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Bish Bash Boff: Anarchism Explained

Musician, playwright and anarchist Boff Whalley visited Notre Dame on Friday 22 March to speak to A level Politics students.

Mr Whalley, who many will know for his role in the band Chumbawamba, explained the origins of his interest in anarchism. He read theoretical books about anarchism at a young age but attending anarchist meetings didn’t inspire him. So when he moved to a squat in Armley in the early 1980’s, his residence there became an anarchist experiment. He and his housemates made every aspect of their houseshare communal: wages, food, chores. There was no one in charge and all decision making was cooperative and based on compromise, not a voting system.

This equitable approach extended to Chumbawamba. For Boff, creativity is key to anarchist principals and he’d always felt that music and politics were interlinked. So everyone in the house was invited to join the band, and everyone received an equal share of the money they earnt from performing. As a result, the band stayed together for almost 30 years.

In response to questions from students, Boff said he did vote but felt that action outside of this was important, such as attending peaceful demonstrations. When asked to recommend anarchist authors, he suggested Noam Chomksy and Rebecca Solnit. Our students also asked him how anarchy could work on a national scale, whether anarchy could become the dominant political system in the UK, and whether he felt that ‘anarcho-capitalism’ was a legitimate idea.

Boff left our students with a simple definition of anarchism, describing it as a system where no one tells others what to do and no one is told what to do by others. He added that anarchism is always evolving and that culture is a powerful force to bring about social change.