* *


With the collapse of various state capitalist regimes at the end of the nineteen-eighties, the very marginal position occupied by anarchism within overtly political discourse has been hyped up by the press. For example, in the British Isles, anarchists were given the credit for instigating anti-poll tax riots. (1) While many political theorists appear unwilling to discuss anarchist ideology because it is so clearly mired in the more ludicrous excesses of what can be called 'enlightenment thought', I believe the doctrine demands scrupulous investigation since its totalising responses to social questions mesh with more widespread and equally systematic instrumentalisations of elitism and fear. For some time I have found myself in a favourable position to comment critically upon libertarian culture and politics since fictional interrogations of anarchism have been a feature of my novels and short stories from the mid-eighties onwards.

The deadening effect of anarchist ideologies on critical thinking and debate sometimes appear to be so readily apparent that delineating these eschatological beliefs for anything other than comic effect in fictional form proves tiresome. Writing in the early nineteen-thirties, Max Raphael began his Proudhon Marx Picasso: Three Essays in Marxist Aesthetics with the observation: "Any visitor to Paris familiar with Marxist criticism will be surprised to discover to what an extent Proudhon's ideas still influence French 'Communist' politicians, intellectuals, and even artists. But a little reflection will reveal that there is nothing surprising in this. Most artists are of petty-bourgeois origin and their Communism serves to provide them with emotional support, rather than with weapons useful in their practical activities. In point of fact, they are Proudhonians, although - or perhaps because - they have never read Proudhon." (2)

In Social Radicalism And The Arts, Western Europe: A Cultural History from the French Revolution to 1968, Donald Drew Egbert notes that since 1793 the term 'anarchist' has often been used as an indiscriminate smear in both the arts and politics. (3) Egbert goes on to trace a number of different anarchist lineages. He asserts there is a socialist or mutualist strain of anarchy that runs through Proudhon, Bakunin and Kropotkin. Somewhat less problematically, Egbert traces a more individualistic English strain of anarchism through figures such as Godwin, Coleridge, Southey and Shelley. I tend to view the latter trend as having exhausted itself in the social snobbery of George Orwell's 1984. Orwell's novel is archetypically anarchist in its fetishisation of the state as a source of evil and its deification of the bourgeois values embodied in the character of Winston Smith. Nevertheless, Orwell's social pessimism, among other things, has prevented 1984 from being treated as a privileged text within contemporary anarchist discourse.

Among the many novels featuring characters that might be interpreted as anarchists can be listed Germinal by Emile Zola, The Dynamiter by Robert Louis Stevenson and Fanny Van de Grift Stevenson, The Secret Agent and Under Western Eyes by Joseph Conrad, The Princess Casamassina by Henry James and Demos by George Gissing, The relative popularity of novels about anarchists in the forty years prior to 1914 is placed in historical context by Barbara Arnett Melchiori in Terrorism In The Late Victorian Novel. (4). The first two chapters document 'terrorist' activity throughout the world as reported by the British press in the last two decades of the nineteenth-century. Melchiori paints a picture of the escalating use of dynamite for the purposes of social protest. In England political actions of this type appear to have been monopolised by Irish republicans who favoured the symbolic destruction of property. Melchiori suggests that the targets favoured by continental anarchists were quite different: 'bombs were thrown into crowded cafes, into restaurants, into opera houses.' (5) However, Melchiori contends: 'writers did not all succeed in keeping the various historical strands of subversion disentangled.' (6)

It seems that this political confusion is not limited to the Victorian period or those who are critical of anarchist doctrines. For example, in The Bomb by Frank Harris (7) state support for the arts is advocated by an anarchist character. The blurb on the back cover of a recent reissue of this novel by Feral House is not only politically confused, it is barely literate: "Called a 'masterpiece' by Aleister Crowley... The Bomb focuses on the infamous Haymarket affair, in which a bomb kills police gathered to club and maul labor protesters, and an incredibly unjust trial that later murders five anarchist leaders who had nothing to do with the bomb... The Bomb comes from the point of view of the uncaught bomb-thrower, and proves that the kind of terrorism inflicted by the Unabomber and in Oklahoma City emerged as part of political disobedience more than one hundred years ago."

Individuals who had been more actively involved in anarchist politics than Harris were sometimes less sympathetic to the creed when it came to depicting the ideology in novels. For example, Helen and Olivia Rossetti, with their brother Arthur, launched an anarchist publication called The Torch in 1891 after being converted to the creed by Prince Peter Kropotkin's Appeal To The Young. Later, using the pen name Isabel Meredith, the Rossetti sisters wrote a novel entitled A Girl Among The Anarchists. (8) In their book, Helen and Olivia Rossetti treat anarchism as a juvenile diversion and thus an object of humour. Unfortunately, the Rossetti sisters satirise anarchism from bourgeois perspectives that are even more reactionary than the anarchist creed they'd abandoned.

A Girl Amongst The Anarchists is both very different in tone and perhaps less ideologically confused than the future war novels of the pre-1914 period that worked anarchist characters and themes into their plots. A paradigmatic example of this genre is George Griffith's The Angel Of The Revolution. (9) Griffith's mix of science fiction, utopian romance and anarchism influenced later writers including H. G. Wells in The War Of The Worlds and The World Set Free. The Angel Of The Revolution features a secret society called the Brotherhood of Freedom who are identified as Nihilists and organised in the manner recommend by the anarchist Mikhail Bakunin and his disciple Sergi Nechaev in the various documents they produced about 'revolutionary' organisation. After the two sides in a world war have inflicted heavy damage on each other, the Nihilists attack them both in fast moving, heavily armoured airships, and go on to establish an international federation under their 'revolutionary' command. Melchiori observes: 'there are a number of inconsistencies, suggesting that the author had by no means fully absorbed the doctrine that he was preaching...' (10)

The plot animating G. K. Chesterton's anarchist fantasy The Man Who Was Thursday (11) is likely to strike contemporary readers as more believable than The Angel Of The Revolution. Chesterton's novel features a Central Anarchist Council who are named after the seven days of the week. As the story unfolds it is revealed that all the members of the Anarchist Council are, in fact, police agents. The Man Who Was Thursday has non-fictional counterparts on the outer reaches of conspiracy theory. Esperanze Godot in an article entitled 'Recipes For Nonsurvival: The Anarchist Cookbook', extensively quotes a review from The Library Journal to 'prove' that The Anarchist Cookbook compiled by William Powell is riddled with errors that endanger anyone using it, then opines: "The Anarchist Cookbook was originally published in 1971, the review by the Library Journal, which exposed these dangerous errors, came out shortly thereafter. I wonder why it has gone through 28 printings without these errors being corrected. My theory is that Mr Powell is not an anarchist, but in reality is spreading disinformation to potential enemies of the government... Powell's father was a powerful bureaucrat in the UN propaganda ministry... My suggestion is that much of Powell's disinformation and influence may have come from the Trilateral Commission and/or the CIA..." (12)

While I was aware of various literary as well as nominally 'factual' representations of anarchists before I began writing fiction lampooning self-styled incendiaries, it was a series of chance encounters with the sad skunks producing the Class War newspaper that provided the necessary motivation for my own satirical depictions of various anarchist ideologies. In 1985 I had the misfortune to move to Stoke Newington in North London and found myself drinking in the same pubs as the Class War recruitment officer Ian Bone. Back then, Bone's photograph could be found alongside scare stories in the Sunday People such as 'Unmasked: The Evil Man Who Preaches Hate to Children' by Robert Eringer, James Mayer and Trevor Aspinall or 'Inside The Evil Group Bent On Violence' by Eileen Wise and Robert Eringer. (13)

To gain an insight into the minds of the Class War editorial board, one only has to flick through the wearisome Class War: A Decade of Disorder edited by Ian Bone, Alan Pullen and Tim Scargill (14). Surveying this coffee table compendium in the London Review of Books, Iain Sinclair observed: "The challenge for the authors of Class War: A Decade of Disorder... is to publish something more meaningful than a cover version of the rancid tabloids they so obviously model themselves upon... What was being declared here was not so much a class war as a style war... The emblems of defiance - nooses, rubber masks, pirate flags - could have been translated directly from the pages of Richmal Crompton's William The Lawless, hinting at safe nursery havens lurking in the undisclosed backgrounds of some of these class warriors... The propensities of the Class War leader writers lean more towards the Beano or Dandy than the tiresome headbutting of French art guerrillas. 'Bash the Toffs,' 'Let your goat into their prize rose garden,' 'Kidnap their snotty kids.' The stratagems are familiar to anyone brought up on the antics of Lord Snooty and his pals, while the topics under discussion rarely deviate from the profoundly conservative programme established by the other tabloids..." (15)

The propaganda of sects like Class War meshed perfectly with the tabloid agenda by enabling the media to ignore issues like police oppression and instead pretend that a handful of 'violent' malcontents were responsible for what was actually broadly based working class resistance to various inequities of the capitalist system. Since Class War's 'activity' consisted chiefly of putting out a thin newspaper every few months and a lot of boasting down the pub, the gap between the group's rhetoric and what it actually did was grist to the mill of anyone interested in producing satirical fiction. I wrote a fifteen thousand word short story about Class War entitled Anarchist in December 1985 and published it the following year in the magazine Smile. (16) The piece was reprinted in my short story collection No Pity. (17) Anarchist took the early history of Class War, exaggerating and distorting it to comic effect under the guise of a parable about an almost fictional organisation called Class Justice. The Class War mythology was rewritten into a story about leadership rivalry lifted - in places literally - from the pages of a Hell's Angels novel entitled Chopper by Peter Cave. (18) In the act of rewriting, the plot of this hack youthsploitation tome was transformed into satire: "Steve tried to check his thoughts as they took a new and more malicious turn. He wasn't one of the Class Justice sheep, the others looked up to him - but it seemed as though he always had to play the number two to Nick, as if he were a lieutenant and Nick a general... Steve made one final, desperate attempt to push the thought from his head but was unable to stop the nagging doubts - and especially the doubts about Nick. He felt certain Carter was going soft and that Class Justice was being watered down from its original outrageous aims. But, he tried to reassure himself, anarchists don't have leaders and their ideology contained only a single aim - the legalisation of freedom, the crime that contained all other crimes." (19)

Within Anarchist I made extensive use of inversion to parody both anarchism and the types of literature championed in the book pages of English newspapers. The characters in Anarchist were gay because while Class War endorsed polymorphous perversity, most of those involved in the group were straight and monogamous. Likewise, in my short story I had Class Justice instigate a riot because the tabloid newspapers at the time were running features in which it was absurdly claimed that Class War were capable of doing this. Since I was unlucky enough to regularly encounter the ten or so militant self-publicists who produced the Class War newspaper, I was aware that their taste for 'violence' was strictly rhetorical and their 'subversive' activities went no further than spraying the odd piece of graffiti across walls in Hackney.

In terms of literary models, I was drawing on a wide range of teenage reading that included Burroughs, Lautreamont and Alain Robbe-Grillet. There was nothing original in critically appropriating the techniques of pulp fiction for the purposes of parody and burlesque. Where my production differed from earlier exercises of this type, particularly those of the surrealists, was in the choice of material appropriated and the fact that I plagiarised narratives as well as segments of prose. Thus despite extensive and deliberate use of repetition, my writing might be viewed as a simulation of pulp fiction rather than an example of the representational inscriptions of this form to be found in 'avant-garde' or 'modernist' prose. At the time I wrote Anarchist my meta-fictional interests were focused on an attempt to deconstruct the depictions of sex and violence I found in pornography and pulp fiction with both irony and critical reason: (20) "Butcher entered the kitchen, unseen as Dog and Steve vainly attempted to erase the marks of value and exchange inscribed on their bodies by capital and its glistening commodities, as unaware as Butcher that the 'naturalness' of their sexual practice was as carefully constructed by the agents of recuperation as the anarchist ideology they embraced. Butcher lubricated Steve's arse with margarine, twisted his arms under, up and around Drummond's shoulders, then pumped his seed into the veritable seat of his room-mate's being. The three young anarchists laboured under the illusion they'd re-entered a primitive terrain, an Eden that sexual exhaustion would force them to leave but which could be regained at a later date. They had yet to learn that under capital nothing - least of all 'sexual expression' - is natural. When the mudflats dissolved they were returned to the dirt and grime of their kitchen..." (21)

It is both impossible and undesirable to impose a single monolithic meaning on my fiction, if it communicated a simple and obvious message then it would lack all poetic qualities. Despite the apparent directness of the prose, the text necessarily resists both the reader and the writer. The passage cited above can be read as counterposing proletarian theory (with its use of the terms 'value', 'exchange', 'commodities') to the hollow posturing of anarchism. However, while the critical elements woven into the story draw self-consciously upon left-communist discourse, the simultaneous use of irony results in attempts at reading the text as advocating a clear-cut line of political action being rendered problematic in advance. Some extremely elliptical allusions to the Situationist International do nothing to clarify matters. For example, the term 'glistening commodities' does more than simply suggest the sexual organs during and immediately after sex. The pirate English translation of the situationist text The Society Of The Spectacle by Guy Debord (22) makes extensive use of the term 'shimmering', the phrase 'glistening commodities' parodies this. Likewise, the phrase 'veritable seat of his room-mate's being' is - among other things - a parodic invocation of a series of documents compiled under the title The Veritable Split In The International: Public Circular Of The Situationist International which were first published in 1972.

In case readers hadn't got the point that Anarchist parodied the absurd posturing and rhetorical violence of a non-fictional group of anarcho-bores, the next story to feature Class Justice was entitled Class War. This was first published in Vague #21 (23) and reprinted in No Pity. Once again I used irony and mock praise to ridicule the playground politics of Class War. One of my targets this time was Class War's 1988 'Rock Against The Rich' tour featuring faded pop star Joe Strummer, a public school educated diplomat's son and former lead singer with seventies punk group The Clash. The 'Rock Against The Rich' debacle is partially documented in Class War A Decade of Disorder where Strummer is quoted as saying: "I believe a limit should be put on the property developers. They're driving people out of the city centres. Someones gotta fight for people who can't afford their ridiculous prices." (my emphasis) (24)

In theory Class War's rhetoric of violence was directed towards the goal of working class self-defence. Strummer's blather shows that in practice a supposedly intransigent championing of proletarian autonomy was thoughtlessly abandoned in favour of celebrity leadership brought in from outside the class. Since poetics plays a major role in structuring my fiction, the principle target of the mock praise heaped on 'Class Justice' in Class War was directed against the aesthetic failings of the group's non-fictional counterpart, rather than their all too obvious (from the standpoint of ultra-leftism) deviations from class positions: "Class Justice had always understood Working Klass Kulture. In the late eighties they'd sponsored a Rap Against The Rich Tour as part of their campaign to bring about the earliest possible demise for bloated yuppie scum. Back then, no hope Trotskyite organisations were still promoting their cause with the aid of old time punk musicians. Although Steve had dug punk when it was fresh, in his mind it was a dead issue by the end of '77. The Trots had proved just how out of touch they were when their front organisations relied on the services of white rockers. If the left had followed the Class Justice example and used black music as a promotional tool, then the present authoritarian government would never have succeeded in outlawing all forms of communist activism. Back in the eighties those who'd preferred white-boy music to hip-hop failed miserably in the youth recruitment stakes. They had only their reactionary musical tastes to blame for the fact that Europe had long been in the iron grip of the right!" (25).

It wasn't until I came to write my fourth novel Blow Job (26) that I made further use of the almost fictional Class Justice. The initial inspiration for the novel came from hearing there had been a split in Class War and that two separate organisations were using the name. Reporting this under the heading 'Hold The Class War: the real threat is the enemy within', the Independent On Sunday announced: "Class War... has succumbed to that most boring of fringe organisation diseases: The Split." (27) Revealing that Ian Bone and Tim Scargill, two of the three editors of Class War: A Decade of Disorder had set up a new Class War organisation, the paper quoted the latter as fulminating against: 'middle-class democracy junkies who are only interested in being terribly witty and producing coffee-table reading for the narco-left'.

At the time this newspaper article appeared I was working on a novel later published as Red London (28). Bone and Scargill's Class War organisation was a chimera that disappeared after producing a single issue of its street paper. Nevertheless, the summer of 1993 saw me setting to work on Blow Job, (29) a novel in which two rival Class Justice groups vie for the allegiance of a handful of militants. My research for the book entailed me attending London Class War meetings, some of which are barely fictionalised in the book:

" 'Right then,' Drummond announced as Tiny handed Dog the implements he needed to minute the meeting. 'I'll go through the agenda: 1) minutes of the last meeting; 2) distributing the paper through newsagents; 3) discount for bulk sales; 4) cover for the next issue of the paper; 5) any other business."
'What about getting a crew together so that we can go and ruck the Anglo-Saxon Movement?' Bogroll Bates demanded.
'We'll put that under any other business,' Steve was determined that the meeting should run smoothly. 'Right, minutes of the last meeting: one, it was agreed that we'd retain the Bronstein Press as our printer because they were prepared to give us ninety days credit on every job, whereas the two firms that gave slightly lower quotes required cash on delivery; two, it was agreed...'
'Hold on,' Butcher put in, 'I'd like it noted in the minutes that I objected to the decision to use the Bronstein Press and felt that we should use an anarchist printer such as the Bakunin Press. While this might prove slightly more expensive in the short term, it makes more sense to plough money back into our own movement rather than giving hard cash to our political enemies.'
'Okay,' Drummond assented, 'objection noted. Point two, it was agreed that the minimum number of copies of the paper that fully paid-up members of the organisation were expected to sell would be raised from twenty-five to forty per issue.'
'What about getting a ruckin' crew together and fuckin' the Nazis?' Bogroll Bates was becoming increasingly exasperated.
'We'll come to that later,' Steve responded..."

Class War was nothing but a pose that required the production of a newspaper to enable the group's image to circulate amongst - and compete with - all the other capitalist commodities. Anything that didn't immediately service Class War's media myth was necessarily relegated to 'any other business'. Although Blow Job was written in 1993, contractual complications resulted in it not being published in English until four years later, after my fifth and sixth novels Slow Death (31) and Come Before Christ & Murder Love. (32) Blow Job was first published as a Finnish translation under the title Oppi Tulee Idasta. (33) While the four year delay in the English language publication of Blow Job could have made the novel appear dated, the fact that anarchist groups tend to operate according to cyclical rather than linear time worked to my advantage. In 1997 the Class War Federation disintegrated and its thirty odd members regrouped into smaller rival organisations, each of which claimed to represent the 'former' Class War. As so often happens with anarchists, a violent image was projected outwards for the benefit of the mass media, while in-fighting absorbed all other energies.

Although I've used fiction as a space in which to explore the ideological ambiguities of anarchism, I would not dispute that the class struggle rhetoric adopted by 'Class War' marks the groups who've used this name recently as relatively sophisticated 'revolutionary' posers. There are other anarchist groups that claim to be 'revolutionary' despite having emerged from the far-Right. Neil Palmer uses fiction to interrogate the ideology of one of these groups in his story 'Vegan Reich'. (34) Palmer's tale - which narrates the demise of an eco-fascist group called Dark Green - is an extrapolation from his readings of the Green Anarchist newspaper. Whereas I created composite characters by collaging together impressions of actual encounters with members of Class War, Palmer's approach is different in that he draws his inspiration solely from textual sources:

"As a Dark Green anarchist, he (Dog) was proud of his grass-roots political convictions. The straight world had fucked the planet up and the Great Mother was about to wreak havoc in return. The seasons were fucked. The trees were dying. Cities were spreading like cancers. Cars were belching out poisonous gas and choking the environment. He'd tried to use unleaded petrol in his van, but the engine was too old to take it, anyhow, his was only one vehicle out of millions used by the straight world! It was only people like him that were making a difference at the moment. The rest of the country deserved to die, squirming in their own vomit, as the cities poisoned themselves to the point of destruction! The Great Mother would protect her children, of course, and he and his kind would be saved! No consumer scum would survive the coming holocaust!
"...The Dark Green network was causing a lot of trouble to the authorities. Thanks to their superb line in hyperbole the mass media had credited them with halting the progress of more than a dozen road building schemes up and down the country since the start of the previous year.
"Their organisation was well underground, based around a hidden leadership dictating policy which was communicated to regional groups over Britain. They were intent on returning Britain to its true state - an agrarian society organised around self-governing feudal communities. Dark Green was going to give the fat bloated system a gigantic heart-attack! But destroying civilization was not for the faint-hearted..."

The ideology Neil Palmer ascribes to Dark Green is extremely close to that advocated by Green Anarchist editors Paul Rogers and Steve Booth. In the mid-nineties these two creeps accounted for at least half the membership of the Green Anarchist 'network' and produced the bulk of its propaganda. Steve Booth's article 'The Irrationalists' illustrates Green Anarchist's contempt for ordinary people and the ways in which this meshes with fascist tropes and fantasies of mass murder:

"The Irrationalists commit acts of intense violence against the system, with no obvious motives, no pattern. More important, there is no organisation to claim responsibility, offer explanations, make apologies or demands. Then, with the Tokyo sarin gas attack, Florence Rey and Audry Maupin, the Unabomber, Oklahoma and other such incidents, we entered the age of the Irrationalists.
"The Oklahoma bombers had the right idea. The pity was that they did not blast any more government offices. Even so, they did all they could and now there are at least 200 government automatons that are no longer capable of oppression.
"The Tokyo sarin cult had the right idea. The pity was that in testing the gas a year prior to the attack, they gave themselves away. They were not secretive enough. They had the technology to produce the gas but the method of delivery was ineffective. One day the groups will be totally secretive and their methods of fumigation will be completely effective...
"One day there will be blue trucks rolling off underground production lines. Missiles will be fired into government buildings and financial institutions. Politicians will be shot. Mircrolights will spay botulism over every millionaire's ghetto. More beautiful than all this, there will be no organisation claiming 'responsibility', no explanation whatsoever. The whole thing will seem as mysterious as the menacing laughter heard in the Roman baths at Colchester must have been shortly before the Iceni sacked the city...
"...The crowd are passive. In their flight from the truth, people submerge themselves in irrelevancy. Aromatherapy, drugs, role-playing games, the lottery, selling Amway. They all have their negative equity mortgages, unemployment, job insecurity, MuckDonalds Happy Meals, the Sun, Gulf War Syndrome... In 1992, even after the poll tax and all that, thirteen million brain dead morons voted Conservative. How many will vote for Blair? People pay money for the Sun. Millions of them buy lottery tickets. As Mystic Meg once said (echoing Sir Gerald Ratner with his 'culture of crap') 'The people want trash, so let's give them trash...' All this goes on. Do they act to stop it? Do they bollocks. So in the long run, they get exactly what they deserve, and by heck they are going to get it..."

While the working class struggles against commodification, Green Anarchist applaud fascist bombings and its editors' consider money - 'people pay money for the Sun' - a satisfactory measure of value. Steve Booth and Paul Rogers of Green Anarchist are involved in the production and dissemination of hate literature precisely because it furnishes them with ready-made identities while simultaneously bolstering delusions they've cultivated about being persecuted heroes.

Contrary to the intentions of those responsible for the production of self-consciously 'extreme' material, their texts all too readily lend themselves to multiple readings. The limitations of 'extremism' are so flagrantly apparent that earnestly produced propaganda is inevitably destabilised by unintended comic effects. Extremism is always relative. In the case of the anarchist 'organisations' parodied in the fiction I've been discussing, they uncritically accept tabloid newspaper discourse about violence but reverse the moral codes of the mass media. Politics becomes religion, which is another way of saying it becomes kitsch. This is the point of departure for my fiction. However, it is not just in my novels that anything is anything. Starting from what would appear to be very different political perspectives, Alain Besancon in The Intellectual Origins Of Leninism (37) and Max Nomad in Apostles Of Revolution (38) both see Bolshevism as emerging from the anarchism of Bakunin. Writing as admirers of Lenin but critics of anarchism, Jacques Camatte and Gianni Collu spin a carefully honed variation on this theme in Origin And Function Of The Party Form: "The poverty of the proletariat is its separation from its human nature. This critique supersedes the narrow limits of Proudhon's which was merely a rational impoverishment and thus even a derationalization on the real poverty of man. The stalinists with their theory of absolute poverty are the real inheritors of Proudhon and E. Sue (cf. Marx's critique in The Holy Family)." (39)

Fiction is a place in which these and many other issues can be addressed, but it should go without saying that their resolution must remain a matter of social practice. (40) The inability of many journalists and 'critics' to address the fact that working class resistance to capitalism is of far more significance than the farrago of anarchist politics is not really very surprising. These people are, after all, on the whole happy to act as functionaries of the bourgeoisie. Since the function of media discourses structured around the twin fetishes of 'violence' and 'anarchism' is to create the impression that a handful of 'extremists' are responsible for what are in fact manifestations of broadly based class struggle, they must remain a matter of (mis)representation. Regardless of whether anarchism is or is not 'violent', media representations of isolated 'extremists' fomenting 'violence' are intended to mask the fact that since it is under attack, the working class may quite legitimately use of force to defend itself and its interests. (41)

First published in Confusion Incorporated by Stewart Home (Codex, Hove 1999).


1. See, for example, the coverage of the Trafalgar Square anti-Poll Tax riot in the Independent On Sunday (1 April 1990), in particular the story 'Black flags of anarchy in forefront of fighting' by staff reporters, p. 3.

2. Proudhon Marx Picasso: Three Essays in Marxist Aesthetics by Max Raphael, Lawrence and Wishart, London 1981, translated from German by Inge Marcuse.

3. Social Radicalism And The Arts Western Europe: A Cultural History from the French Revolution to 1968 by Donald Drew Egbert, Duckworth, London 1970, p. 44. In the manner Egbert describes, I have often been smeared as an anarchist. Here, I will restrict myself to one ridiculous example. In 'The War On The Home Front: Comedy and Political Identity in the Work of Stewart Home' included in Performing Gender and Comedy: Theories, Texts and Contexts edited by Shannon Hengen (Studies in Humor & Gender, Vol 4, Gordon & Breach Publishers, Amsterdam 1998, p. 167-177), American academic Kirby Olson manages to slander me as both an anarchist and an anti-feminist.

4. Terrorism In The Late Victorian Novel by Barbara Arnett Melchiori, Croom Helm, Beckenham, Dover and Surrey Hills 1985.

5. Terrorism In The Late Victorian Novel by Barbara Arnett Melchiori, Croom Helm, Beckenham, Dover and Surrey Hills 1985, p. 8.

6. Terrorism In The Late Victorian Novel by Barbara Arnett Melchiori, Croom Helm, Beckenham, Dover and Surrey Hills 1985, p. 8.

7. The Bomb by Frank Harris first published by Mitchell Kennerly, New York 1909, republished by Feral House, Portland 1996.

8. A Girl Amongst The Anarchists by Isabel Meredith first published by Duckworth, London 1903, republished as a Bison Books edition by University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln and London 1992.

9. This initially appeared as a serial in Pearson's Weekly beginning with a synopsis in the issue dated 14 January 1893, then running in weekly instalments from 21 January to 14 October 1893 and amounting to 175, 000 words. Shortly after the final instalment of the story had been published by Pearson's Weekly, it was issued in book form by The Tower Publishing Company. For a detailed account of the publishing history of The Angel Of The Revolution see 'George Griffith The Warrior of If' by Sam Moskowitz in The Raid Of 'Le Vengeur' and other stories by George Giffith with a critical biography by Sam Moskowitz (Ferret Fantasy, London 1974).

10. Terrorism In The Late Victorian Novel by Barbara Arnett Melchiori, Croom Helm, Beckenham, Dover and Surrey Hills 1985, p. 132.

11. The Man Who Was Thursday by G. K. Chesterton first published 1908, reprint Penguin, Harmondsworth 1972. It would be futile to attempt producing an exhaustive list of novels featuring anarchist characters or anarchism as a theme - but to those I've already mentioned one might add the following: Anarchists In Love by Colin Spencer (1963), The Angry Brigade by Alan Burns (1973), A Death Out Of Season by Emanuel Litvinoff (1973), The Free by M. Gilliland (1986) and the unbelievably dreadful micro-editions self-published in bound photocopy form by Steve Booth including City Death (1993) and Even Eden (1994).

12. Included in Secret And Suppressed: Banned Ideas & Hidden History edited by Jim Keith, Feral House, Portland 1993, p. 193-197.

13. 'Unmasked: The Evil Man Who Preaches Hate to Children' by Robert Eringer, James Mayer and Trevor Aspinall, Sunday People 27/5/84. 'Inside The Evil Group Bent On Violence' by Eileen Wise and Robert Eringer, Sunday People 10/2/85. A few more examples of 1980s news coverage of Class War will illustrate how repetitive much of it was. The Sunday Mirror of 27/4/86 carried a front page 'exclusive' headlined 'Royal Wedding Riots Planned' and credited to Nigel Nelson: "Left-wing fanatics are plotting to wreck the Royal wedding of Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson... One of our reporters who succeeded in infiltrating the Class War group was told: 'We want to encourage as much trouble and as much hell-raising as possible..' " The Sunday Mirror followed this up with another 'exclusive' on 4/5/86 entitled "The Enemy Within: Terror plan to 'smash the rich scum and their lackeys' " by Robert Eringer and Nigel Nelson. The latter piece featured the same photograph of Bone and his 'girlfriend' Adrienne as had previously appeared in Sunday People on 10/2/85. The picture was obviously wending its way through the tabloid press alongside reporter Robert Eringer with his Class War 'story'. The picture turned up again in John Merrit's piece 'Exposed - The Fanatics Who Heckled Eastenders Star Lofty' run by the Daily Mirror on 17/2/87.

14. Class War: A Decade of Disorder edited by Ian Bone, Alan Pullen and Tim Scargill (Verso, London 1991).

15. London Review Of Books 27/2/92, p. 5-6.

16. Smile #9, London 1986.

17. No Pity by Stewart Home, AK Press, Stirling 1993.

18. Chopper by Peter Cave, New English Library, London 1971.

19. No Pity by Stewart Home, AK Press, Stirling 1993, p. 34.

20. While it is not always useful to make distinctions between fiction and non-fiction, it should go without saying that novelists are rarely 'ideal' readers of their own work in terms of producing 'critical' commentary upon it. It is quite impossible for me to access exactly what 'I' was thinking more than a decade ago. While I always considered anarchists to be utterly ridiculous - and this attitude is evident in my earliest fiction - my reasons for (and ways of) saying this have metamorphosed over the years. Thus while writing fiction about anarchism has helped me develop and transform my understanding of this form of identity politics, there is a danger that I am projecting the positions to which I currently adhere onto writings that pre-date my arrival at these perspectives.

21. No Pity by Stewart Home, AK Press, Stirling 1993, p. 43.

22. The Society Of The Spectacle by Guy Debord (Black & Red, Detroit 1970).

23. Vague #21, London 1989.

24. Class War A Decade of Disorder edited by Ian Bone, Alan Pullen & Time Scargill, Verso, London 1991, p. 82-3.

25. No Pity by Stewart Home, AK Press, Stirling 1993, p. 98,

26. Blow Job by Stewart Home, Serpent's Tail, London 1997. This book was the last part of a trilogy in which I was examining the relationship between anarchism and fascism, the two previous novels in this series being Defiant Pose (Peter Owen, London 1991) and Red London (AK Press, Edinburgh 1994). The link between these books is thematic, there is no overlap in terms of the 'characters' they feature.

27. 'Hold the Class War - the real threat is the enemy within' by Alex Renton, Independent On Sunday 25 April 1993. In fact, as I document in The Assault On Culture: Utopian currents from Lettrisme to Class War (Aporia Press & Unpopular Books, London 1988, p. 95-101), the split reported by the Independent On Sunday was not the first within Class War. A detailed knowledge of the 1985 Class War split played a crucial role in structuring my short story Anarchist.

28. Red London by Stewart Home, AK Press, Edinburgh 1994. This book incorporates passages lifted directly from the sensational Victorian novel Hartmann The Anarchist: or The Doom of the Great City by E. Douglas Fawcett (Edward Arnold, London 1893).

29. Blow Job by Stewart Home, Serpent's Tail, London 1997.

30. Blow Job by Stewart Home, Serpent's Tail, London 1997, p. 51-2.

31. Slow Death by Stewart Home, High Risk/Serpent's Tail, New York and London 1996.

32, Come Before Christ & Murder Love by Stewart Home, Serpent's Tail, London 1997.

33. Oppi Tulee Idasta by Stewart Home, Like, Helsinki 1995.

34. 'Vegan Reich' by Neil Palmer, included in Suspect Device: A reader in Hard-Edged fiction edited by Stewart Home, Serpent's Tail, London 1998.

35. 'Vegan Reich' by Neil Palmer included in Suspect Device: A reader in Hard-Edged fiction edited by Stewart Home, Serpent's Tail, London 1998, p.10-11. Alongside Simon Strong's A259 Multiplex Bomb 'Outrage' (Codex, Hove 1995), my novel Pure Mania (Polygon, Edinburgh 1989) - which is concerned with both rock music and eco-vegan protests - was clearly one of the models for Palmer's story. Palmer's strategy for getting his fiction published is to copy the prose styles of authors who are editing short story anthologies and then submitting the resultant work to them in the anticipation that they will be seduced and flattered by this ruse. Obviously, in the case of 'Vegan Reich' (Palmer's first piece of fiction to be commercially published) this tactic was successful.

36. 'The Irrationalists' by Steve Booth in Green Anarchist # 51, Spring 1998, p. 11. For critiques of Green Anarchist including detailed analysis of their right-wing politics see The Green Apocalypse by Luther Blissett and Stewart Home (Unpopular Books, London 1995) and Anarchist Integralism: Aesthetics, Politics and the Aprs-Garde by Luther Blissett (Sabotage Editions, London 1997).

37. The Intellectual Origins Of Leninism by Alain Besancon, Basil Blackwell, Oxford 1981.

38. Apostles Of Revolution by Max Nomad, Secker & Warburg, London 1939. To illustrate the wide dissemination and concomitant transformations and distortions of the Bolshevism as Bakuninism thesis as it radiated out beyond the Menshevik circles in which it appears to have originated, I might cite the 'Preface' to a novel entitled The Flying Submarine by E. Van Pedroe Savidge (Arthur Stockwell, London n.d): 'it became evident that Bolshevism was a doctrine deeply rooted in the peculiar Russian mentality, and developed by the teachings of Turgeniev, Netchaev, M Bakunin, Herzen and Tkachev into a philosophy, or religion, of destruction.' As an example of an ostensibly non-political (but equally eccentric) deformation of the Bolshevism as Bakuninism thesis see The Messianic Legacy by Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh and Henry Lincoln (Jonathan Cape, London 1986, p. 131) where drawing on A. P. Mendel's Michael Bakunin: Roots of Apocalypse, these authors state: 'it can be argued that Lenin's thought owes more to Bakunin than Marx. In its organisation, in its techniques for recruitment, in its means of eliciting loyalty from its adherents, in its Messianic urgency, as Lenin himself acknowledges in his notebooks.'

39. Origin And Function Of The Party Form by Jacques Camatte and Gianni Collu, David Brown Publishing, London 1977, p. 5. This is a David Brown translation of a document dating from the early sixties. Through a close reading of Marx's Grundrisse, Camatte and Collu went on to break with Bordigist notions of organisation and proceeded to use the pages of the journal Invariance as a forum in which to develop the controversial theory that capital had escaped human control and now oppresses a universal human class.

40. It is unfortunately necessary to resist the critical consensus emerging around my work since this could lead to a premature and unproductive closure. Reviewing my novels Pure Mania (Polygon, Edinburgh 1989), Defiant Pose (Peter Owen, London 1991) and Red London (AK Press, Edinburgh 1994), as well as other works such as my short story collection No Pity (AK Press, Stirling 1993), Iain Sinclair wrote in the London Review of Books (23 July 1994): 'It's an exercise in futility to complain that Home's novels (which should in any case be read as a single sequence) lack depth, characterisation or complex plots: that is the whole point...' Sinclair's status as a highly regarded and 'trend setting' novelist and critic - alongside the fact that he was the first person to review my fiction favourably in the literary press - resulted in his views being taken up elsewhere. Thus, more recently, Phil Baker concluded a review of Blow Job in the Times Literary Supplement (6 February 1998).with the observation that: 'It would be missing the point to complain about lack of characterization or realism: Blow Job is a book in which anything resembling literary value is not just missing but rigorously excluded.'
While at the most facile surface levels my books appear to be polarising critical opinion within the British Isles, closer reading indicates an increasing homogenisation. For example Lilian Pizzichin reviewing Blow Job in the Independent On Sunday (11 January 1998) claimed: 'The tone is nasty, the attitude offensive... Home is more interested in the position of the proletariat than following literary trends.' While Mike Parker reviewing Blow Job in What's On In Birmingham (10 January 1998) wrote: 'Stewart Home has a certain cult cachet amongst those who claim that his novels pointlessness and artlessness are their very essence. So be it. Let them stick to their inverted snob indulgences and let the rest of us bother with books that at least take you somewhere interesting or challenging.' Parker is very much the orthodox critic in his resistance to opening texts up to heterodox readings.
It is difficult to know to what extent the very different critical receptions of 'my' novels in Germany, France and Finland are to be attributed to the process of translation. Interestingly, Oliver Marchart in his Neoismus: Avantgarde Und Selbsthistorisierung (Edition Selene, Vienna 1997.) treats my fiction as an integral aspect of a more ambitious project encompassing a wide range of aesthetic practices. Marchart's text partially overlaps with - but also productively contradicts - the critical consensus that has grown out of various shallow and not-so-shallow readings of Iain Sinclair's overviews of my work in the London Review of Books. and Lights Out For The Territory (Granta, London 1997).
The style journalist Steve Beard is one of the few English critics to ignore this growing consensus of opinion in the British Isles. Reviewing Come Before Christ And Murder Love in the October 1997 issue of i-D, Beard observed: '...The delayed climax which Home obsessively returns to is that moment of ritual human sacrifice which according to Rene Girard's theory of the scapegoat effectively offers a foundational myth for society. The fact that Come Before Christ is interrupted by successive acts of mimetic violence suggests that this myth of functional sacrifice is no longer plausible...' Beard was the only reviewer to identify Girard's theory of the sacrifice and the scapegoat as one of the factors structuring this novel. Reviewing Blow Job in the April 1998 issue of i-D, Beard insolently contradicted dominant critical opinons by concluding: 'Who would have guessed it? Home as the saviour of Eng. Lit.' While I do not agree with everything either Beard or Sinclair have to say about my fiction, I greatly appreciate their very different forms of theoretical rigor - and the fact that they have developed critical opinions that productively contradict each other.

41. While it is necessary to avoid the anarchist trap of fetishising rioting, the condemnation of rioters by the media and bourgeois political figures is even more ridiculous. That said, those anarchists who fetishise rioting often appear unaware that there is a positive content to revolutionary activity which lies in overcoming alienation and thereby attaining real human community.

First published in Confusion Incorporated by Stewart Home (Codex, Hove 1999).

Interview with Stewart Home (about Down & Out In Shoreditch & Hoxton)

Books & Writing

Confusion Incorporated by Stewart Home cover

This essay first appeared in the anthology of Stewart Home non-fiction writings Confusion Incorporated.

Green Apocalypse by Stewart Home & others cover

Further non-fiction critiques of the anarchist creed.