Tag: radical papers

Why we think radical papers are still relevant

Rebel City is a paper produced by a coalition of London based anarchists and it’s a publication we offer our full support to, up to and including helping out with the re-design and layout! Here’s a downloadable PDF of the latest edition of the paper.

Why, as fairly prolific bloggers, do we think that printed radical papers such as Rebel City, the South Essex Stirrer and others are still important? It’s simply because that with the best will in the world, the readers of most political blogs tend to be a self selecting audience. People are only going to seek out our blogs if they already have an interest in the kind of radical politics we engage in. While it may sound harsh, all too often we may be preaching to the converted. The whole point of what we’re trying to achieve is to change the world and we’re not going to do that by remaining in a self referential bubble in a corner of the Internet!

If you get the distribution right, radical papers are a way of reaching out to a new audience. That’s not just handing them out on the bigger protests but also in the town centres and going door-to-door. Back in our Independent Working Class Association (IWCA) days, we did a lot of door-to-door paper distribution, not just in Thurrock but also helping out other branches in Blackbird Leys and London during the local elections. The IWCA saw papers as an important way of reaching out to the communities they operated in and they were a proven success in building a new audience for their politics.

Not only that, we shouldn’t assume that everyone has access to the Internet. There’s a digital divide and in an age of austerity and stagnating pay, there’s a growing number of people who simply cannot afford to stay connected and drop off the Internet. They’re precisely the audience we need to be communicating with if we’re going to build a movement for radical change.

Also, there’s the discipline of the work involved in producing and distributing a paper. Now we know writing for a blog can be hard work and we’re not dismissing that in any way. What we’re saying is that the work involved in designing, artworking, organising the printing, planning and implementing the physical distribution of a paper gives a group a useful set of skills and when the finished product is well received by the punters, a welcome boost to morale.

The good news is that we’re detecting a revival of interest in producing physical, printed publications. Okay, the younger folk producing them call them ‘zines and they don’t bear a lot of resemblance to printed copies of the Stirrer but the point is that they’re physical manifestations of peoples’ politics. It’s an indication that an individual or a group cares enough about their beliefs to put in the work of writing, laying out, printing and distributing a publication. As distribution involves face to face encounters with potential readers, it’s bringing back the kind of engagement we used to have with people before the emergence of the Internet. After a dip, we think that radical papers and ‘zines are slowly but surely on their way back and that can only be a good thing.


We really don’t want to be the only radical media outfit in Essex

When we were involved in the initial stages of setting up the Southend Radical Fair last year, one of our aims was to encourage other groups and people to set up radical blogs and papers. While the fair certainly did help in the process of bringing a variety of groups together, as yet, no new radical blogs or papers have emerged.

Since the fair, we have re-configured our blogs (see the links in the side bar) so each one has a fairly specific purpose. The South Essex Stirrer does what it says on the tin – it stirs things up from a class struggle / community activist perspective. The Estuary Alternative also does what it says on the tin – it promotes grassroots projects aimed at building a new world in the decaying shell of the one we currently endure. Then there’s this blog, On Uncertain Ground which as the title suggests, is us thinking out loud on a range of issues. Sometimes, as was the case with a few posts we put up on gender identity, we stray from uncertain ground into a minefield and have to beat a retreat back to a place where we’re a bit surer of what we’re dealing with!

While some observers may see these three blogs and the associated papers covering all possible angles when it comes to radicalism in Essex, we don’t see it that way at all. We’re not empire builders and we would be more than happy to see other blogs (and even papers) springing up across the region we cover. In fact, the ultimate aim is to make our blogs redundant as they’re replaced with a range of more localised and specialised ones carrying a radical and progressive message. The blogs and papers we produce are not an end in themselves – they’re a means to an end which is building a movement for radical change.

As we’ve stated before, our politics are class struggle politics underpinned by a base in community activism with some green and animal rights issues thrown in for good measure. That’s more than enough to be getting on with! At the moment, there are issues we do not cover. One is gender identity which is generating rows that in our view are having a toxic and divisive impact on our movement. Our brief foray into attempting to cover the issues caused by these divisions led to our fingers getting burnt, hence our withdrawal from the fray. However, if anyone in Essex feels that they want to blog about the politics of gender identity (to add to what Transpire are already doing with their blog), please feel free to do so…

To conclude, our blogs and papers coming under the collective umbrella of South Essex Media are a means to an end and a stop gap. If we’re still blogging on the same three platforms and bringing out the same two papers in five years time, we’ll have failed in our aim of encouraging other radical blogs and papers to spring up across the county. If you want to set up a blog and possibly a paper promoting your vision, feel free to get on with it. As far as we’re concerned, the more there are, the merrier it will be!

Stirrer special edition back from the printer

For a while we’ve needed something we can hand out at anarchist/radical bookfairs, on protests and to any people interested in what we’re doing to explain what we’re about. Sure we can give them a printed copy of the Stirrer but that’s generally us commenting on local issues from our political perspective rather than explaining where we’re coming from as activists. To resolve this, we’ve produced a special edition of the Stirrer on two sides of a sheet of A4 which explains our roots in class struggle and community activism, arguing that to achieve real change, you have to build from the grassroots upwards. It’s fairly generic in its content so it’s a resource we can use for the rest of this year – or until we run out:)

As ever, we don’t have a massive budget and can’t afford long print runs so we’re making the paper available as a downloadable PDF from here.

This is the full text of the paper…

Class struggle from the grassroots


Surveying the political, economic and social landscape, the curse ‘may you live in interesting times’ has never seemed more apt. The last few years have seen a series of events that have caught most commentators off guard as the world becomes more unpredictable and volatile by the day. The political, economic and social system we live under is in crisis. We’re in a situation where a united anarchist movement should be putting a fractured, divided ruling class on the ropes while pressing the case for fundamental change and the overthrow of a system that’s reached its use by date. It has to be said there’s some work to do before this can be realised…


Real change will only come from the grassroots upwards. If you don’t build and facilitate a movement for change from the level of the neighbourhood and also the workplace and college upwards, nothing is going to change. Taking to the streets for militant, angry protests (yes…there was a time before the People’s Assembly!) has a role to play but if there isn’t a firm base at the level of the estate and the neighbourhood, there’s not going to be a meaningful movement for change. This is what the South Essex Stirrer and our partners at Basildon & Southend Housing Action (BASHA) strive to achieve – building a base for change in our neighbourhoods and working outwards and upwards from there.

Lessons learned on the estates

As to how building from the grassroots happens, sorry folks, there’s no definitive template you can apply. From our experience in working with BASHA, every estate is different and has it’s own issues and characters. It’s a case of getting out on the doorstep in your neighbourhood and talking to people to find out what they want. It’s also a case of learning from the experiences of others and applying them to the situation you’re facing while bearing in mind the ultimate aim of what you want to achieve.

The vast majority of people are apolitical and generally don’t think about politics until it’s coming close to voting day. That’s if they’re intending to vote – when it comes to local elections, the participation rate tends to hover round the 30% mark. Also, when you start talking to people on the doorstep, pinning them down to a particular part of the political spectrum isn’t easy. Someone may be quite radical on some issues but reactionary on others – you just have to use your own political nous to decide if there’s a basis for a dialogue in these situations.

We found that doorstepping isn’t the time or place to adopt a holier than thou attitude with people. Listening to someone in order to understand where they’re coming from without interrupting or hectoring them earned us enough respect to start a dialogue. Sure, we come across a few hardened racists and it soon became clear we’d be wasting our time pursing the argument as well as compromising our own security. In those situations, we terminated the exchange and moved on while making a mental note of where the bigots lived!

Get stuck in!

When it comes to gaining respect, one thing that works is getting your hands dirty by getting stuck in on activities such as a neighbourhood clean up or building a community garden. Whether it’s organising it, facilitating the residents in running it or going along and learning some lessons from well organised residents who know what they’re doing will depend on the situation you face on the ground. The thing is getting stuck in and being seen to do so…

It’s a case of what needs to be done and what works given the circumstances and the resources to hand. Our experiences are determined by the demographic we’re dealing with and the political colour of the local authority area we’re working in. The issues we deal with and the solutions we offer are going to differ from those facing activists in a London borough such as Newham. However, the experiences of activists operating in all areas, regardless of the different circumstances they encounter, need to be shared to put all of our struggles into a broader, unifying context.


We’re living through some pretty unpredictable and potentially volatile times and the anarchist movement can’t afford to indulge in navel gazing. One example of this is the obsessive focus on various aspects of identity politics and the call out culture that accompanies it. We recognise that identity politics originated as a necessary response to oppressions experienced by certain groups – for the record we’re fully behind any group fighting for justice.

Where identity politics has been going wrong in our view is rather than aggregating those experiences of oppression into an all encompassing movement to achieve justice, there’s been a tendency for too much of it to slip into divisive, competing victimhoods. Thankfully, there are some strands of thinking on intersectionality that encourage linking together to fight oppression – these tendencies will get our backing without reservation. Basically, respect the difference and unite to fight the oppression!


The current situation could be the best opportunity we’ve had in a generation to start bringing about radical change. If we don’t get our act together, we’re facing the direst threat there’s been for many generations. We’re not just talking about the threat to us as activists but also to our class, regardless of ethnicity, creed or gender, who as we’ve already seen with social cleansing from London and the Grenfell Tower disaster, face a direct threat to their existence. A number of middle class activists may not see this threat – those at the sharp end being forced out of the capital or having to constantly look over their shoulder in fear of the immigration squads or a racist attack live with it every moment of their lives. We want to find ways of moving things forward in what’s a challenging and difficult period so we can all realise our aim of overthrowing the crap we have to put up with and bring in a saner, just, equitable and sustainable society.

Some thoughts on the Net, social media & activism

The aim of this piece is to start a discussion about the pros and cons of the use of the Net and social media in activism. This has been prompted by concerns about an over reliance on digital communication and a decline in face to face, real life interactions which are still essential in building the sense of loyalty and comradeship needed in activism. It has also been prompted by security concerns where there have been examples of the authorities shutting down actions before they even start because they’ve been promoted on social media instead of built by word of mouth. This is not a definitive piece and is open to revision and expansion as the discussion about the points raised in it proceeds…

The positives…

The Net and social media are tools which if used with due consideration, are incredibly useful. With your critical faculties switched on, the Net can prove to be an incredibly useful research tool. Given the amount of information, analysis and comment that’s out there on the Net, obviously developing the skill of sifting through everything to find what you need to read is a vital pre-requisite. If these skills are developed, then rather than trudging off to a distant library in the vain hope that you might find something useful to your research or writing, it’s right there on your laptop.

The Net also enables people who for various reasons such as impaired mobility cannot be out on the streets, to be able to participate and make a contribution to the overall struggle. Not everyone can or wants to be out on the streets but they will have skills they can contribute ranging from research and writing through to IT, web and graphics that are facilitated by the Net.

Social media plays a vital role in facilitating online communities that help people marginalised for their sexuality, gender identification, etc. to support and empower each other. This is something that’s outside of our lived and political experience so if we’re being honest, it’s not something we’re really qualified to write about in any depth. However, we would welcome contributions from people with experience in this area…

Blogging means every activist can become their own publisher. Which is great but there’s one important caveat – as we know full well from our past experience with the Heckler and our current experience with the Stirrer, you end up preaching to the converted. If we’re being brutally honest, a lot of what we do on the Net takes place in a self selecting bubble of reasonably like minded people. This is where the old school methods of reaching the unconverted such as papers, street meetings and the like have to come into play if we are ever going to make an impact.

Is social media a help or a liability when it comes to organising, protests, actions, etc.?

To be honest, there’s no definitive answer to this question… If we’re talking about a bog standard point A to point B march with the route and arrangement pre-agreed with the authorities, then social media is probably a useful tool in building such an event. Again, with community events such as clean ups, get together, etc., social media has a role in getting the word out. However, with a community orientated event, it’s worth bearing in mind that not everyone is on the Net, particularly the elderly, so if you want to involve the whole community, other methods of promoting an event such as posters, flyers, etc. are pretty much essential.

What about building and organising actions that may well fall foul of the law? Is there a role for social media in this or is it something we should ditch?

Let’s take the example of (some of) the antifascist mobilisation in opposition to the Britain First and EDL marches that took place in central London on April 1st 2017. One anti-fascist group announced the meet up point (in front of the national Gallery) for comrades intending to block the fascists two days in advance on a public Facebook page. The police must have thought Christmas had come early – a feeling enhanced on the day when the aforementioned anti-fascists obligingly identified themselves by turning up dressed in the customary black outfits complete with hoodies! Needless to say, the police were on their case for pretty much the whole day and the Britain First and EDL marches were not blocked. It has to be said that in this instance, it’s not just the indiscriminate use of social media that’s to blame – tactical naïvety from young, inexperienced comrades also played a part in the failure to achieve their stated objective.

The above example was flagged up to show that relying on social media can stymie any action that may be seen by the authorities as as contravening the law. With anything like this, mobilisation has to be done by word of mouth, (secure) telephone trees and encrypted communications if the Net is being used. The point is that even in the age of seemingly ubiquitous social media, there are instances where comrades do still organise militant actions such as occupations using word of mouth and only use the Net to publicise what they’re doing once the action is underway. Depending on the action or protest, social media can be a useful tool in helping to mobilise people with the obvious caveat that if the action is likely to be deemed beyond the pale by the authorities, then extreme caution is needed.

Re-visiting old school methods

The Net has only been around for a relatively short time – events, protests and actions were being conceived and executed for a long, long time before that. It may be worth re-visiting some of the tactics used in the pre-Net era and placing more emphasis on them in an age of ubiquitous social media.

Obviously, there’s a security gain to be made from being more circumspect in the use of social media in building support for a protest…there are other benefits as well to be considered… Old school methods such as street paper sales, street meetings, venue meetings, telephone trees, etc. all involved face to face or voice to voice contact. In the case of street paper sales and meetings, face to face contact had unpredictable outcomes sometimes involving hostility but with sufficient security, risks were minimised or eliminated.

What was important was the intensity of the discussions in these situations – an immersive political experience that cannot be replicated online. If you won someone over with your argument and kept that contact going with a series of contact meetings, a sense of loyalty was built up which ensured commitment to the event that was being built and onto the longer political project. With the best will, in the world, that cannot be replicated by an exchange in an online discussion forum.

Telling the world about what you’ve done on a protest

There are no hard and fast rules about how a protest or action should be documented. We’ve been on housing protests where people have been fairly relaxed about photography and filming and haven’t bothered masking up to avoid being identified by the police. Obviously if someone is stickering a door or setting fire to an effigy then a photo that identifies them doing so which subsequently goes out on social media isn’t exactly welcome. Having said that, most of the photographers we’ve met on housing actions know what the boundaries are and will not put incriminating material out on social media or sell it to a picture library.

When it comes to actions that the authorities deem to be beyond the pale (an ever expanding category these days), or anti-fascist actions then the trend of recording everything for posterity needs to be quashed. We’re sure the naïve people who do this mean no ill but such digital documentation can end up compromising someone’s security if it gets out on the Net – once it’s out, it’s out and there’s no controlling what happens to it. By all means if police brutality is witnessed, record it for the (tactical) purposes of suing them. If the fascists attack, if you can, defend and resist… If you can’t but don’t mind staying in the vicinity, photograph or film the fascists for future intelligence purposes… Whatever you do, DON’T photograph or film us fighting back!

After the episode with the fascists in Dover in January of 2016, there was a heck of a lot of imagery and footage from people ostensibly on our side going up on social media that should have been archived well away from the public gaze and only brought out if needed to defend one of our own. Bragging about stuff after the event can end up as a massive security breach with not just the police taking an interest but the far right as well… If someone is determined enough, they can gather a fair bit of information from people posting on Facebook and other forms of social media – this applies to police and fascists alike…

When setting up an anti-fascist Facebook page, we’ve seen a few where it’s been all too easy to find out the real life person behind that page within a matter of minutes – seriously! Keyboard stuff doesn’t just have keyboard consequences, some of which can be pretty nasty in their own right – it can have serious real life consequences if people aren’t ultra cautious about their online security…

The generational divide

In activist circles there’s an undeniable generational split between a younger generation who’ve had the Net and social media as an integral part of their lives from the time they were born and older activists who can remember a time when we managed to build and organise events using old school, analogue methods. We’re not psychologists but is seems that having the Net and social media as an integral part of your life from birth onwards does result in people perceiving things in a different way to those of us with experience of analogue ways of doing things. We’re willing to be corrected on this but we get the impression that for younger people, the Net and social media is life whereas for older people, generally it’s just another tool to be used as and when appropriate.

We’re not meaning to be judgemental about the way younger activists use the Net and social media – when something becomes an integral part of your life, it’s difficult to avoid it shaping the way you see, think and act. All we’re asking for is the exercise of a certain degree of caution depending on the circumstances and a recognition that old school analogue methods can still play a useful role.


If we’re being honest, when it comes to assessing the impact of the Net and social media on activism, the jury is still out. As a research and publishing tool, it has made a massive and largely positive contribution although it has to be said that as well as digital forms of communication, there’s still a role for papers, flyers and posters in getting the message across.

As a means of building and organising events, actions and protests, the picture is considerably more mixed with a fair bit more in the way of negatives. It’s got to the point where we feel that it’s time for people to take a step back from the screen and think seriously about what the Net and social media can and can’t contribute to activism and ask if there are more effective ways of organising and building actions and events.

As stated at the beginning, this piece is far away from being a definitive statement on what the Net and social media can and can’t contribute to activism. What we want to do is get a healthy debate going and start the process of using the digital tools we have at our disposal in a more considered and security conscious way.