Two of our titles have just come back from the printers. Both have bright yellow covers but there’s no connection between them otherwise except for being fascinating texts! Warp n Weft is now blessed with a thicker card cover that we will use on all our larger size books from now on. SCUM has a spine which our previous pocket book version of it did not! But more importantly we haven’t made any spelling mistakes in the title this time! Men eh! Sadly we had to increase the cover price of SCUM to £1.50, Warp n Weft remains at its £10 benefit price.
Smash The System, Punk anarchism as a Culture of Resistance. 434 pages of essays from all over the world about how anarchist punk has influenced and inspired resistance in many varied struggles. Punk and anarchism have been intertwined since punk first blasted into the public consciousness some 45 years ago, and, while the relationship is complicated (and not ubiquitous), anarchism has been identified as punk’s ‘primary political companion’ But, close investigation of the connections between anarchism and punk has been scant – it’s either taken-for-granted, lurks in the background of other topics of analysis, or is ignored completely. We’re going to change that, with the publication of four books about various aspects of the punk/anarchism relationship, this is the first! ISBN 9781914567131 £7
There are only a couple of new titles so far this month but hopefully some of our most exciting titles ever will be ready to print later this month! In the meantime we have just released The Herbal Yearbook from the Bristol group Herbalists Without Borders. Its 184 pages of info, advice, pictures, recipes and everything you could possibly want to know about DIY Herbalism. It is UK based but still of use and interest to all. The book has a £12 cover price as it is the new main source of income for the group and we encourage you to buy it direct from them whenever possible.
Heathcote Williams wrote some fine poetry (!) about whales and cars that made a serious impression on my younger 1980’s self and yet one of his works was never finished or published. This was The Anarchist Jesus a secular appreciation of the anarchist politics of the character known as Jesus. No, I’ve not lost my marbles, read it and then see what you think! It’s an A6 pocket book with a £3 cover price.
There is an anarchist group in Romania that I have started working with and This is not a Love Song is the first of their pamphlets that we have published. It’s a look at the anarchist feminist movement that rose up in Romania afer the fall of communism. It’s a slim pocket pamphlet priced at £1.50.
There are 11 titles fress from the printers currently on pallets crossing Europe on their way to our Active Distribution outlets and AK Press. They should be available from the 1st of January 2022 if not before.
Seven new pocket books include reprints in a smaller form of Defending Veganism, Defending Animal Rights and the ever popular Witches and Midwives and Nurses. The Boy Scouts Guide to the Situationist International; Paris and London 1968 by Tom Vague was one of our A5 self printed pamphlets we last published in 2008, its back in pocket book mode. Society Without The State by Ronald Sampson was last published by Housmans and the PPU in 1980 and has become a bit of a collectors item. Now in A6 pocket book form this is a passionate 1960’s text arguing the case for anarchism and pacifism, undoubtedly dated but it’s also a powerful and prescient work.
We continue the re-issuing of Dysophia pamphlets with their discussion document Anarchy and Polyamory also in pocketbook size. Biocentric Anarchy is another discussion text that was distributed free by the author a few years ago and has been much copied since. In the spirit of that idea we have reissued the text at a £1 cover price from which if we are lucky we might just cover our costs.
New from Active is a text by a young London based author who wants to question the nature of our relationship with pets from the perspective of anti-speciesm. The full title is “Radical Companionship, Rejecting Pethood and Embracing our Multispecies World by Aiyana”. It’s a challenging work, one that we are pleased to publish.
Anarchism in North East England 1882-1992 [review]
This is a big book, but don’t let that put you off, it’s a great piece of history from below. The work that has gone into it is animated by the Archivist’s passion for the subject. They are intent on giving ‘a voice to the voiceless’, to anarchists who are often written out of history (even what passes for anarchist history!): ‘for the first time, this history records what they were actually speaking about at open air meetings, what they were saying during lectures, and what they wereactually writing about at the time, hence long sections of the book are
given over to them.’ [p10]
The results of this patient search are presented chronologically. There are familiar stories, like the Clousden Hill commune (1895 onwards), but also some completely new ones (a curate lecturing on ‘Anarchism: what is it? A Christian view’ in South Shields in 1900) [p44]. The author is no neutral compiler, but shares their reactions with us. After quoting a 1919 Catholic Church ruling which ends up declaring ‘to be a catholic and a socialist at the same time is an impossibility’ comes ‘What more could I possibly add to that? Other than… HOLY SHIT!’ [p95-6]
Tom Brown, the Tyneside-born syndicalist who spent most of his working life down south, appears regularly in the first half of the book. His pieces are always worth reading, but I’ll just quote one from 1966, a time of high working-class self-confidence, about the need to push for revolutionary social change: ‘We have won not only a larger slice of the national cake for less toil, but greater protection, more job control, more respect. There are even places where the old order is reversed, and the foremen walk in fear of the men. But all this is not enough. The next big step is overdue. […] Now we have won this round, what next?’ [p180-1] Hopefully one effect of the book will be for historians to rummage around and see if they can find his missing memoirs, or more notes and manuscripts of his. [note 1, below]
The second half of the book covers the tumultuous period of ‘the Thatcher years and the Conservative Party’s relentless psychotic endeavours against, and near destruction of, the working class.’ [p222] This is within living memory, and the Archivist takes a safety-first approach of only using initials unless a writer is well-known. This is not just about security: ‘Individual personalities go unexplored, priority given to what was being said, not the speaker.’ [p10]
Quotes from publications in the Tyneside Anarchist Archive let us hear our comrades: ‘Will it make any difference to the fat London capitalist who owns 33 Tesco stores whether you steal a mince pie? If you are hungry and the capitalist isn’t then that pie doesn’t belong to him it belongs to you.’ [p247 Quoting Treason no.1, November 1981, from Sunderland]. As the Archivist says: ‘Beautiful in its naive simplicity but remember this was written in 1981 by young punks from Gateshead housing estates, embracing and endeavouring to articulate their flowering rebellion – not learned anarchist philosophers.’ The book is full of treasures like this, or Big Toot steering young punks away from using swastikas: ‘It might be to shock but the swastika stands for oppression and not punk. The NF are a bunch of heartless morons. They are worse than the police or the Thatcher regime.’ [note 2]
Some participants have even been rounded up to look back (anonymously!) I liked the one about pirate broadcasting in Sunderland: ‘Our first test run was from Tunstall Hills in Sunderland just outside the town. […]
The tape recorder was started and we left the scene, keeping a watch with binoculars from the next hill, the rest us got in a car and drove with a radio on to see how far we were transmitting, fuck, it was miles.’ [p266] Some light is also shone on the history of the Archive itself, which might one day turn up in a book on anarchist libraries.
This is a wide-ranging book, from Chopwell miners to Class War hunt sabs, and doesn’t cut history down to just the best or most inspiring bits. [note 3] Obviously it’s a must-read for anyone interested in anarchism in the North East. But it’s also a useful contribution to the history of anarchism in Britain, with accounts of Tyneside Class War and the generally co-operative attitudes of local anarchists. They were happy to work together with ‘a genuine feeling of having common aims and interests. This is exemplified most in a local strike at “HFW Plastics” in Gateshead. We are seen by others as “the Anarchists”, and are a recognised force. We were instrumental in helping to form a support group for the strikers which is non-hierarchical in form.’ [p368]
Which is not to say that there were no conflicts! The patronising response by Freedom to protests about racism obviously still rankles: ‘A deemed racist article in the paper sparked much protest, in particular that of a “black” member of the local Newcastle group, and the patronising responses from Freedom in their letters pages, even criticising the spelling in some of the protest letters, a fact that personally infuriates. Many of the older generation of anarchists on Tyneside actively boycotted Freedom after this debacle.’ [note 163 on p470]. I found it staggering: TJ’s description of Freedom’s response as ‘a ridiculing, sneering contempt’ [p363] sums it up.
Maybe the thing that stays with me most is the question of ‘where do we look for anarchists?’ I hope we’re a long way past the time when books written by the ‘big names’ were supposed to tell us what anarchists of the time were thinking. There was a whole world of people writing, thinking and talking that made up the anarchist movement. Some of them will have left only the thinnest of paper trails but been important for all that. But when the Archivist says ‘sometimes the anarchists are so entrenched within their own community, […] that they can, at times, barely venture out of it’ [p152] you realise there’s at least as many who won’t have left a paper trail at all. How do we hear from them? The Tyneside Anarchist Archive have done a great job in recording at least some voices of the voiceless.
1, See ‘The missing memoirs of Tom Brown, Tyneside syndicalist’ https://www.katesharpleylibrary.net/4xgzk7. There’s a reference in note 245 to ‘notes for a projected autobiography [… ] found after his death in “rudimentary form”‘ which makes me wonder what else is out there.
2, Page 243, leaflet and article in local punk band Total Chaos’s No Comment zine, no.1, late 1981. ‘Big Toot, a loveable human being who was taken from us too early, was instrumental in the continuation of the local punk scene throughout most of the 1980s’. [note 453 on page 486]
3, See reviews by Tom Jennings and Dave Francis at
Coming next week are two new Active titles just in time to remember the hundreth anniversary of the Kronstadt Rebellion. The first is Ida Metts much praised book The Kronstadt Commune the second is two essays about Kronstadt we have collected together as a booklet called Remember Kronstadt One Hundred Years On.
We have also reissued the great little pamphlet about the Bonnot gang that we did many years ago with Shortfuse Press as an A6 pocket booklet. Appel was also shortfuse pamphlet and we we have “borrowed” their design added a critiique and shrunk it to an A6 size! Street Art and Revolution is now a pocket book too. Crass, No Adult and Emma Goldman’s autobiography Living My Life in 3 Volumes are all still full size books.
June 2021 sees three of the largest books Active has ever published released on the unsuspecting world!
Anarchism in North East England 1882- 1992 is a 500 odd page in depth look at the activities of anarchists in the Tyneside area of the UK. Including everything from the visits and speeches by Kropotkin to the impromptu demos against the Tories Poll Tax. A fascinating and inspirational read for anyone involved in anarchism in the UK over the last 100 years or less!
A Primer on Anarchist Geography is Simon Springer’s collection of writings on all things “From Neoliberal Damnationto Total Liberation”. It is a mighty work of over 570 pages and well worth the tenner it’s priced at.
Three of our good sellers from the past two decades have been republished as A6 booklets. Anarchy & Alcohol from the Crimethinc crew, You’re Already Dead by the band CRASS and Brian Dominicks Animal Liberation & Social Revolution.
All the above should be available from the Active shop by the beginning of July.