International Anarchist Unity

A red banner that says "the anarchists" with a woman in a dress holding it

A harshly critical look at the current fragmentation of the global anarchist movement and some potential ideas to help rectify the issues.

The global anarchist movement has fallen into disarray. We often descend into angry, petty and sectarian arguments that don’t matter in the bigger picture of things. There is nothing wrong with lively debate and discussion, and even some degree of hair splitting is without issue. The problem comes when we cease acting as comrades having a debate and become openly hostile political enemies of one another for seemingly minor reasons.
We live a time when the forces of capitalism are rapidly destroying the planet’s ecosystem to such a degree that climate refugees in the millions will be the norm in the next few decades.1 The rate of unemployment around the world is intolerable, and the current youth generation (my generation) has a higher opinion of socialism than capitalism.2 The time to build an international anarchist movement is now: Anarchism or Barbarism!
The current anarchist movement is extremely fragmented and needs to come together. There are multiple anarchist internationals but they don’t work together enough, and recently there is even competition and animosity between the International Workers Association and International Confederation of Labor. This is a serious problem and must stop. The faction of the CNT that left the International Workers Association (IWA) should immediately drop the legal charges and lawsuit against the CNT faction in the IWA.3 I suggest that the two factions of the CNT take serious action to mend their condition, preferably through a neutral outside mediator.
Then we have the International of Anarchist Federations as well as the Anarkismo network. There is also the Anarchist Black Cross as well as many autonomous anti-fascist groups that are heavily anarchist influenced or outright anarchist. In some places, there are regions such as the Zapatista Municipalities in Chiapas and the Democratic Federation of Northern Syria (aka Rojava) that are not anarchist but lean towards libertarian forms of socialism.
I bet that I will probably be accused of proposing a hollow false sense of unity, but I do not believe this is the case. I feel that purely anarchist organizations should work with other organizations of similar belief or tendency such as platformist federations, anarcho-syndicalist unions, unions like the Swedish SAC, or the IWW as well as synthesis anarchist federations. We should not have a fragmented anarchist movement. The success rate of a social revolution can be best increased when we have multiple regions of geographically separated populations in a single unified international federation. We should work towards eventually uniting the International of Anarchist Federations, International Workers Association, International Confederation of Labor, Red and Black Coordination and Anarkismo as well as other anarchist groupings. We as anarchists can never expect to agree on everything, but we certainly agree on enough.
A few more suggestions that could help the anarchist movement:
• A formal coalition or alliance between the different anarchist internationals
• Coordination between anarchist groups in a locality that are from different Internationals.
• Holding International Anarchist Congresses open to all anarchist organizations from different international affiliations.
• Working in close cooperation with non-anarchist syndicalist groups like the IWW or SAC.

Comments

dark_ether
Jun 5 2018 22:53

The fracturing of the IWA is a major blow. As with the mostly anarchists but not explicitly anarchist IWW, there were already two international revolutionary syndicalist organisations, now there are three. Plus I'm sure other ones that are less well known.

IFA is the international I know the best, and whilst change is slow (rule book first drafted in the 60s and all), the organisation has changed to make joining and communication easier. Which has seen a growth in the international, especially in latin america.

I'm not sure what Anarkismo is like, I thought it mostly acted as a shared news platform / discussion webstie? Which is a little different to the more formal IFA structure where feds have quarterly delegate meetings, and larger conferences every few years.

I'm always up for more international coordination, although its easier said than done. In terms of links to stuff outside IFA, the Italian federation especially have maintained close links with DAF in Turkey, and through them Kurdish revolutionaries in both Turkey and Rojava. There are normally good links between ABC and IFA federations, and a fair bit of shared activity, though this does tend to be between local federations and local ABC groups/feds, rather than directly with IFA and any black cross international, although, tbh, this is perhaps more efficent for everyone anyway!

The turmoil in the IWA (or should that be IWAs plural?) has led to us being *more* wary of linking up internationally. As we (both as AFed and IFA) don't want to be seen as 'taking sides' in this dispute. Especially as we often work so well with SolFed in the UK (but also have friends organising in the 'other side' of the IWA split).

It's worth remembering there was an 'all anarchist' international, in st imier, although that was nearly six years ago now (how time flies). Might be worth thinking about a repeat, though the resources required to pull it off are immense.

Spikymike
Jun 7 2018 10:35

Well the IWW and SAC are not anarchist organisations and the new International 'Revolutionary' Syndicalist organisation split from the IWA is not particularly anarchist either bearing more similarity to other non-anarchist style 'base unions' and there are plenty of anarchists that are not communists quite apart from organisational differences so I reckon not much chance of political unity there. But there is still opportunity for anarchists and communists to play their part alongside others in promoting independent class struggle locally and internationally by looking outward from their self-identified 'anarchist movement'.

the button
Jun 7 2018 11:00

Yeah, it always strikes me with this kind of approach that it's very "top down" and not that anarchist. If a unified anarchist movement is desirable (and I stress *if*), then that process of unification will come through shared activity and shared reflection on that activity. Or even..... whisper it quietly.... through shared participation in the struggles of the working class and the oppressed.

doug
Jun 7 2018 14:23

For libertarian communist ideas to be influential, of course, we need a transnational movement, to massively expand our numbers, and build an effective infrastructure. And I think the only way of doing that is through revolutionary unionism.

In other words, at a national and international level, having militant anti-capitalist unions, in and out of the workplace, as the core form of organisation around which you create a culture of resistance, union halls, movement-orientated co-ops, publishing, education and theorising etc.

I'm not sure what the alternative strategy is.

The above doesn't substitute itself for the class struggle in general. Revolutionary unions should exploit existing grievances and create campaigns where they wouldn’t otherwise exist. They, and the movement they’re part of, also support in every way they can workers’ strikes and resistance to oppression wherever they exist.

The International Confederation of Labour might be a small and marginal force, but it's great news that it's come about and it has the most potential for growth out of the organisations mentioned in the OP. (It’s not just a collection of base unions, because it was founded from the start as an international of anarcho-syndicalist and revolutionary syndicalist unions.)

Unlike the IWA —and I'd say this is just a statement of fact — it has from the beginning been open to working with other revolutionary unions, like the IWW, that the IWA wasn't interested in co-operating with. It’s likely to reach out to others who share its libertarian, anti-capitalist perspective in the future.

But it shouldn't compete with the IWA. I'd also rather the CNT wasn't suing the CNT-AIT (but it's difficult to follow what's going on).

syndicalist
Jun 7 2018 22:39

While it's neither practical or desirable for me, I salut the spirit of wanting to at least have cooperative and collaborative relations where both possible and practical.

jc
Jun 8 2018 07:30

A few points from experience of trying to work with others in the UK:

* AFed, locally, has been really easy to work with. Basically perfect, even when organisations I've been in have dropped the ball and AFed had every right not to bother. Individuals in the local AFed had a good attitude personally and that's got a lot to do with it
* London anarchists all seem to hate each other. Trying to organise an event in London was an eye opener. I can't see that changing any time soon unless the rest of us set a better example
* In the city I've been involved in, the non-anarchist syndicalists have been a total nightmare to work with. The IWW just show no will to work with others. Acorn leadership are that too, and also defensive, protective, and sometimes disparaging to other groups.
* That said, I've met a different IWW branch and they've been great and totally willing to cooperate on the class struggle. I suspect that one had a lot more people who grew up in the area they're working in - seems to make a lot of difference to how sectarian people are.
* I've tried to get a federation I'm in to think about making formal relations with non-anarchist syndicalists. Too many roadblocks unfortunately so definitely not something there's the will for, and that's not going to change for years.

So, my conclusion: the only way to make this work is to pick the few good eggs that are up for working together in local situations. Build up a good track record over a couple years, then use that to show how good it can work!

Tbh, I think a big barrier is all the metropolitan cities where most of the left isn't from there and basically just passing through. It's much easier to create cliques and "anarchist bubble"s in those places.

Also, we've spent the last century getting drawn into Spanish anarchists' shitfights amongst themselves when we could be building our own movements. Maybe time to force them to sort it out themselves for once?

akai
Jun 8 2018 14:16

Without commenting on too many points here, I would argue about the supposed "statement of fact".

Quote:
Unlike the IWA —and I'd say this is just a statement of fact — it has from the beginning been open to working with other revolutionary unions, like the IWW, that the IWA wasn't interested in co-operating with.

Actually, the fact of the matter is that various Sections of the IWA regularly have some joint actions or show solidarity with the IWA. This is mostly true in the anglosphere, in places like the UK, USA and Australia, because that it mostly where they coincide. But also other places - for sure our union held various solidarity actions and IWW branches did the same for us. Of course, this is up to the local affiliate to decide, according to the real situation on the ground. There have also been some problems, in which case it is the local affiliate's decision how to handle it.

So this "fact" seems far from factual to me. In fact, I would venture to guess that when it comes to concrete action, probably a lot of the IWW had more to do with the organizations currently in the IWA than those who split.

doug
Jun 8 2018 15:29

Yup and I've taken part in those solidarity actions for IWA sections. And may there be more of them!

Examples of revolutionary unions working together - like the CNT, Solidaridad Obrera, even the CGT (whose organisational methods I disagree with) - are inspiring and hint at what could be achieved. Feuds need to be resolved so that becomes a possibility. But there are obviously different levels of co-ordination, and we don't need to be in the same international organisation. That's more what I meant.

the croydonian ...
Jun 11 2018 21:13

I despair at the people who would rather endlessly cite the 'valid difference in tactics and politics' between anarchist organisations and use it as an excuse to not work together with other anti capitalists in a time when we are losing the class war so hard. It's not that people don't recognise why there are different groups, it's that we should not care, because things are unbelievably shit and in a very real sense class war is becoming more and more a matter of self defence and/or life/death. also we are the only fucking ones who can even comprehend this difference. this is like if the rest of the working class were people who had never ever seen the color green before and we are arguing between what shade is best, teal or forest?

if we can not summon a throat which can swallow our pride, accept our status as outsiders and that most of the working class think we are either mental, misguided, lifestylists or hopelessly married to trying to relive the past, then we don't deserve it. fully agree with the OP, anarchist unity has to happen at some point pretty fucking soon, or else.

can some one fill me on what this suing shit is all about? outrageous.

radicalgraffiti
Jun 11 2018 22:45

"work together" you say, as if there is one single project everyone agrees we need to work on and how to do that and the only thing holding us back is being in different groups

AnarchoWinter
Jun 12 2018 13:33

Absolutely agree with you comrade @the croydonian ...
The lawsuit is ridiculous!

AndrewF
Jun 12 2018 15:32
dark_ether wrote:
I'm not sure what Anarkismo is like, I thought it mostly acted as a shared news platform / discussion webstie? Which is a little different to the more formal IFA structure where feds have quarterly delegate meetings, and larger conferences every few years. .

The Anarkismo perspective was that small groups with members in the tens to hundreds don't have the meaningful resources to declare themselves an international in anything but name. So its a network of similar groups united by a common political statement that meets on occasion, exchanges information and on occasion can act in solidarity with one another. The website is the visible public face of the information exchange.

IMHO an effective international would at the very least require several groups with memberships in the thousands to tens of thousands and so have the financial and translation resources to make regular decision making meetings meaningful and worthwhile. It's been a very long time since the anarchist movement was in that position, indeed perhaps it never was.

melenas
Jun 12 2018 15:49
the croydonian anarchist wrote:

can some one fill me on what this suing shit is all about? outrageous.

A group of unions were expelled from CNT and others that left keep using the CNT name, keep using the CNT buildings, so CNT members in that cities can´t use them, and when someone goes to get the buildings they don´t have problem to stick a knife to the comrades of CNT.

Similar but smaller to what had happened in the 80´s between CNT and what now is CGT. but in that moment with guns and baseball bats.

R Totale
Jun 12 2018 18:18
AndrewF wrote:
dark_ether wrote:
I'm not sure what Anarkismo is like, I thought it mostly acted as a shared news platform / discussion webstie? Which is a little different to the more formal IFA structure where feds have quarterly delegate meetings, and larger conferences every few years. .

The Anarkismo perspective was that small groups with members in the tens to hundreds don't have the meaningful resources to declare themselves an international in anything but name. So its a network of similar groups united by a common political statement that meets on occasion, exchanges information and on occasion can act in solidarity with one another. The website is the visible public face of the information exchange.

Sorry if this is off-topic (but probably not any more so than the CNT stuff), but if you're involved with Anarkismo, can you tell me why this particular article, of all the many articles written by non-anarchists every day, was considered worth hosting there? What is it that the Anarkismo group felt that it had to offer?

syndicalist
Jun 13 2018 02:18

Unlikely single projects to work on.
Certainly solidarity when requested and needed.

AndrewF
Jun 13 2018 13:16

I was involved in founding Anarkismo but haven't been part of the editorial process for a decade. However that article is classified as 'non-anarchist press' which never had much in the way of requirements beyond someone posting it and an editor deciding it was at least worthy of viewing. Personally I think Fisk crossed the line to regime apologist in that and other pieces of the last few years.

BTW if you use the Contact Us link at the page you can direct that question at the current editors, odds are at the moment no one has paid attention it its presence beyond whoever clicked unhide.

the croydonian ...
Jun 13 2018 20:04
radicalgraffiti wrote:
"work together" you say, as if there is one single project everyone agrees we need to work on and how to do that and the only thing holding us back is being in different groups

This is exactly the kind of nebulous ignorance that I despair at. You do realise that that disagreement, whilst may appear massive to far left politicos who are intensely interested and vested in them, is basically non apparent to the rest of the working class? I think you're being intensely dishonest when it comes to the amount of agreement I am asking for and the type of necessarily utterly defensive and reactive struggles that demands that agreement. Take your head out the sand. The difference between any shade of anarchism is to most other people splitting hairs at best.

I am not saying they don't exist, I am saying we are nowhere fucking near a time and a place where they remotely matter in the project of trying to build even a semblance of effective resistance. We are not at the point where we have to agree about how post revolutionary society will work, not even really if revolution is desirable or social democracy is genuine socialism. This is because the struggles going on at the moment are mostly defending previous concessions or even begging for old laws back as lesser evils. In the UK, for example, think about PIP and Universal Credit. You think normal disabled people whose lives are being destroyed by the wait for the tribunals to appeal their re assessment need give a shit when what they are fighting for, realistically, is going to be a re in statement of the disability living allowance?

And before some one says it, whilst I am in an advocate of pragmatism, I am in no way suggesting that we actively affiliate with, go out of our way to help, or be silent on things like the rape apologists at SWP for instance. Our pragmatism can not be prejudiced in any way. But it certainly can, and must necessarily transcend the myriad of different perspectives of a fringe ideology that plainly has no organic movement to speak of at the moment.

radicalgraffiti
Jun 13 2018 20:37

whats the fucking single project we should all be working on then? what is it? and exaclty how are you different from the trots and liberals that tell us we need unity?

Uncreative
Jun 14 2018 10:53
the croydonian anarchist wrote:
The difference between any shade of anarchism is to most other people splitting hairs at best.

I am not saying they don't exist, I am saying we are nowhere fucking near a time and a place where they remotely matter in the project of trying to build even a semblance of effective resistance. We are not at the point where we have to agree about how post revolutionary society will work, not even really if revolution is desirable or social democracy is genuine socialism.

I'd say anarchists are divided now not so much on how they think things will look post revolution, but on specifically what theyre going to do right now as a practical matter.

Eg there are anarchists in the IWW and in SF, and while some of them might well have differences based on ideological preferences, it mostly comes down to which specific tactics they think are best (in both short term and how these short term tactics play out practically over the longer term).

This isnt to say that theres no scope for greater "unity", but its going to require more than just calling people nebulously ignorant for that to happen. Eg, re IWW and SF affiliated anarchists, im not sure what them uniting would look like, but presumably it would involve either one method of organising being abandoned in favour of the other, or a new method turning up.

Or am i misunderstanding what you mean by unite/unity?

Mike Harman
Jun 14 2018 11:25
Uncreative wrote:
Eg there are anarchists in the IWW and in SF, and while some of them might well have differences based on ideological preferences, it mostly comes down to which specific tactics they think are best (in both short term and how these short term tactics play out practically over the longer term).

Is this necessarily right though?

The IWW just did a long report back on an organising effort: https://libcom.org/blog/preliminary-summary-iww-organising-effort-winter-201718-18052018

This was in part organised via Angry Workers of the World's solidarity network stuff.

Brighton SolFed just did a report back on five months of activity: https://libcom.org/news/brighton-solidarity-federation-first-five-months-2018-30052018

The IWW campaign was a 'factory gates' sort of thing but with solidarity network style meetings outside the workplace, AWW seems to be a mixture of informal workplace organising/workers inquiry and solidarity network stuff, Brighton Solfed is mostly regular meetings outside the workplace and mostly organising against landlords and small businesses using outside support and one or two people inside.

West London's Heathrow supply chain and Brighton's shop/hotel/restaurant + student lets are very different local economies for a start.

So one question for me is if you transplanted Brighton Solfed to West London, would there be competing/conflicting organising models between SolFed and the AWW? Same question for AWW or the IWW and Brighton. Not that there might not be disagreements, but would they need to be expressed in two different organisations?

This doesn't mean that I think solfed and IWW should be one organisation, or that AWW should join solfed, but that's not what co-operation means.

Or a different question, let's take somewhere random like Milton Keynes. If there is 1 IWW member, 1 AF member and 1 solfed member, they might just about be able to get a local solidarity network going with three people, but they won't with one person each.

Once you get into things like national industrial networks vs. locals and stuff like that then you start getting into real disagreements maybe. The IWW has a couriers network but is there anything else at the moment?

IWW Manchester just did a solidarity-network style external picket for wage theft (although it was actually in Lancaster): https://iww.org.uk/campaign/fighting-unpaid-wages-in-lancaster/

Manchester SolFed just did a lettings agency one: https://libcom.org/news/fortis-student-lettings-neglects-tenants-07062018

I'm not a member of either org (I did think about joining SolFed recently but it would be a 90 minute commute to the nearest 'local') but it looks like the past 10 years organisational priorities have definitely shifted with SolFed and maybe with the IWW. The big thing for me is that people are experimenting and reflecting on organising models that they can put into practice now with relatively small numbers of people, and that sort of thing is very encouraging.

This is probably what you mean by "presumably it would involve either one method of organising being abandoned in favour of the other, or a new method turning up." but that seems to be happening to at least some extent?

AnarchoWinter
Jun 14 2018 16:25

Can anyone actually give a good reason why synthesis, anarcho-syndicalist and platformist anarchists should NOT be in an international? I sincerely doubt there is a good reason.

akai
Jun 14 2018 20:23

This is ideologically loaded since you already put your strong assumptions in the question. I think people already answered it but you don't accept them as good. If people are so.dismissive about other people's concerns, priorities and analyses, it doesn't serve for better understanding.

I just would say a few words but only my personal stuff. I used to hang around with anarchists who only reacted to current events from time to time and it was not satisfying because they didn't have committment to build anything. Now I try to focus and build some wider movement, which means I dedicate time to it. I find the types of anarchist meetings that dominate to be more appropriate to young people who have lots of time and prioritize other things. It doesnt have to be that way but in some places it is. If people want to engage in similar projects it is great but if they don't you feel like you're wasting time. I don't think I am the only person who prefers to concentrate on their priorities.

I thought in a similar way to you some years ago, at the beginning of my activity but now I think the most important thing is building decent functioning organizations.

Fall Back
Jun 14 2018 22:45
AnarchoWinter wrote:
Can anyone actually give a good reason why synthesis, anarcho-syndicalist and platformist anarchists should NOT be in an international? I sincerely doubt there is a good reason.

I think this is the wrong way of approaching things. The onus is on someone saying an organisation sounds exist to justify why it is useful. There is no value in am international existing just for the sake of existing.

I'm a strong advocate for formal organization, but unity for its own sake isn't healthy. Like, I think they're are real, strong benefits for specific anarchist organizations existing, but what would the concrete benefits being of anarcho-syndicalists, platformists and synthesists being in one organisation bring? What would the actual benefits of ppl with contradictory strategies being in one organisation bring?

Like, sure, there are plenty of times these people might work together. Absolutely! But for me, the point of an organisation is to be able to act collectively, in a cohesive manner. And one you start saying everyone should unite together despite these differences, this is lost. I want to pursue an anarcho-syndicalist strategy. I'm happy to work with other anarchists where it's in line with this - but why would it be useful to be in a broad maximum unity group with ppl? What benefits does that bring anyone?

the croydonian ...
Jun 20 2018 18:10

I'm sorry but I refuse to believe that these strategic/tactical differences are remotely going to be a pressing issue in real practical terms when so much of what anarchists, and really any leftists at the moment, are the height of defensive. Whether it's anti fascism or trying to get laws repealed for older ones, its always defensive. It's for this reason why I think these differences that people are talking about aren't going to be an issue and that therefore anarchist unity would be good at the moment.

Fleur
Jun 20 2018 20:57

What do you suppose we actually do in terms of taking the offensive, Croy? Have you seen what's going on out there? We're not just fighting small battles but we're losing the whole goddamn war. What can we do which is not a defensive action? Even if this mythical unity (which has never existed and I don't think the conditions are any better now to will it into existence) happened, what would we do with it? I'm not being snarky here btw, genuine question.

I think things are really shit. I think that defending ourselves is all we can do right now, even if we all managed to miraculously get along because have you seen what we are up against?

akai
Jun 21 2018 09:02

I think some of what is on this thread exposes genuine confusion. One of the first things is that the OP seems to confuse general anarchist groups, even synthesist to boot, and their priorities with what the priorities of anarchosyndicalism should be. For me, things are quite clear that if you want to do real things, you have to set realistic goals for going forward and get on with it. I suppose that if things are not going forward, part of the reason is a lack of ability to do this and to bring the anarchist project to people in more concrete forms. In other words, endless theorizing and reaction instead of concrete action on our terms.

When you get into concrete action in the workplace or community, the different approaches strike you and then maybe you decide you want to do something different. This may or may not impede joint projects. We have elections here and when local anarchists put their energy into campaigning for people from their orgs to get elected and act like this is real "progress", I honestly assess that they are putting their energy into directions which I am not interested in at all and misdirecting the struggle. Unity is a nice slogan, but this has to be the result of a unity of ideas which just doesn't exist and never has.

In any case, our last attempt to do something together with some local anarchists ended exactly with the fact that they decided to prioritize elections.

syndicalist
Jun 21 2018 17:16

As I know the poster, I guess I'm a bit less critical
Mostly political naïveté and a sincere desire for folks
to work together

the croydonian ...
Jun 23 2018 20:45

You're citing of an 'anarchist' who ran for elections as a reason to not work with other anarchists is a strawman.

Serge Forward
Jun 23 2018 21:07

I'm not sure it is, Croydonian. Most people who call themselves anarchists have dogshit politics well in the 'bourgeois' camp.. Better to work with non anarchists who have a grasp of class struggle and communism than to muddle through the anarcho swamp. Besides, it all smacks of substitutionism, ie subtituting the anarchist movement for the class.