi måste korrigera bilden av att anarkismens historia uteslutande handlar om Europa och USA. Mycket har faktiskt hänt i Latinamerika och andra delar av världen. De första fackföreningarna som bildades i Kina och Egypten var anarkistiska och den första fackföreningen för färgade i Sydafrika var anarkistisk. I arbetet med boken har vi bland annat studerat rörelser i Vietnam, Filipinerna, Uruguay, Algeriet, Kenya och Afghanistan. Många länder där man kanske inte tror att det funnits anarkistisk organisering, säger Michael Schmidt som med sitt författarskap fått ledarna för Cosatu, ett sydafrikanskt fackförbund med nästan två miljoner medlemmar, att börja läsa Bakunin.

– På en kongress för något år sedan citerade Cosatus ordförande ur Black Flame och menade att man måste börja ta intryck från anarkismens och syndikalismens idéer, säger Michael Schmidt.

 Anledningen till denna nydaning tror han beror på att de mest öppensinnade inom förbundet förstått att det gamla Sovjetparadigmet är dött. De alternativ som tidigare presenterats har kommit från landets kommunistiska parti som följer en kinesisk modell av nyliberalism och fascistisk korporativism.

– Sedan måste man komma ihåg Sydafrikas speciella historia med apartheidsystemets fall på 1990-talet. Dagens politiska elit har en ganska färsk illegal och revolutionär bakgrund, vilket antagligen gör dem något öppnare för sådana här idéer, säger Michael Schmidt.

Under 1900-talet har det funnits ett flertal anarkistiska och syndikalistiska organisationer i Sydafrika. I dag finns det organiserade syndikalister i Cape Town som arbetar med vinplantagearbetare, där man bland annat samarbetat med svenska SAC Syndikalisterna när det gäller Systembolagets affärer med sydafrikanska vinproducenter. 

Michael Schmidt, som varit med att bilda den anarkistiska kamporganisationen Zabalaza, berättar att man har bra samarbeten med anarkister i bland annat Zwaziland och Zimbabwe. Genom informationsspridning försöker man stödja respektive länders kamp för demokrati.

De senaste årens händelser i Nordafrika ger skäl att vara optimistisk och kanske hoppas på en anarkistisk massrörelse där, tror  Michael Schmidt.

– Den dagen då vi kommit dithän att anarkister dödas och fängslas och vi upptäcker att vissa av våra kamrater är polisspioner, då vet vi att vi är på rätt väg för då utmanar vi verkligen makten.


Hurricane Update

A quick update on the closing phases of writing my major work, In the Shadow of a Hurricane - on which I am now in my 18th year, having worked in 14 languages:


* USA: an intensive rewrite, especially focusing on the interwar and post-war period,based on a great new book by Chris Cornell on the topic, which uniquely helps articulate the lineages of a movement that is usually disarticulated by poor historiography (look up my book review Linking the Unchained);
* Imperial and Soviet Russia and its colonies: a total overhaul and rewrite from the Imperial to Soviet eras, with an in-depth and uniquely holistic analysis of the Ukrainian Revolution (including Odessa and western Ukraine), and the Russian Revolution in Siberia (Pereira, Heath and others), especially - based on my own translation of a ground-breaking new work by Chop & Liman on the city of Berdyansk under Makhnovist control - on a holistic study of the RPAU based largely on Makhno, Arshinov, Voline, Avrich, Darch, Savchenko, Azarov, Archibald, and Dubrovik into its exile formations in Poland, Latvia, Siberia and Romania, plus Anne Applebaum's great analysis of the Gulag Archipelago from its Okrana/Chekist roots to its dissolution;
* Georgia: a brand new section on the Georgian Revolution of 1905-1907 based largely on the study by Polonsky, fleshed out by Heath;
* Finland and the Baltics: integrating minority materials into the Imperial and Soviet eras;
* Poland: balancing the studies of Chwedoruk, Nagorsky, and Marek, with a focus especially on interwar anarcho-syndicalism - defeating the convention that Polish syndicalism was tainted by nationalism - and the anti-Nazi resistance and the Warsaw Ghetto and Uprising;
* Armenia and Azerbaijan: integrating new material on the 1890s-1900s Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaksutiun) and its attempt on the life of the sultan in Alloul et al, plus new material on the anarchist insurrectionists in the area;
* Croatia: a rewrite based on my own translation of a new Croatian book by Pejic on the movement up until WWII;
* Yugoslavia: interrogating Leeman's study of post-war Yugoslav "syndicalism";
* Bohemia / Czechoslovakia: a significant rewrite based on my own translation of a new Czech book by Tomak et al on the subject until 1923 with a focus on how the anarchists self-liquidated with the formation of the state of Czechoslovakia;
* Italy: integrating Pernicone's great study of the early movement from its origins in the 1860s to the early 1900s, focusing on how it evolved from insurrectionism to anarcho-syndicalism, and linking it to Sacchetti's sketch of the anti-Fascist resistance from the 1920s into the immediate post-WWII era;
* Greece etc: new material on the new insurrectonist movement in all its international aspects (links to Italy, Chile, Mexico, Rojava, etc), based on movement statement and news reports;
* Scandinavia: updating the material on Denmark based on Daniell Marcussen's new book until the early 1920s with a stress on the anarchist's relations with the Bolsheviks;
* Post-Revolutionary Spain and the exile movement: based on Peirats, and Ealham in particular, this traces the denouement of the revolutionary, reformist and counter-revolutionary factions in the MLE and CNT-Interior until the movement's post-Franco reconstruction - and schisms;
* Indonesia: integrating a brand-new Russian study by Damier et al plus other works by Stromquist, and Brown, on the East Indies anarchist movement in the colonial era with a focus on the national liberation struggle into the post-WWII period;
* South Asia: updating the story of the Ghadar Party in particular, reliant primarily on Ramnath's brilliant studies, stretching from 1913 into the post-independence era - with new materials on today's Indian Anarchist Federation and Bangladesh Anarcho-Syndicalist Federation;
* Korea and Manchuria: very extensive overhaul and total rewrite based on my own translation of Emilio Crisi's excellent new Spanish-language study (the very first academic study!) of the almost unknown anarchist Manchurian Revolution of 1929-1932 plus Dongyoun Hwang's great work on the interplay between anarchism and national liberation in Korea, with an analysis reaching through the post-WWII period up to the present day;
* Japan: integrating analyses by Tzusuki, Crump, Reichschauer and others on the post-WWII movement in particular;
* Costa Rica: integrating Thomas' new work on the pre-WWII movement;
* Jamaica and the Caribbean: integrating Montgomery Stone's 1975 analysis of state-driven "self-management";
* Mexico: balancing the works of Hart and Caulfield to better understand the Mexican Revolution, plus Alberola etc on the post-WWII movement (still looking out for a new Spanish-language book by Aguilar on the topic however);
* Peru: completing Hirsch's study of how the movement grappled directly with the race question, integrating Aymara and Quechua militants into its organisations (and their own);
* Uruguay: a very extensive and detailed rewrite, especially on the 1958-1976 period of the FAU - one of the most significant anarchist mass organisations of the post-WWII era - based on my own translation of Ricardo Ramos Rugai's brilliant book-length study plus work by Colombo, Mechoso, and others;
* Algeria, Morocco & Tunisia: a rewrite of the post-WWII era and the MLNA especially in the national liberation struggle in Algeria until its destruction in 1957, based on Porter, Mohamed, and others; 
* The 2016 implosion of the IWA: based on factional movement reports and analyses; and
* Conclusion: a very brief summing up of my major "discoveries" over 18 years of researching anarchist movement history.


* Bolivia: polishing up, especially on the FOL and its feminine vanguard, the FOF of Petronilla Infantes, from 1927-1964, based on Dibbets et al (have to translate this from hard-copy Spanish);
* Argentina: polishing up, with a focus on how the resistance societies like SROPC initiated anarcho-syndicalist unions on the docks and at sea, based on de Laforcard;
* Spanish Revolution: total overhaul and rewrite of this, the 20th Century's most complex and historically contested Revolution, based on the most penetrating and critical organisational studies of Chris Ealham, Augustin Guillamon, Abel Paz, Jose Peirats, and Stuart Christie, taking a hard line against the de facto counter-revolutionaries of the higher committees of the CNT-FAI; and 
* Rojava Revolution: integrating the best new book-length study of the subject by Knapp et a with the positions of today's anarchist insurrectionists fighting ISIS in Rojava.