The first, “Direct Action”, by Emile Pouget is a polemic in favour of a tactic dear to today’s bin-tax blockaders, street reclaimers and squatters. Pouget was an influential anarchist journalist in France at the turn of 20th century. As an anarcho-syndicalist Pouget was firmly wedded to class struggle anarchism and radical trade unionism.
For Pouget, direct action is the most effective and appropriate tactic available to radical workers for two reasons. Firstly direct action, such as strike action or sabotage (eg ‘go slows’) is a good way of winning struggles and yielding material gains such as increased pay or a shorter working week. Secondly, when people take direct action it builds up their confidence, especially as such action doesn’t require intermediaries like politicians or union officials. This creates a culture of self-organisation and “puts paid to the age of miracles - miracles from heaven and miracles from the state”. Pouget sees direct action as the basis of any truly revolutionary politics because it teaches self-reliance and encourages us to cast aside the mind-forged manacles that keep us subservient.
The second pamphlet “A Day Mournful and Overcast” was first published in Spain in 1937. It is an account of the experiences of an anarchist militiaman and is a fierce and moving declaration of faith in the importance of freedom and the capability of ordinary people to transform their own lives and history. Spain in the 1930’s was a living laboratory of freedom and revolt with millions of people putting anarchist ideas into practice.
However, by 1937 the anarchist militias were caught in the jaws of counter-revolution, fighting the fascists at the front while their efforts were been undermined by Stalinist machinations at the rear. The pamphlet discusses these momentous events and gives us a feel for the passions and motivations that lay behind these great upheavals.
Both of these pamphlets are interesting, although Pouget’s is perhaps aimed at those who have already developed an interest in anarchist history while the “A Day…” is more accessible and provides a wonderful introduction to the spirit of anarchism.
From: Workers Solidarity No78 (November 2003).