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

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redsdisease
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Feb 8 2011 00:31

I don't want to hijack this thread, but I was wondering about the merger of U.S. class struggle groups that Juan Conatz was discussing. Do you think that this is very likely? Are there any threads or write-ups that you could point me towards that talk about this in more detail?

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Joseph Kay
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Feb 8 2011 00:36
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Just wondering how long talk of a AF and SolFed merger has been going on.

As long as I can remember!

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klas batalo
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Feb 8 2011 00:45

got to echo jaun conatz…

main things i'd like out of a merger in the us/north america would be:

website like libcom.org

national/continental newspaper-magazine. (there is none)

not having to worry about who do i join when i move from town to town…

oh and some neat sorta membership pin/card. duh.

but honestly i think forming such organizations would be largely to our benefit if all camps involved were able to figure out a common politics and shared strategy.

i know tons of people don't join present anarchist/libertarian political groups here because they are seen as small and ineffectual as compared to the rest of the left. (which is sorta funny, most of the time this means anarchists are not populist/visible enough)

there is even the disturbing trend of many libertarian socialists joining leninist/post-leninist groups because they have their "act together" or are the "only game in town"

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klas batalo
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Feb 8 2011 00:41
redsdisease wrote:
I don't want to hijack this thread, but I was wondering about the merger of U.S. class struggle groups that Juan Conatz was discussing. Do you think that this is very likely? Are there any threads or write-ups that you could point me towards that talk about this in more detail?

it is in preliminary stages and there is a proposed 5-step process for moving forward…none of it is really public outside the CSAC organizations though. right now one of the organizations is collecting answers/statements from the various orgs to see who are interested in moving towards more collaboration and eventually a possible common organization.

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Juan Conatz
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Feb 8 2011 01:04
redsdisease wrote:
I don't want to hijack this thread, but I was wondering about the merger of U.S. class struggle groups that Juan Conatz was discussing. Do you think that this is very likely? Are there any threads or write-ups that you could point me towards that talk about this in more detail?

I can't really think of anything to point to that's public unfortunately. It's something being discussed between the CSAC groups right now.

As far as it being likely, um, I don't know. I certainly hope so. But it will be a difficult process, in my opinion. All the groups are either newish or rebuilding and the sheer size of the U.S. and the small number of us makes even simple interorganizational tasks difficult, it seems.

mons
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Feb 8 2011 01:23

I think AF is more like 140/150 actually, though I could be wrong. I'd imagine both groups (and leftist groups too) will have grown a fair bit in the last few months, and will continue to do so.

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Juan Conatz
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Feb 8 2011 01:40

Huh, well, adjusted for population those estimates would compare to a national u.s. group of 245-860, which I don't think has happened since the time of Lucy Parsons....lol

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Feb 8 2011 07:02
Tommy Ascaso wrote:
I'm sure someone else can give you better figures on past groups, DAM and CWF stand out the most from the past 20/30 years if you're looking at class struggle anarchists only and the IWW are bigger than either of those were, although that seems to be pretty much a paper membership.

When I was in DAM in the late 80s it had around 160 members. I think this was its peak. CWF was not a membership organisation, but I would estimate that 'non-members' numbered about 120-140. I'm not sure about numbers for the ACF at the time, but I would guess about 60-70.

Devrim

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Feb 8 2011 08:43
Juan Conatz wrote:
Huh, well, adjusted for population those estimates would compare to a national u.s. group of 245-860, which I don't think has happened since the time of Lucy Parsons....lol

Yeah but I don't think you can just adjust for population and expect equivalence - for instance, adjusted for New Zealand's small population, AWSM's membership is bigger than Afed's currently, but you couldn't say we're anywhere near as visible here as they are there - and nor should we be, with our membership nationwide in the low double figures. Hell, if AWSM merged with Beyond Resistance, we'd have population adjusted membership of almost 300 in the UK or around 1500 in the USA!

ticking_fool
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Feb 8 2011 09:27
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I was under the impression there was a more activist tendency alongside the more councillist one, although all articulated as class struggle. It's possible I'm over-extrapolating the breadth of the AF through the lens of the Brighton branch (not sure if it formally exists), and I'd be delighted to be wrong on this!

Brighton group is deeply unrepresentative of the national organisation. They're not a branch at the moment after most of the group left the area last year, but it looks like it's going to become one again in the near future. They're certainly getting more active, although, IMO, not in a particularly useful way. The dominance of one particular personality is a big factor in this.

However, it is fair to say that there is an activist tendency in the organisation and that we retain more engagement with the scene than SolFed. Describing it as a tendency is perhaps a little strong - we don't have a clearly defined faction or even group of individuals pushing for engagement in activist-ist projects. But there is a general benefit of the doubt and a willingness to try and push a class struggle perspective within activist-ist projects (for example running meetings and publishing leaflets at Climate Camp). This generally doesn't translate into heavy organisational involvement, but it can often translate into a semi-systematic engagement. In the Climate Camp example there were informal discussions across the organisation before a number of individuals took on the donkey work of running meetings and writing stuff - not a whole Fed initiative, but more than just individual action.

This, incidentally, is probably the big difference between the way Brighton group work and the rest of the Fed. Most of the time other groups would shy away from initiating activist-ist projects and would be looking to engage with something already existing in order to move it in more useful directions. Where they are involved in initiating something (which is unusual, but Sheffield and Liverpool social centres would be examples and I'm struggling to come up with others), it is usually because it can meet some immediate need (cheap meeting rooms in this case). Brighton group is far too often uncritically activist-ist and seems to see the projects it involves itself in as ends in themselves, a point I made in Brighton group meetings when I was briefly part of it.

Part of the reason for AFed's greater participation in the scene is, from my impressions anyway, because we have many more younger members and quite a few people in their first organisation who are still trying things out who are often the backbone of those links. Another part is the greater concentration in smaller northern towns and cities and a larger number of unemployed members which means having to form alliances with smaller numbers of politicos and not really being able to work within trade unions (which seems to be how the Manchester, Liverpool and Yorkshire SolFed branches work). But a lot of it is a slightly different organisational culture, a difference that would probably be difficult to capture in A&Ps but which is definitely there. Working round something so intangible is obviously going to be difficult and is a much bigger barrier to joint work and mergers than any ideological difference (the disagreements within organisations are at least as big, if not bigger, than those between them).

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Feb 8 2011 10:00
sabotage wrote:
main things i'd like out of a merger in the us/north america would be:

website like libcom.org

Just quickly, I think it would be a mistake to set up yet another English-language anarchist website! Alongside libcom, anarkismo, infoshop, anarchistnews etc etc I think it would just further increase the amount of work each one needs to keep going while at the same time reducing the return..

Much better, in my opinion, to contribute to one of the existing ones and make one that you would really be happy to show to new people interested in libertarian politics..

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Feb 8 2011 10:28

Yeah, why can't libcom be used for the us/northamerica? (pardon the intrusion, but i've heard this before and just scratch my head wondering 'why do they think they need to set up their own new, separate website, trying to imitate libcom but making it american?')

no1
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Feb 8 2011 10:36

Because libcom is quite UK-centric and members of the collective are from the UK?

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Rob Ray
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Feb 8 2011 10:56

Tbh though that's more a holdover from how it was originally set up and pitched, there's no reason why libcom couldn't cater for an increased US presence (and in fact depending on the time of day there's often a pretty sizeable US presence already).

Most of the content aims pretty widely and although there's more UK stuff than anything else it's got global interests — in fact two of the admins are already living in different countries, one pretty much as far away as it gets!

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waslax
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Feb 8 2011 10:57

Not wanting to derail, so this is it here. Alright, but it isn't all UK-centric, there's lots of news and theoretical and historical discussion here which is either general or international and would be useful for n. americans. Also, more n. americans here would make it a bit less UK-centric. Other than that I'll leave it to the libcom collective to address your concerns.

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Feb 8 2011 11:07
waslax wrote:
Yeah, why can't libcom be used for the us/northamerica? (pardon the intrusion, but i've heard this before and just scratch my head wondering 'why do they think they need to set up their own new, separate website, trying to imitate libcom but making it american?')

Yeah, we would LOVE to have more North American stuff.. in terms of absolute numbers, most of our posters are from North America and in the past I've asked Chilli Sauce and other US posters to try and take on reporting on American stuff but basically, you yanks (this includes Canadians btw) are such flakes that it usually lasts about two news items before you give up and watch Jerry Springer again.. wink

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Feb 8 2011 11:10

admin: discussion around the possible merger in North America has been split here: http://libcom.org/forums/organise/possible-new-anarchist-organisation-north-america-08022011. Do not comment on this thread on this issue any further!

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Feb 8 2011 12:50

Yeah anyhoo, back on topic I'd agree that a merger simply isn't going to happen in the near future, the approaches seem to be converging somewhat and there's a healthy level of mutual respect involved but there's still a big gap to bridge which can't be brushed under the carpet - elephants in the room tend to end up breaking stuff.

I also think the "loads of new people will join" thing is a bit of a blind alley, if there's opposed tendencies fighting within a wider fed an influx of new people isn't going to prevent it from devolving into arguments/splitting and may even worsen the situation, certainly from what I've heard it created extra problems for DAM back in the day particularly as there was no robust way of inducting/settling/screening people.

What we have at the moment is two small federations which are becoming increasingly stable and effective (or at least that's the impression I'm getting from my end), I don't think it's worth derailing both of them to build an unstable entity which runs the risk of cracking and putting us back ten years just when we need to be on top of our game.

That's not to say I wouldn't love to see class struggle anarchists in one united fold and wholeheartedly approve of people's work to bring SF and AF closer together with that aim in mind, but practically I think that day's not here yet.

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Feb 8 2011 13:10

In terms of when people started talking about a merger, I'm aware that a bunch of people used to talk about it, including class war as well, back in the early 90s at least

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Feb 8 2011 13:17

Well yeah but there is a big difference between half-hopeful talk about mergers of wildly differing groups in the 90s and suggestions around AF-SF today, which are extremely close in their approaches across a wide range of issues. I think the latter is worth taking seriously even though I don't think it's a goer atm.

T La Palli
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Feb 8 2011 13:55

Aye, so forgetting the merger of the organisations, what about the merger of publications which is what this thread is about? Having now read through this thread from the beginning, it still seems that there are a few options and no reason to say that some sort of joint publication definitely could not happen. There are even some good suggestions for editorial make-up and guidelines etc. I think this debate should be pushed to a conclusion, whatever that may be.

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Feb 8 2011 14:08

On the other bit about Black Flag btw, it's certainly been worthwhile having the AF involved to the extent it has been with sales and articles and personally I'd like that involvement to deepen in the next while alongside a regularised commitment from SF (beyond my own work as an individual) and submissions from other groups - like the Commune.

As a writing culture, while I don't think the Feds are likely to dump their magazines any time soon (particularly given the reaction when I mooted this a while back), I do still think that the focus should be on writing for independent publications and then collating/expanding that work for in-house reviews rather than the other way around.

I'd argue this first because it forces writers to aim at a broader audience than their own fellow travellers and second because in-house magazines tend to be downgraded in people's minds as propaganda (ie. the topics will be limited and likely skewed to place the organisation in a good light) where independent magazines are usually thought of as more wide-ranging - I'm unlikely to read Tory magazine Prospect but I might read The Times. The potential audience is thus greater and not primarily made up of your own people.

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Feb 8 2011 17:35
mons wrote:
I think AF is more like 140/150 actually, though I could be wrong. I'd imagine both groups (and leftist groups too) will have grown a fair bit in the last few months, and will continue to do so.

This is correct. National membership has been between 140 and 160 in the last couple of years. It's been a fairly static figure with quite a high membership turnover, something we've made some efforts to address but which is still an issue.

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Feb 8 2011 18:32
Steven. wrote:
In terms of when people started talking about a merger, I'm aware that a bunch of people used to talk about it, including class war as well, back in the early 90s at least

People talked about it in the 1980s as well.

Rob Ray wrote:
Well yeah but there is a big difference between half-hopeful talk about mergers of wildly differing groups in the 90s and suggestions around AF-SF today, which are extremely close in their approaches across a wide range of issues. I think the latter is worth taking seriously even though I don't think it's a goer atm.

I am not a member of either of these groups, so I am not sure how 'serious' these discussions are today. As I remember in the 1980s though some people wanted it, some were half-hearted, and some were completely opposed. I imagine that today is pretty similar.

Devrim

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Feb 9 2011 08:41
nastyned wrote:
I'm not sure about this 'strictly political' thing. I don't think you can really separate politics and economics. And as I've said the AF has its own industrial strategy.

Its not about whether the AF does economics or has an industrial strategy, AF is not political-economic entity, nor clearly does it want to be. SF does. If SF functions to carry out the capacity it wishes, then I can't fathom why AF members would not be involved in that process. Most of us are members of reformist unions with less grumble.

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Feb 9 2011 10:05
october_lost wrote:
AF is not political-economic entity, nor clearly does it want to be. SF does.

Yeah just to be clear, SF knows we're not this atm, its an aspiration, but we're seeking to operate initially as 'a political organisation in the economic sphere' as a means of developing said hyphen. I'm writing something pretty lengthly on this at the moment. Fwiw, we're not pulling this terminology out of our collective arse, nor is the distinction exclusive to the a-s tradition - e.g. Rühle theorised the AAUD-E as a political-economic org, since it was a union and a revolutionary organisation at the same time.

october_lost wrote:
If SF functions to carry out the capacity it wishes, then I can't fathom why AF members would not be involved in that process. Most of us are members of reformist unions with less grumble.

The only argument against this would be Malatesta's, that no attempt should be made to combine anarchism and syndicalism since they're mutually exclusive, rather anarchists should leave organising to separate syndicalist orgs and act as critics when they inevitably fall short of revolutionary practice, encouraging workers to go beyond them. I don't know how prevalent such a view is, nor do I think Malatesta's analysis particularly applies to what SF's trying to do since the model doesn't rely on growth at the expense of principles.

Battlescarred
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Feb 9 2011 11:24

Yes, but once again you've not done the reading. This is a crude understanding of the tactics that Malatesta laid down as any reading of the events of the Italian factory councils will show. Anarchists did not stand outside the struggles of workers and their organisations and were deeply involved in them and neither did Malatesta.
Well, yes, let's see this document on the political-economic organisation and let's see if it will actually be adopted by Solfed.
Convince me.

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Feb 9 2011 11:42

Battlscarred, while your right to disagree with Joseph K is undisputed, d'you reckon you could knock terms like "crude understanding" on the head?

It's needlessly provocative (and basically meaningless - crude compared to what, the general public's understanding of Malatesta? Yours?) invective in what's generally been quite a comradely conversation. Tackle the issue, not your opinion of the writer.

Spikymike
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Feb 9 2011 11:46

As another non-member of either group, but critical friend of both over many years, I think 'ticking_fool' comes closest to my experience and understanding of the 'ethos' of the AF's membership and political practice in recent years and underlies some of the problems that any merger might encounter.

It is often the unstated, and often poorly discussed, everyday practice of political groups which says more about them than the declared principles or published policy and strategy.

Part of the problem is also, sadly, the approach towards 'organisation building' and recruitment (resulting in turn from overblown assumptions about, or aspirations towards, these groups leadership role in the class struggle) which many anarchist groups, in my opinion, still share with their competitors on the left and which tends to colour these debates.

Having said that advances in analysis and clarity of purpose can often emmerge from purposeful and well organised disccussion between groups over possible mergers, even if at a later date the same benefits might be achieved by subsequent purposeful splits!

There have been some useful discussions between members of the AF, SolFed and others on several threads here covering political analysis and strategy, but how much of that discussion, at that level, actually takes place amongst the majority of the membership of both groups?

On a separate point, whilst 'The Commune' is an interesting organisation which has done much to stimulate debate accross a wider section of the radical left, it is not an organisation with the same substantial degree of agreed analysis or political principle as either the AF or SolFed, though there may be people within it who share broadly similar politics.

T La Palli
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Feb 9 2011 12:01

I understood that Solfed had set up a strategy commission to look at several things, including DA and Catalyst. I think it was to help to define more clearly what Solfed are trying to achieve. Where did Solfed get with this? If its complete, could the part on publications be shared in some format with AF via the Nat Sec. or joint forum.