Terrorists and Terrorism by Edward Hyams eBook £1.50 (see eBookshelf)

Anarchist novelist, viticulturalist, garden writer, political scientist and historian, Edward Hyams* (1910-1975) argues that despite government and mainstream media homilies to the contrary, sustained political terrorism is often effective and no more nor less morally reprehensible than any other form of warfare. Where is the rationale for the absolute denial of military force to all but those “who happen to be the holders of political power?” Beginning with the the 19th century “theorists” of terrorism— Bakunin, Johann Most, Max Stirner and especially Nechayev, who created for himself the persona that was to become a literary archetype of the revolutionary fanatic (he was the model for Verkhovensky in Dostoevsky’s The Possessed) — Hyams moves on to discuss, more generally, some of the “practitioners” such as the Carbonari, the Serbian “Black Hand,” the Narodnaya Volya and even the Mafia before concentrating his argument on the two most successful terrorist campaigns of modern times — those which established the independent states of Israel and Ireland. In 1918 it was not Lloyd-George’s sympathy with Irish and Welsh nationalist aspirations but the brilliant guerrilla tactics of Michael Collins which forced the British to rethink “the Irish question”. Similarly though the moderates took over the reins of power quickly enough, “it was the terrorists who gave Israel to the Jews.” Hyams concludes that terrorism will be with us so long as there are laws because: it is in law that social injustice is embodied and by law that it is sanctioned. Terrorism thus becomes nothing less than a “cathartic fever” endemic in civilization, which can only be eliminated by “pre-emptive, sustained counter-terrorism” of the leviathan state — which may be infinitely more brutal and oppressive than any band of brigands. A lucid, tough-minded, well-argued and disturbing book.

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* Hyams other works include: Killing No Murder. A study of assasination as a political means; Pierre-Joseph Proudhon: His Revolutionary Life, Mind and Works; The Grapevine in England; A History of Gardens and Gardening; and English Cottage Gardens (in which he describes how between 1760 and 1867 the English ruling class stole seven milion acres of common land, the property and livelihood of the common people of England, which he called a “gigantic crime, by far the grandest larceny in England’s history”.
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In The Struggle for Equality. The History of the Anarchist Red Cross by Boris Yelensky eBook £1.50 (see eBookshelf)

A fascinating first-hand account of the activists of the Anarchist Red Cross (later the Anarchist Black Cross — ABC) in the Russian revolutionary movement from 1905 through 1917, and the subsequent Leninist/Stalinist repression.

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The book contains a tribute to Yelensky from fellow Russian revolutionary M. Beresin: “When I arrived in the United States in 1911, a fugitive from a hard-labor sentence in Siberia, my first thought was to devise some means of extending aid to our comrades who were languishing in Russian prisons. I promptly proceeded to have a noticed inserted in the Russian language newspapers requesting any co-workers in our ideological movement who were located in Philadelphia… to come to a meeting. Among those who attended that gathering was Yelensky. Our first step was the … organization of the “Anarchist Red Cross” … Yelensky is one of the most ardent and dynamic workers in our Movement; he has not for a single moment deviated from his ideological course; He has not allowed himself to become assimilated… by the American Bourgeois spirit. This intransigence of his… was responsible for the fact that in time he became to be recognized as more than a person. He became a veritable `institution’“

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IN THE SOCIAL STORM. Memoirs of the Russian Revolution by Boris Yelensky. eBook £1.50 (see eBookshelf)

Boris Yelensky’s memoir charts the history of the Russian anarchist movement in the early years of the 20th Century. Told in prosaic yet detailed fashion, unadorned by romanticism, it is his personal account of the turbulent period leading up to — and after — the successful take-over of the Russian monarchy by Lenin and the Bolsheviks. He provides an alternative historical viewpoint as to the Russian anarchist experience of that momentous period.

In the Social Storm: Memoirs of the Russian Revolution is not only a critique of the Bolshevik modus operandi and why they willingly sacrificed the one great opportunity to implement the socialist ideals fleshed out over the previous half century or more. It is more than an analysis of the Bolshevik mindset. Yelensky illustrates how the anarchist movement and men such as Nestor Makhno played a vital role in the social forces and the massive political and social upheaval of the period.

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Yelensky (Russia, 1889 — USA, 1974) describes how the anarchists living and struggling within this maelstrom of change did their utmost to implement their ideas through the example of their everyday lives. The experiments in actual anarchist projects of which Yelensky was a part, and which he describes in detail, were attempts to redefine social organizations to make them fair and liberating to everyone involved. They had a short window of opportunity to show the positive aspects of their philosophy, one that promised a viable alternative social and industrial organization to the repressive, totalitarian, brutal state dictatorship of the Bolsheviks — and to that of the capitalists who, likewise, used a centralized authoritarian government system disguised as “democracy” to fulfill similar ends.

For anarchists and political researchers Yelensky’s book is a revealing account of anarchism in action. A first-hand description of the lives and the efforts of those who went to Russia in good faith, believing positive changes were at hand. Instead, they faced the grim reality there was no new utopia awaiting them; Russia had fallen into the hands of a cabal of ruthless Marxist ideologues who, with their dreaded cheka terror squads, were hell-bent on acquiring total power over one of the largest empires on earth — and, in the process, murdering anyone who stood in the way of their ambitions.

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ANARCHO-SYNDICALISM Theory and Practice by Rudolf Rocker. Translated by Ray E. Chase, Preface by Noam Chomsky, Introduction by Nicolas Walter. eBook £1.50 (see eBookshelf)

“The publication of Rudolf Rocker’s Anarcho-Syndicalism, after far too many years, is an event of much importance for people who are concerned with problems of liberty and justice. Speaking personally, I became acquainted with Rocker’s publications in the early years of the Second World War, in anarchist book stores and offices in New York City, and came upon the present work on the dusty shelves of a university library, unknown and unread, a few years later. I found it an inspiration then, and have turned back to it many times in the years since. I felt at once, and still feel, that Rocker was pointing the way to a much better world, one that is within our grasp, one that may well be the only alternative to the ‘universal catastrophe’ towards which ‘we are driving on under full sail’, as he saw on the eve of the Second World War. This catastrophe will be beyond the limits he could then imagine, as states have acquired the capacity to obliterate human society, a capacity that they will exercise if the current social order evolves along its present paths.

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THE RUSSIAN ANARCHISTS by Paul Avrich eBook £1.50 (see eBookshelf)

Paul Avrich’s The Russian Anarchists records the history and ideas of Russian anarchism from the 19th century through to its brutal suppression by the Bolsheviks in the 1920s. All the major personalities are discussed in detail: Bakunin, Kropotkin, Baron, Rogdaev, Chernyi, Makhno, Volin, Shapiro, Maksimov. The well-documented study includes comprehensive end notes, a chronology and an annotated bibliography. Part I focuses on the events and personalities leading up to 1905, while part II deals with the events following on from February 1917 to the Bolsheviks’ final suppression of the Russian anarchists in the early 1920s. Analysing the role of the anarchist movement in post-revolutionary period, Avrich traces its relations with the Bolsheviks and shows that most of them foresaw that the Marxist “dictatorship of the proletariat” would replace the tyranny of the tsars with the tyranny of commissars.

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