Joining forces on a UK-wide publication (was AF/Platformist split)

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Joseph Kay
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Feb 22 2011 15:08
radicalgraffiti wrote:
i'm having a lot of trouble seeing what those differances are, at lest if the members who post on libcom are actual representative of solfed.

and if i've learned anything from this thread, it's not to 'help' by explaining it tongue

radicalgraffiti wrote:
I half think we should all join solfed, if only to see your reaction.

which would be a re-run of this thread, since if you don't get what it is SolFed is trying to do, and think it's the same as the organisation described in your constitution, RORO, OTFL etc then it would just be an attempt to create a synthesist political organisation by entryism. and we're not going to get past this impasse by AF members saying it's all the same thing (i've suggest numerous ways we might move forward throughout this thread).

radicalgraffiti wrote:
the form a revolutionary union that solfed could dissolve its self into dosn't seem to be an option since solfed refuses to consider joint networks or most other joint work, and mostly just says join solfed.

if the AF is in favour of revolutionary unionism as SolFed sees it, i'm sure that would change things somewhat. SolFed should hopefully be publishing some things on revolutionary unions/anarcho-syndicalism/workplace organising over the next 6 months or so, which the AF could read and come to a collective position on for/against, and correspondingly either a merger intp a revolutionary union intiative or a clarification of the grounds for joint work.

And no, i'm not fucking anyone off saying it will take a few months. it takes time to discuss, write and publish collectively agreed publications, and a few months is nothing since what we're talking about has implications over the next decade and beyond.

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Feb 22 2011 15:11
radicalgraffiti wrote:
did you delete your post?

cross-posted with Tommy Ascaso, thought it wasn't going to clarify anything since i wasn't saying anything i haven't said a hundred times already.

radicalgraffiti
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Feb 22 2011 15:11

it seems neither of us understands what the other thinks their organisation is.

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Feb 22 2011 15:16
radicalgraffiti wrote:
it seems neither of us understands what the other thinks their organisation is.

maybe. although i don't think there is a singular view on the AF's role (at least that's what i get from publications and discussions here), but of course i've no idea of your internal discussions since OTFL etc which may well have ironed out some of the unresolved issues there. for SolFed's part, having spent the weekend discussing it in person with around a third of the organisation, i'm fairly confident there's a consensus internally but this isn't well understood externally.

the obvious course of action here is: (1) SolFed publishes some stuff on revolutionary unionism and (2) AF takes a position on it. then we could proceed accordingly.

T La Palli
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Feb 22 2011 15:33
Joseph Kay wrote:
SolFed should hopefully be publishing some things on revolutionary unions/anarcho-syndicalism/workplace organising over the next 6 months or so, which the AF could read and come to a collective position on for/against, and correspondingly either a merger into a revolutionary union intiative or a clarification of the grounds for joint work.

Seems like folk are going round and round in circles on this. I look forward to reading the outcome of a nationally agreed Solfed document and to how we in AFed respond to it

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Feb 22 2011 15:36
Tommy Ascaso wrote:
The differences are that we don't see the point in doing a lot of the things the AF does, Yorkie Bar agreed with a list of things the AF does earlier and I don't think there's a need for revolutionaries to do any of them (from memory so could be slightly wrong).

Out of interest, can anybody point me to this list?

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Feb 22 2011 16:10
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Yorkie Bar agreed with a list of things the AF does earlier and I don't think there's a need for revolutionaries to do any of them

Just to pick up on this... really?

So you don't think it's worthwhile for revolutionaries to develop theory?

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Feb 22 2011 16:41
Tommy Ascaso wrote:
The differences are that we don't see the point in doing a lot of the things the AF does, Yorkie Bar agreed with a list of things the AF does earlier and I don't think there's a need for revolutionaries to do any of them (from memory so could be slightly wrong).

The list being largely a) developing, debating and disseminating theory, b) involvement antiwar, antifascist, environmental etc. struggles.

I can't not see the need to do a), and think discussion, education, and publications an important part of what we do. And b) I rarely do personally. We mobilised against the SDL/EDL when they were in Scotland, does this count? But when other activist worlds came to town in the form of The Anti-Militarist Network and Climate Camp, we had no real connection to it. Don't we/shouldn't we do work around social wage struggles and community activism on top of the theory/education and workplace organising.

Tommy Ascaso wrote:
If the good ones of you joined I'm sure we'd be delighted! tongue

I know you are only (half?) mucking about, but this type of comment is a bit annoying (not that I woudl get too upsaet about it.

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Feb 22 2011 16:52
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It was the stuff quoted in this post, I either don't think they are worth doing or see them as being unecessary for a revolutionary organisation to do.

I can't help wondering whether Jim has actually read that list of things? Otherwise, why be in any organisation. Solfed, for example, is making huge contributions to the development of theory and is acting as "a memory of the class" (though I dislike the term).

My only caveat on that list is that i don't see our role as being one of intervening. That implies we stand outside the working class as specialists who insert ourselves to bring knowledge and leadership. This not only jibes with my view as our role being to co-operate with our fellow workers in struggle, albeit as anarchist communists with a particular strategy in mind, but also runs contrary to what I've actually experienced which is that we learn as much from other workers as we give.

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Feb 22 2011 17:37
Tommy Ascaso wrote:
The general point that the AF has a wider range of activity than SF still stands, and that SF members aren't going to want to join an organisation that does all of the stuff the AF does.

As a local group we do spend a fair bit of time organising events like dayschools and film festivals, as well as internal discussions on things like religion which wouldn’t be discussed in a Solfed local. I personally imagine that as the group grows, these things can be picked up by a education and events committee, and that the locals will spend more of the meeting discussing matters relating to the groups workplace and community organising (which already happens). Maybe it would be good if our group produced a citywide paper, but if we were two, three or four times the size, perhaps it would make sense for the support workers (for example) to make their own bulletin. Maybe we would try to target our papers at particular workplaces where we have some presence, and try to organise in that workplace? If Solfed had a good handful of members in the city, would we not be covering similar(ish) ground and with similar(ish) politics – we will find out what is similar(ish) about the politics once the Solfed publication on unions/anarcho-syndicalism/workplace organising is out. Any what I am saying is from my perspective, I’m critical of activistism, and I don’t see AF as limited to producing pamphlets and papers, so what I’m saying is that I don’t think there is a lot of things that some AF locals do that an SF local wouldn’t. In fact there is more that we do that SF would also do.

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Feb 22 2011 18:56

The thing is, some of what passes for generic activism is worthwhile in it's own regard. I'll give a couple of examples of my own experience. Back in the mid-90s I took part in the local No M66 Campaign. That involved some camping out, a lot of leafleting, a lot of support work for people who occupied the site permanently. Now, this could be seen as simple activism, but the reality is that the campaign had considerable local support because people recognised how badly the motorway would affect their lives. The mainstays of the campaign were people from Ashton and Oldham, not rootless activists.

Following that we took part with others in Oldham Earth First. Our main action was fighting against the creation of a local golf course by the council. This was an issue with clear class implications. The site chosen was already one used, informally, by local people as public access. Moreover, the council had then sold it to a developer who was first dumping waste on it and then promising to eventually open a municipal golf course. What we discovered was that the plans included a significant proportion of quite unpleasant toxic waste. So we did all the activisty things - lock ons, blockades and so on, as well as leafleting and attending meetings and talking to local people - and disrupting council meetings. To the extent that we stopped the use of toxic waste, we won a small victory. 15years later there is no golf course!

In my opinion, a lot of what Climate Camp has done has been shite. But the year they went to Heathrow was hugely important. Likewise the involvement of CC folk in the fight against another runway at Manchester Airport.

The problem with activism is that it doesn't look at issues strategically and think, does this tactic work well here or not? Does it help galvanise local opposition or does it just encourage a spectacle for the masses to observe?

It is, in my opinion, far more in the nature of a political group to be working on issues like these.

btw I totally agree with JC about fascist groups.

axiom
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Feb 22 2011 18:58

Jim —

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I don't see a need for a revolutionary organisation to produce pamphlets like Against Nationalism, now I like it a lot and think it's pretty good but[ any small group of people could put together pamphlets like that

But isn't any small group of people still an organisation?

Dan.

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Feb 22 2011 19:02
Tommy Ascaso wrote:
These are all just some of the reasons why I don't think SF members would consider joining the AF.

Unless the UK anarchist movement has changed significantly since I lived there, and as it has been a few decades it could quite well have done, I don't quite understand this comment.

I was always under the impression that outside of London, and perhaps a few other big cities, people tended to join one group or the other based on what there was locally.

Many people on here have commented a lot more recently that there is as much difference within the organisations as between them.

Devrim

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Feb 22 2011 19:04
Quote:
Tommy Ascaso wrote:
I don't see a need for a revolutionary organisation to produce pamphlets like Against Nationalism, now I like it a lot and think it's pretty good but any small group of people could put together pamphlets like that

However, the reality is that they haven't and it was the Anarchist Federation who did.

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Feb 22 2011 20:47
Devrim wrote:
Tommy Ascaso wrote:
These are all just some of the reasons why I don't think SF members would consider joining the AF.

Unless the UK anarchist movement has changed significantly since I lived there, and as it has been a few decades it could quite well have done, I don't quite understand this comment.

I was always under the impression that outside of London, and perhaps a few other big cities, people tended to join one group or the other based on what there was locally.

I agree with Devrim, most of the time people don't have much of a choice whether they want to join AF or SF, so location is a more important factor than differences between the two organisations.

Devrim wrote:
Many people on here have commented a lot more recently that there is as much difference within the organisations as between them.

That's missing the point a bit, what comes out on this thread is that even if our politics are pretty similar, there are important differences in how the two organisations see their role, the internal culture and how uniform they are. It would be like pointing out that the political differences within the Labour party and within UNISON are larger than the political differences between the two organisations - it's an inconsequential observation.

axiom
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Feb 22 2011 20:50

Interlude...

Let’s pour ourselves a drink...I’ll have a large glass of Laphroaig. What you having?

Let’s go back in time...

Why did any of us sign-up to our different federations?

I joined the ACF after a stint in AFA.
In 1994 I had written to the other Feds, both Class War and the DAM. I was visited by the ACF first — so I joined them.
When I joined the anarchists, I wasn’t aware of the council communists or the ‘ultra-left’. However comrades in the A(C)F leant me the texts of Paul Mattick, Anton Pannekoek and Otto Rühle and they were really influential — especially The Struggle Against Fascism Begins with the Struggle Against Bolshevism.

What about you lot?

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Feb 22 2011 21:11

I think I ran across Libcom first, having been linked to the site during the initial stages of the financial crisis. I then posted asking about what groups I could get in touch with.

I was living in London at the time, so both Federations were about. However I'd independently come to Syndicalism through my own personal reading. Thus people naturally pointed me towards SolFed. I discovered that Lewisham had a very active local and I met up with some of the people involved. I was very impressed with the local and was going to join down there, but had to move away to Oxford for work which kind of put things off track for a while.

I've since got involved with a diverse Anarchist group up here (Anarchists in Oxford, AIO) and I met a couple of class-struggle Anarchists as part of that group. I think it was me who floated the idea of potentially starting a SolFed local up here and we managed to get enough people together in Ox and Reading to get things started.

Interestingly, one of our members (mons on here) is actually an AFed member as well. As far as I'm aware he joined because he wanted to be a member of an active local organising group (I think there is only one other AF member here in Oxford).

So I think practicalities are indeed a lot more of an influence over people joining the different organisations than politics. If I'm honest, I still find it hard to see the differences sometimes...

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Feb 22 2011 21:45
axiom wrote:
What about you lot?

I joined DAM in 1986 during the Wapping strike along with about ten other people. I can't remember all of the details, but one of the things that influenced us in joining DAM rather that the A(C)F was that it had a branch in South London*. None of us were anarcho-syndicalists as such, and I think we only ever had one 'anarcho-syndicalist' in the branch.

Devrim

*Old time AFers might be a bit glad of this because some of the people I joined with went on to found the semi-imfamous AWG.

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Feb 23 2011 00:20

Not an interlude as such.

I broke from trotskyism around 2003 having been heavily involved in the Socialist Alliance (pointless left unity project) and some of the fag-end of the anti-war stuff around the time. I was involved with AFA in the late 90's but as a trot, curiously. After initially getting my head around anarchism, I bounced around between AF and SF for some time. I had the option of joining Manchester AF or Preston SF as that was the city where I lived. So it was not simply an issue of joining the nearest group as such. I took time to look at both groups politics and decided on joining SF because I think a strictly political organisation as quite a limited remit and can disengage with practical day to day stuff from my experience.

Having said that I have a hell of a lot of respect for AF and I am easily one of the most enthusiastic about them within SF. I don't think there are easy answers and there are people who have a good stake in being petty, within AF and SF but there is clearly a good overlap of ideas and approaches between the two groups to warrant a good deal of hope for something principled to emerge.

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Feb 23 2011 07:29
knightrose wrote:
Quote:
Tommy Ascaso wrote:
I don't see a need for a revolutionary organisation to produce pamphlets like Against Nationalism, now I like it a lot and think it's pretty good but any small group of people could put together pamphlets like that

However, the reality is that they haven't and it was the Anarchist Federation who did.

Against Nationalism was more than just a pamphlet produced by 'any small group of people'. It was part a pro working class response, by a small group of internationalists, to the rabid nationalism displayed by large sections of the pro hamas UK left. The events two years ago surrounding demonstrations against the Israeli state included political policing of those who did not agree with the sentiment that 'we are all hamas'. I think that the AFshould have organised a UK wide speaking tour after publication to defend an important working class principal.

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Feb 23 2011 12:55
JoeMaguire wrote:
I had the option of joining Manchester AF or Preston SF as that was the city where I lived. So it was not simply an issue of joining the nearest group as such. I took time to look at both groups politics and decided on joining SF because I think a strictly political organisation as quite a limited remit and can disengage with practical day to day stuff from my experience.

I think Manchester is probably one of the few cities outside London where this is possible though.

blackrainbow wrote:
Against Nationalism was more than just a pamphlet produced by 'any small group of people'. It was part a pro working class response, by a small group of internationalists, to the rabid nationalism displayed by large sections of the pro hamas UK left. The events two years ago surrounding demonstrations against the Israeli state included political policing of those who did not agree with the sentiment that 'we are all hamas'. I think that the AFshould have organised a UK wide speaking tour after publication to defend an important working class principal.

Yes, I think it would have been a good idea. I think it is an important issue, and the AF did well to produce a good pamphlet relevant to the topic.

I think that tackling these sort of issues is essential.

Devrim

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Feb 23 2011 13:14
Devrim wrote:
JoeMaguire wrote:
I had the option of joining Manchester AF or Preston SF as that was the city where I lived. So it was not simply an issue of joining the nearest group as such. I took time to look at both groups politics and decided on joining SF because I think a strictly political organisation as quite a limited remit and can disengage with practical day to day stuff from my experience.

I think Manchester is probably one of the few cities outside London where this is possible though.

In Edinburgh joining one or the other has been an option for a while. I don't think membership choices recently were based on which group had a presence, or was active in the city. When I joined AF there were a couple of members in both AF and SF. After Strategy and Struggle was produced, there was a chat about both AF's and SF's industrial strategies. I think the distinctions between the two organisations were articulated at the time in a way that confused people in that I reckon most people left that meeting thinking that Solfed was also a political organisation, and many kept saying for ages "why don't the two just merge". Edinburgh AF has then grown out of peoples experience in the IWW, people moving away from activism, and people interested in anarchism who find AF through a search engine, or through events and distributions of material. If the roles of the organisations were defined as they might today if we had that talk, maybe others would have joined SF. Who knows? I think in the future, in Edinburgh, more people will join AF as a first port of call. I think it would then be healthy if people then go on to join SF as a dualcarder or leave AF and join SF. I imagine our local AF group may have fairly high turnover (it hasn't yet actually) as they join, learn, and perhaps change they views enough to join L&S or The Commune or the Republican Communist Network or whatever.

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Feb 23 2011 18:59
Tommy Ascaso wrote:
I think Strategy and Struggle has probably contributed to the confusion as Brighton have distanced themselves from it quite a lot and now seem to nearly agree entirely with the internal criticisms of it especially those from Manchester.

fwiw i think we stand by what we were trying to express, but found the subsequent discussion, particularly Manchester's critique expressed this in much clearer, concrete terms.

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Feb 23 2011 20:42

y'all are so confusing...eagerly awaiting the pamphlets considering.

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Feb 24 2011 01:39
blackrainbow wrote:
knightrose wrote:
Quote:
Tommy Ascaso wrote:
I don't see a need for a revolutionary organisation to produce pamphlets like Against Nationalism, now I like it a lot and think it's pretty good but any small group of people could put together pamphlets like that

However, the reality is that they haven't and it was the Anarchist Federation who did.

Against Nationalism was more than just a pamphlet produced by 'any small group of people'. It was part a pro working class response, by a small group of internationalists, to the rabid nationalism displayed by large sections of the pro hamas UK left.

A pamphlet was produced on sex by Manchester SF and it created a number of problems. Firstly it was in terms of content it was extremely bad, was pretty much slated heavily by everyone as I remember and secondly it kind of consolidated a consensus in the organisation, that as an organisation which lacked an abundance of material on workplace and community organising, why were we putting out theoretical material. I don't think it aids us, clarifies our goals or attracts the kind of activists we want to the organisation.

Analysis and practical pieces are fine, but I don't think its within our remit as an organisation to be putting out material which only raises or tries to address political questions. I see that remit as being something AF should carry on doing.

So I can't put words in Jim's mouth but I suspect he is endorsing the division of labour that as developed between the two outfits, and for that reason I do feel we have a mutual beneficial role to play to one another. Its also because of this, I can't quite get my head around people who are opposed to political organisations or political/economic ones.

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Feb 24 2011 11:40
JoeMaguire wrote:
A pamphlet was produced on sex by Manchester SF and it created a number of problems. Firstly it was in terms of content it was extremely bad, was pretty much slated heavily by everyone as I remember and secondly it kind of consolidated a consensus in the organisation, that as an organisation which lacked an abundance of material on workplace and community organising, why were we putting out theoretical material. I don't think it aids us, clarifies our goals or attracts the kind of activists we want to the organisation.

I don't think this really is that relevant a comparison to the AF pamphlet on nationalism. It sounds like their were other problems about 'quality control' anyway, and also lack of co-ordination, but I think that the AF's pamphlet was very different.

I think that we have to have an overall strategy, and to a certain extent federalism as sometimes practiced can work against that.

To give an example in the ICC in Turkey, which is a much smaller organisation than SolFed we have only six pamphlets. It isn't very many, so at the risk of being a bit tedious I'm going to go through them and explain the logic behind each (in no particular order);

1. The Platform of the ICC- This one is obvious. SolFed has the 'Statues of Revolutionary Unionism'. An organisation needs to have its position in printed form.

2. Gorter's Letters to Lenin- For us this is a piece that explains the origins of our politics in a country where our ideas have no tradition at all. It shows where we are different from the leninist groups.

3. The Left Wing of the Turkish Communist Party- Again another historical piece. We feel that it was an interesting pamphlet, not only for Turkey, but also internationally. It takes a firm stance on the national question and how the Bolsheviks policies led to the massacres of communists and workers with Soviet weapons.

4. May 68- We brought this out a few years ago when there was the 40 anniversary and a lot of interest in it. Also it wasn't that difficult to do as it is a translation of a series of ICC articles published in English.

5. TEKEL Struggle- A major struggle in this country which ICC members were very involved in and which we feel showed the role of the unions very clearly.

6. Pamphlet on the trade unions (to be published soon)- I think that you would agree that it is important to have something on the trade unions. This pamphlet is not the ICC's international one and is focused on this country using local examples.

As you can see there are reasons behind what we publish. We don't operate in a way that the Istanbul branch could suddenly decided that it wanted to put out a pamphlet about sex. Everything that we do comes at a cost of something else, and for us the whole organisation should decide, as much as possible, on how we allocate resources.

I think the AF's pamphlet did address an important issue though. It was something that was very relevant at the time BR explained it well earlier:

Black Rainbow wrote:
Against Nationalism was more than just a pamphlet produced by 'any small group of people'. It was part a pro working class response, by a small group of internationalists, to the rabid nationalism displayed by large sections of the pro hamas UK left. The events two years ago surrounding demonstrations against the Israeli state included political policing of those who did not agree with the sentiment that 'we are all hamas'. I think that the AFshould have organised a UK wide speaking tour after publication to defend an important working class principal.

Obviously when deciding what to publish resources play a prominent role. I would love to have pamphlets on a whole range of subject, but practicality doesn't allow. I think that to more 'political questions' is a mistake in that at the moment you are not recruiting masses of workers through workplace struggles, and the people that you attract are ones and twos that come towards you on a political level. I think that you have to acknowledge that.

Of course I think it is desirable to have stuff focused on the class struggle in the workplace. If what I understand from what people are saying here about your strategy is right then it is essential, but not to the point of abandonment of all else.

Devrim

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Feb 24 2011 16:04
JoeMaguire wrote:
So I can't put words in Jim's mouth but I suspect he is endorsing the division of labour that as developed between the two outfits, and for that reason I do feel we have a mutual beneficial role to play to one another. Its also because of this, I can't quite get my head around people who are opposed to political organisations or political/economic ones.

I think it is clear that SolFed want to move from being a political group, to being a political group with an economic orientation and in the process abandon the functions of a political group. I fail to see why this abandonment is necessary - it is obviously necessary due to the size of SolFed, but even if SolFed was an awful lot bigger I think it would still have the same approach going by what people have said so far. This is a mistake IMO, I think purely politcal activity is still needed - for example, in the case of wars, what would approach of SolFed be? My impression is that it would leave such activity to the AF.

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Feb 24 2011 16:07
ronan.mcnabb wrote:
I think it is clear that SolFed want to move from being a political group, to being a political group with an economic orientation and in the process abandon the functions of a political group. I fail to see why this abandonment is necessary - it is obviously necessary due to the size of SolFed, but even if SolFed was an awful lot bigger I think it would still have the same approach going by what people have said so far. I think this is a mistake.

I think that there is a really important point here. Obviously at the moment SolFed is a political group, and not how people have put it on here a 'political-economic organisation'. Firstly, despite their best efforts to patiently explain, I am still not sure exactly what they mean by it, particularly what it would mean in the period of transition between the two.

As I understand it at the moment they have one real functioning network in education. With the numbers of people that they have it doesn't surprise me that they only have one. Back when I was in DAM, it talked about setting up groups, and at the time just had the numbers to make a start in a number of sectors (fairly big strategic ones). Then though they had double the numbers that they have now, and it was barely enough.

If SolFed were ten times bigger, it could do it with ease. It would also have enough people to not 'abandon' the 'political' stuff as well. The problem they have now is a scarcity of resources, which means that they are choosing to focus them on one thing.

Devrim

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Feb 24 2011 16:20
Devrim wrote:
As I understand it at the moment they have one real functioning network in education. With the numbers of people that they have it doesn't surprise me that they only have one. Back when I was in DAM, it talked about setting up groups, and at the time just had the numbers to make a start in a number of sectors (fairly big strategic ones). Then though they had double the numbers that they have now, and it was barely enough.

From my understanding of what is being advocated, size is not crucial to their their proposed orientation. In that in the medium term they would like to have functioning industrial networks, but that there approach is not based around such networks but rather equipping militants to organise at work along class struggle lines (i.e. direct action etc as JK explained earlier in the thread).

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Feb 24 2011 16:26
Tommy Ascaso wrote:
I wasn't saying we would be abandoning anything we are doing now, merely trying to explain why SF members are unlikely to feel that joining the AF was an option.

Really, I am pretty sure JK has said in the past and maybe on this thread, that the difference between political and political-economic organisation is exactly that the dropping of the functions of a political group. Maybe I misread and have just got this wrong.