Floodgates of Anarchy by Stuart Christie and Albert Meltzer [Book review]

There are a great many books on socialism and anarchism which are totally unreadable; many authors conceal their meaning as if they were writing in code to avoid persecution by the authorities, and maybe in a sense they are. When they write on marxism they claim to be giving a programme for the working class, written in language no worker could understand - and which he would reject if he did. In a sense such authors aim at a dictatorship by the educated and some claim that because the worker could not read or write in the language of the economists he cannot by himself obtain his liberation. When it comes to anarchism the tendency is to write in grand oratorical phrases (certainly among Spanish writers) which can be understood well enough, but have the merit of meaning precisely nothing.

The “classical” anarchist writers wrote simply enough about the problems of socialism, but there is very little one can think of written in the language of today about the problems of today to explain anarchism, its relevance and how it can be achieved.

This is done in Floodgates of Anarchy by Stuart Christie and Albert Meltzer (also appearing in Spanish with the title Anarquismo y lucha de clases – Anarchism and Class Struggle) which not only lucidly explains anarchism, but casts a clear light on other political views.

Many of the problems of revolution can be evaded by speaking in the language of economics or of idealism. By writing in the language of everyday life, they have produced a book eminently readable and one that carries a punch. The chapter on “Violence and Terrorism” should sweep away a lot of cobwebs – how many times do we hear “violence” denounced when it is clear that what is denounced is only “the violence the State deplores” and not the violence the State practises!

In the book Christie and Meltzer are sometimes witty, sometimes bitter, sometimes sarcastic – but they are always honest with their readers, hiding nothing behind obscure language, but ruthlessly analysing class society and giving an uncompromising anarchist answer. I have worked with both comrades in the Anarchist Black Cross since my release from prison (and knew Christie even before then) and I may be prejudiced… but I also know the forceful impact this book has had on many who have read nothing else except marxist mystification or libertarian flights of oratory, and been repelled by the former and not well satisfied by the latter. They answer too what one should ask of a writer: that he does not shrink in life from the views he puts on paper.

Miguel Garcia

Floodgates of Anarchy (Sphere Books 35p), by Stuart Christie and Albert Meltzer

From: Anarchy (second series) no14 [1974] p30.